Football teams don't reach this point in the season by accident. Take a look at the Dillon Beavers and that should be clear enough, as they prepare to put their flawless 9-0 record on the line in the semifinals of the Class A state playoffs this weekend.
Saturday at 1 p.m. the Beavers will host the Central A Havre Blue Ponies in Dillon. The Beavers are the No. 1 Class A team in the state and have performed at a very high level all season long, including a 35-13 win over Laurel last weekend in the quarterfinals. Havre brings 7-3 record into the matchup and is coming off of a 30-14 win over Hamilton in the quarterfinals.
The Beavers have been racking up wins at an alarming rate. They have handled every team they have faced this season, and now enter the state semis for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. The Beavers played in three straight state title games from 2005-2007, captuinrg back-to-back titles in 05 and 06. Dillon also won state titles in 2000 and 2003.
And the Beaver are also an old Havre High rival. Dillon played in the Central for many years, until the Southwestern A was created in the early 2000's.
"We are very proud of our football team because of our season to date," Dillon head coach Terry Thomas said. "They have done a tremendous job of going game to game and continuing to improve. And we have excelled in our offense, defense and special teams and it seems that the kids have rose to each challenge as they come."
But what has made the Beavers so tough this season is their consistency and well-balanced play on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the Beavers have strived all season long to be well balanced in their run and pass attacks. And with the talent they have on this years' roster, that is exactly what they have been able to do with an average of 37.6 points per game this season. And Dillon isn't afraid to spread the success around, as three-year starting quarterback J.T. Linder has three very talented receivers and two explosive running backs splitting carries in the backfield.
The 6-2, 195 pound Linder has had an outstanding season. He is one of the top quarterbacks in the state and has found great success tossing the ball to Wes Knox, a 6-4 senior, Austin Carver, a 5-10 junior and Ben Folsom, a 6-2 senior. And carrying the ball, Kyle Cox, a 5-10, 165 pounder and Dilan Starkel, a 5-9, 165 pounder have been stressing out opposing defenses all season long with their one-two punch out of the backfield.
"Our offensive line has done a great jobs creating holes for our running backs as well as giving our quarterback plenty of time to throw the ball," Thomas said. "Because of that we have had some good success in both areas (running and passing)."
The offensive line is big and physical. And while the whole line houses talent, three talented seniors anchor the Beavers. Center Daniel Morstein towers at 6-2, and 275 pounds. and is being recruited to play major college ball. Zeke Koslosky, a 6-1, 230-pound guard and Cameron Turner, a 6-0, 215-pound guard, accent Morstein on the line.
The big and physical line makes it hard for teams to matchup, and the Ponies will have their hands full this weekend. But it is also the spread offense with a multitude of weapons that gives opposing defenses trouble, as they plot and scheme in an attempt to stop Dillon's powerful offense.
But the Beaver defense also knows they will be in a similar situation when they go to stop the Ponies offense, an offense that is just behind Dillon, averaging 37.3 points per game this year.
Koslosky is a huge factor in the Beavers defense, as is Morstein. They will have the daunting task of stopping the Ponies' run game, while defensive backs Cox, Austin Williams, Folsom and Starkel will try to shut down the Ponies' production through the air.
But the Beavers' defense will be confident coming into Saturday's game. Dillon has recorded four shutouts this season, and hasn't allowed more than 17 points in one game. Dillon defeated Billings Central 40-17 way back in mid September, since then allowing just 35 points in their last six games. Laurel posted 13 against Dillon last Saturday, but fell 35-13. Dillon's common opponents with Havre were Butte Central and Hamilton. The Beavers didn't allow a touchdown in either game.
"The kids have done a great job of executing their responsibilities in our schemes," Thomas said. "The defensive line has played well and that allows our linebackers to run to the ball and our secondary kids to make plays. Generally speaking, we feel like we have been solid, and it is just a matter building off of each game and getting better.
"Havre is playing well right now and doing a great job offensively of running the ball," Thomas added. "Their quarterback (Justin Jensen) is getting the ball out quick and on target, and that makes a lot of challenges with all of their sets. Our goal defensively is to not give up the big play. This time of year every team is very good, and you have to play well if you want to win and advance."
Saturday at 1 p.m. Dillon will host Havre in state semifinal action.
Class A Semifinal
Havre at Dillon
Saturday at 1 p.m.
Last Meeting: Dillon def. Havre 21-7 in a Class A quarterfinal at Blue Pony Stadium in 2007.
Can't make it to the game?
Blue Pony fans can follow the Havre/Dillon game with live HDN updates on twitter at twitter/havredaily.