Sugarbeeters rewriting the history books
The difference between Class B and Class C high school football in Montana is three starters on each side of the ball.
The Class B ranks plays 11-man football, while in Class C, it's eight-man football and a smaller field.
The difference in the football program at Chinook between now and the start of this decade is palpable.
It wasn't long ago that the Beeters dropped down from Class B to Class C, and that move occurred a year after Chinook failed to field a varsity football team due to lack of depth and overall numbers.
But fast forward less than 10 years and everything surrounding the Sugarbeeter program is different.
In other words, times are very good. Chinook is near the top of the mountain as it prepares to play in its first-ever state championship game when the Beeters (10-1) host top-ranked Wibaux (11-0) Saturday afternoon in Chinook.
"No Chinook football team has ever been here before, at any level of football," Chinook senior running back Tyler Molyneaux said after the Beeters' historic 28-26 semifinal win over Power-Dutton-Brady last Saturday. "So to have a chance to play for a state championship, and have that game be at home, it's something that everyone around here has been dreaming of. It's something the whole town is proud of."
Chinook has been dreaming of this moment for a long time, but getting to a state championship game, even a semifinal, which no Chinook team had ever played in before last Saturday, has taken much more than just dreaming. It's taken hard work, intense dedication, and timing.
The move down to Class C certainly gave Chinook a chance to compete on a playing field more suitable for the school's present-day enrollment, but it didn't mean instant success.
Since Chinook dropped to Class C five years ago, the Beeters have made the playoffs three times, but have also suffered a pair of losing seasons.
But through it all, the program never wavered, and with a large senior class, dedicated to football since their middle school days, the timing for Chinook's run towards a first-ever state championship was perfect.
"This is something special, not just for this team, but for this community," Chinook head coach Matt Molyneaux said. "But the most important thing about getting this far is that this senior class, and this group overall are achieving their goals. This group has been all about football for four years now, some of them even beyond that. It's what they have worked for, what they've strived for all these years, and as coaches, we've known for a long time that this was a year we had a chance to be a pretty special team and have this kind of season. So what we've done is try and not mess it up for them.
"These kids have worked very hard to get here," he added. "And they deserve what's happening to them now."
Dedication, like timing has plenty do with the Beeters' current success — success which includes a Northern C regular season championship, a first-ever semifinal berth (Chinook had only advanced as far as the Class C quarterfinals before Saturday's game against P-D-B) and now a date with the Wibaux Longhorns for all of the Class C marbles.
This is indeed something Chinook's players, coaches and fans, old and young, have been waiting for for a very long time, and it's something that's finally here now. No more dreaming, no more wondering or hoping — the Beeters have a chance to put a football state championship trophy in their trophy case for the first time in school history. And that's not lost on anyone.
"This is something the whole town, everybody in Chinook is behind and something everybody has been wanting to happen for a long time," Chinook two-way starter Josh Jones said. "It's something we as players have been working hard for since we were young. We've been dreaming about this opportunity for many years.
"But it also didn't happen by luck," he added. "This isn't about luck. It's about preparation and seizing the opportunities in front of us. We've worked hard for this, and now we have the opportunity to win a state championship."
Chinook's opportunity to capture a coveted state title in football will come Saturday when the Beeters face the 2009 runner-up Longhorns at 1 p.m. at Hoon Field in Chinook.