CHINOOK — Every time the Chinook Sugarbeeters and Chester/J-I Hawks meet on the football field, chances are it's one of the better prep football games fans will see all season.
And when the Northern C conference rivals met Saturday night in Chinook to kick off a new season, the Beeters and Hawks gave another good showing. Some youthfulness was exposed for both teams, but overall, Saturday’s contest was a good, old-fashioned Hi-Line defensive battle.
For the second straight year, the Hawks defeated the Beeters in what can be considered an early upset. Preseason rankings had the Beeters as the No. 3 team in the Northern C, while the same rankings had the Hawks as the No. 6 team in the conference. But it was the underdog Hawks who went into Chinook and came away with the 18-12 win.
“I expected it to be a tough game,” Chester/J-I head coach Jim Vinson said. “It is the Beeters against the Hawks, and I think it was exactly what people expected. It was a very tough and physical, hard hitting football game. It was the first game, and I think there were some errors by both teams, but all in all, it was a great game.”
There have been some shootouts between these two teams in recent history, but Saturday belonged to the defense for the most part.
A touchdown by each team in the first quarter showed signs of a high-scoring game, but both offenses slowed down drastically moving forward. And a Zach Molyneaux 2-yard rushing score on the Beeters’ first drive gave Chinook the early 6-0 lead, but a Justin May 50-yard running score tied the game at 6-6 on the Hawks’ second possession of the game.
The 6-6 tie remained in tact through the remainder of the first quarter and deep into the second quarter. But this time on a 2-yard carry, May gave the Hawks the 12-6 lead.
Both defenses anchored down, and yards and points were hard to come by in the second half, a half of football where just two more touchdowns were scored.
In the third quarter, the Hawks were forced to punt on two separate occasions. It would have been three straight punts by C/J-I, but back-to-back Chinook penalties turned a Chester third down and 20 into an easy first down and eventual 6-yard scoring jaunt by May with 1:08 in the frame. The Beeters offense also stalled out, punting two times in the third quarter, as well one more time in the fourth. The Beeters did score on another two-yard Molyneaux rush with 8:12 left in regulation, but still trailing 18-12 meant having to throw the ball late in the game. The Beeters’ quarterback Ian McIntosh had two interceptions late in the game, ending the hopes of a comeback.
“We weren’t dialed in on our passing game,” Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux said, “and our play action pass needs work. With a young quarterback, sometimes we have open receivers and we leave the ball short, or sometimes we are throwing a little long and it is off their fingertips. We had some opportunities, but we need to tune that up. But our line is young up front, and C/J-I was blitzing all night.”
And coach Vinson liked his chances if he could force the Beeters to go to the air.
“We put good pressure on the quarterback,” Vinson said, “and our secondary did a great job covering the ball. I am very confident in our defense, and they are so effective because they are disciplined and hard working kids. When they tried to pass the ball, they didn’t have time to throw it, and that ... pressure was how we got those two interceptions.”
Tim Stokes had the first interception for the Hawks, followed by the interception by May. After the May interception, the Hawks were able to take a knee three consecutive times to run out the clock.
C/J-I did what teams haven't been able to do in a number of years, stuff the Chinook run game. The Beeters rushed for just over a 100 yards, and struggled through the air when forced to pass. The Hawks pressured the Beeters all night long, and even saw a sack from Jack Fritz.
Lane Seymour and Kevin Young also recorded individual sacks for the Beeters, but Chinook found it harder to put a hold on the Chester/J-I passing game. The Hawks leaned on the passing game late in the second quarter and showed early success with an 18-yard connection from Dell Harmon to Stokes and a 19-yard connection from Harmon to Seven May. Harmon had two passes for more than 20-yards in the second half as well, but also had one interception to Chinook’s Derek Bell early in the fourth quarter.
“Our passing game was huge for us,” Coach Vinson said, “and once we were able to get a little separation, we were able to go back to our running a game a little bit. But Chinook is a tough and physical football team and they make it hard to just run, run, run against them.”
Chester-J/I’s passing game seemed to be the difference maker Saturday, but both teams will still look to improve moving forward. Both teams did some things right, as well as made some mistakes in the season opener, but know they have tough remaining schedules. The Hawks will host Centerville Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Chester, and the Beeters will take to the road to face Great Falls Central Saturday in Great Falls at 1 p.m.
Chinook sophomore Gavin Gunderson carries the ball during Saturday night's Northern C clash at Hoon Field in Chinook. The Havre Daily News will run all the Hi-Line football results from each weekend in Tuesday's Hi-Line Roundup throughout the fall.
Chester/J-I 18, Chinook 12
C/J-I 6 6 6 0 — 18
Chinook 6 0 0 6 — 12
CHI — Zach Molyneaux 2 run (pass failed)
C/J-I — Justin May 50 run (pass failed)
C/J-I — Justin May 2 run (pass failed)
C/J-I — Justin May 7 run (run failed)
CHI — Zach Molyneaux 2 run (run failed)