Getting to Know the Longhorns
Playoffs: 1st round, def. Chester/J-I, 42-28; 2nd round, def. Joilet, 76-30; Semis, def. Drummond 24-12.
Players to watch: RB/LB Colin Harrell (5-11, 185); QB Jaylen Sokoloski (6-1, 160); WR Luke Kreidinger; OL/DL Shade Zeiner (5-10, 175).
When it comes to state championship game history, the Chinook Sugarbeeters and Wibaux Longhorns are polar opposites.
It’s been well publicized that Saturday is Chinook’s first appearance in a state championship football game at any level. The Longhorns on the other hand, playing for state titles is almost a right of passage.
When The Beeters and Longhorns meet for the Class C state championship Saturday afternoon at Hoon Field in Chinook, it will be seventh times since 2000 that the Longhorns have played for a state championship. They started the decade winning back-to-back state titles, beating Medicine Lake/Froid in 2000 and Scobey in 2001. And while the Horns’ haven’t claimed a state title since 2001, playing for one is not so unusual.
“This is our third straight year back in the championship game,” Wibaux head coach Jeff Bertelsen said. “So we’ve been very fortunate over the years.
“But we don’t really look much at the past helping us this weekend,” he added. “This is this year’s game and Chinook is the team to beat. They are the team we have to beat if we want to win a state championship, so the past doesn’t really matter much at this point.”
The past may not help the Longhorns move beyond the bridesmaid stage they’ve been in the for much of the last six years (Wibaux lost in the state championship game to Centerville in 2006, Superior in 2008 and Drummond last season), but it certainly won’t hurt them either.
The Horns' are a talented and experienced group, and it starts with their running game, but also with their quarterback. Senior QB Jaylen Sokoloski is a three-year starter for the Longhorns and that means Saturday will be his third straight title game as the starting signal caller. And while Sokoloski is a threat to run the ball, as the Longhorns love to do (Wibaux averages over 240 yards per game on the ground), he can also drop back and throw, which means the Horn’s have a serious dual threat.
“We still like to run the football, like we’ve always done here,” Bertelsen said. “But we do have a senior quarterback who can throw it pretty well too, and that’s been a big advantage to our offense this season.”
And while the passing game could work in Wibaux’s favor Saturday in Chinook, the Longhorns, like the Beeters, still love to play smash-mouth football. Wibaux will line up in heavy sets and run it right at the Chinook defense, and they have the speed to get to the edge as well. In many ways, offensively, Chinook and Wibaux mirror each other and that’s what makes Saturday’s tilt so intriguing. Like the Beeters, the Longhorns have a star tailback in senior Colin Harrell, who comes into the game with just under 1,800 and 20 touchdowns. Sokoloski and running back Ty Tousignant have also combined to go over 1,000 yards on the ground, so like Wibaux with Chinook’s power running game, the Beeters’ defense will certainly have its hands full on Saturday.
“There won’t be many surprises to what either of us do,” Bertelsen. “We know our defense has a talk task in front of it with how well they (Beeters) run the ball. And we feel pretty good about our running game too. So it’s going to be real hard-fought game on both sides of the ball.”
And Wibaux is certainly used to those.
In the Longhorns run to this year’s championship game, they already stepped over one big hurdle when they beat Drummond 24-12 last Saturday’s semifinals. The Horn’s and Trojans had played four times in the playoffs since 2004, with Drummond taking three of four, until Saturday. The win was also Bertelsen’s 100th career win at Wibaux.
But all of the playoff success, all of the Eastern C championships, the Horn’s, like Chinook are trying to rewrite the history books on Saturday. The 2001 state championship was a long time ago, and with Wibaux getting so close so many times since, the current team is certainly ready to do what it takes to cross over and hoist that coveted state championship trophy, ending the decade just how their predecessors started it.
“It’s been a goal for us every year,” Bertelsen said. “This is what these kids work so hard for. We have a very dedicated group and they’ve really pushed themselves to get this far.
“As for what it’s going to take for us to finally get over that hump, it’s going to take beating Chinook,” he added. “They are the best offensive team I’ve seen on film all year and they deserve to be in this game. In order for us to get over that hump, we have to beat a very good football team, and we’re going to do our best to try and do that on Saturday.”
Saturday’s state championship game between the Longhorns and Beeters will kick off at 1 p.m. in Chinook. Fans can follow the Beeters all the way through Saturday’s game with the Havre Daily News and online at www.havredailynews.com.