The Chinook Sugarbeeters football team has been rewriting the school's history books all season long. But with a state championship still on the line, this season’s chapter isn’t finished yet.
Saturday at 1 p.m. in Chinook, the No. 7 Northern C Beeters (10-1) will host the No. 1 Eastern C Wibaux Longhorns (11-0) in the 2010 Class C 8-Man championship game.
The Beeters have never claimed a state championship, but are hopeful and optimistic about their chances. But facing the toughest team they have seen all season, Chinook has its work cut out for them.
“We just hope we prepared as well as we could,” Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux said. “We are looking forward to a tough game against a very tough team and we just think we are prepared for everything we have seen and everything they can throw at us.”
But Wibaux knows they aren’t in store for a cake walk either.
The Beeters have played well all season long, and have proved they can run with anybody.
"Offensively and defensively,” Wibaux head coach Jeff Bertelsen said. “They (Beeters) are the best team I've seen on film all year. They are very athletic, they have two great running backs who are both tremendous athletes and there is no secret to what they do. They want to run the football and they are confident in doing that. They'll line it up and come right at you."
But with one key component to the Beeters' success sidelined for Saturday’s matchup, and possibly one more to come, the Beeters already find themselves in a tough situation long before the first snap.
Last weekend in the Beeters' 28-26 win over Power-Dutton-Brady, senior tight end and defensive end Chris Haider was ejected from the game. And according to MHSA rules, any player ejected during a game must also sit out the fallowing game.
“Obviously with Chris (Haider) being gone it’s a huge hole,” Molyneaux said. “It is anytime you lose a senior of that caliber. But we showed last weekend when Tyler (Molyneaux) was out that someone could step up and fill in. That’s what we had to do and that’s what we have to do this game, we can’t dwell on someone being gone, we just have to fill in and hope that those guys who have practiced all year are ready to step up.”
It should be a few different bodies filling in for Haider, but junior Cord Anderson should handle the majority of the duties, as he filled in last weekend and did a very solid job doing so.
“I truly believe that we have enough good kids that will be stable in that position,” Coach Molyneaux said. “You just hope that those seniors and juniors that have been playing a lot will step up, that’s what you do in a big game like this.”
And if it’s not difficult enough that Haider has to miss the game, there is still a chance that fans won’t see senior running back Tyler Molyneaux take the field either.
A week ago, Tyler Molyneaux was injured and missed the majority of the game. He has been resting, but his situation has turned into a game-time situation.
Without Tyler Molyneaux, the Beeters are missing one of the state's top running backs as well as linebackers. But on the flip side, fortunately for the Beeters they have another running back that has gained statewide attention with his ability to run the ball.
Junior Ben Stroh has been a part of Chinook’s two-man running game all season long. He has proved he can be an impact player every week, but did so again last Saturday as he helped lead the Beeters’ come from behind win.
“It’s been a one-two punch in the backfield all year and Ben (Stroh) just has to continue,” Coach Molyneaux said. “He had a big game last week and he is a great competitor. He just has to step up and he is ready to do that, he is a good enough player that he can carry a little extra on his shoulders.”
Zach Molyneaux helped fill in last week and also showed he can be trusted with the ball in his hands. If Tyler Molyneaux is unable to go on Saturday, look for Zach Molyneaux to step up as well.
The Chinook running game has been a powerhouse all season long, and no matter who lines up in the backfield, it will be again against the Longhorns.
"A big key to this game for us is getting off the field defensively,” Bertelsen said. “Chinook has dominated the time of possession all season long, and they have so much confidence in their running game. They will even line it up and go for it on fourth down. So a big key for us will be getting stops, getting off the field and getting the ball back to our offense."
The Longhorns' defense is very aggressive. They are strong, fast to the ball and love to hit. They have wreaked havoc on opposing offenses all season long, and should be a brute force against Chinook.
"We've played pretty well defensively this year,” Bertelsen said. “We're not as big up front as we were last year and we're not as big as they (Beeters) are up front. So for us to be successful on defense, we'll have to make sure and get off our blocks, be aggressive and make tackles.”
The Longhorns' offense is also going to be a huge factor Saturday. They, like the Beeters love to run the ball. But the Longhorns also have a talented quarterback in Jaylen Sokoloski that can and will probably prove to be a threat himself with his arm and legs.
Running back Collin Harrell is a very talented back, and how well he does my very well coincide with how the Beeters do.
“He is a very solid performer,” Coach Molyneaux said. “And we have to shut their running game down. We have to have a good outing by our defense and they have been playing very solid. They have really had to step up at times the last few weeks.”
The way the defensive line plays for Chinook will also play a major role in the Beeters' success or demise. They have been a key piece to the puzzle since the very first game, and will be so again in their last game of the season. Josh Jones, Jorell Jones, Connlin Brown and Anderson handle most of the line duties, and will looked on heavily to push the Beeters over the top.
“They have come through all year,” coach Molyneaux said. “So we just need one more time.”
On paper, both the Beeters and Longhorns look to be evenly matched. They are both aggressive and relentless teams on defense, and they are both teams that love to run the ball on offense.
But weather may also determine the winner on Saturday. It’s going to be cold and snowy, meaning footing and hanging onto the ball may be an issue for either, or both sides.
The Beeters have to keep from turning the ball over, but must force the Longhorns to do the opposite. And if they can do that, Molyneaux is confident in their chances at grabbing Chinook’s first-ever state championship.
“You have two teams that like to run the football,” coach Molyneaux said. “So I don’t think the weather is going to put a damper on any passing game. I feel good about our chances. I think we have a great chance if we create turnovers, don’t turn the ball over, if our defense plays how they have been playing and we have a strong outing from our offensive and defensive lines. I feel really good about it, we just need one more game.”
The Beeters and Longhorns will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday in the Class C 8-Man championship.