By George Ferguson
The 2002 football season didn't start off that great for both the Chester Coyotes and Big Sandy Pioneers. Both teams lost their opening game of the season and went on to lose the next weekend as well, leaving them at 0-2 and staring up at the Northern C playoff picture. Six weeks later, they are both still playing foortball as they prepare for first-round Class C playoff games on Saturday.
Big Sandy will travel to Northern C Division champion and undefeated Belt on Saturday. The Huskies, who are ranked No. 2 in the state, pounded Big Sandy 42-8 in Belt in that first weekend. The next weekend the Pioneers dropped their second straight contest to Power-Dutton-Great Falls Central. That two- week stretch could have easily finished the Pioneers, but head coach Scott Chauvet rallied his troops and found a way to win five of their remaining six games and qualify for the playoffs.
"When we lost our first two games, I think I panicked more than the kids did," Chauvet said. "But we started working a little harder as coaches and we loosened up the kids and things have worked out."
"We started making things fun for the kids and also the kids have really come into their own the past month," Chauvet added.
As for the rematch with the vaunted Huskies, Chuavet knows that things can be different this time around.
"Belt is definitely beatable and we're going to do whatever we have to do to stay with them," Chauvet said. "The key will be keeping it close until the third quarter. If we can do that, we're going to have a good chance."
Chauvet says another key to this game will be matching the Huskies in the trenches.
"In the first game, they just hammered us physically," Chauvet said. "But we're a different team right now, and we are going to be prepared for that type of football."
Offensively, Chauvet is prepared to pull out all the stops in order for his team to have a chance.
"We are going to run the football and make them stop us," Chauvet said. "On defense, we have to make them drive the length of the field if they are going to score. Those are going to be very big keys in this contest."
The game between the Pioneers (5-3) and Huskies (8-0) gets under way at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Belt.
The Chester Coyotes had a very similar beginning to their season. They also dropped their opening two games to Power-Dutton-GFC and Belt. Since that time, the Coyotes have reeled off six straight wins to finish third in the Northern C Division. Chester head coach Jim Graham says his team has grown and matured and that is a big reason why they are still playing.
"We could have very easily folded after the first two games," Graham said. "But the kids really hung in there and worked together and their confidence has been growing as the season has gone on."
On Saturday the Coyotes will travel to Power to face the Power-Dutton-Great Falls Central Titans. In the opening week of the season, the Titans blitzed Chester 42-8. Graham says his team was just physically overmatched in that contest and he believes that his troops will have to be prepared for that brand of football again this weekend.
"In the first game, they just pushed us around the entire game," Graham said. "For us to compete in this game, the kids are going to have to be able to match them physically and not get taken out of what they're trying to do."
Another key will be for the Coyotes to continue doing the things that have gotten them to this point.
"We can only do what has made us sucessful," Graham said. "We are going to stick to our game plan and see what happens."
The Coyotes (6-2) and Titans (7-1) will square off in Power at 1 p.m. on Saturday.