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Friday Night Lights: Hawks Flying High Again

Spencer Richter and the Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks are having a revival season. But, they have a huge home showdown with Great Falls Central tonight


September 28, 2018

Colin Thompson

Chester-Joplin-Inverness quarterback Spencer Richter drops back to pass during a Northern C game against Choteau last month. Richter is having a huge season for the Hawks, and, CJI is on a roll entering tonight's game with the GFCC Mustangs in Chester.

The Chester-Joplin-Inverness Hawks are part of a strong tradition of high school football in Chester and after struggling with numbers and mediocrity the past couple of seasons, CJI is on the comeback trail in 2018.

After losing just once in the regular season back in 2015, the Hawks have hovered around .500 the past couple seasons, making the playoffs as the final team out of the Northern C in 2016, before coming up one win short of making a play-in game for the playoffs last season.

While the 2017 season didn’t necessarily turn out the way the Hawks wanted it to, CJI didn’t have a single senior on the team, which set the stage for a turnaround. And led by head coach Jim Vinson and quarterback Spencer Richter, who followed in the footsteps of brothers Brandon and Cory Richter, previous CJI starting quarterbacks, the Hawks are on a roll at 4-1 and looking to make some noise in the vaunted Northern C.

“We really matured a lot last season,” Richter said. “I think that experience, because we were a young team, helped us a lot. And now we have guys that have really stepped up for us this year.”

CJI opened the season with a 28-14 win over Absarokee and then returned home to take on Choteau and after some injuries and other personnel issues caused the Hawks to play shorthanded, they fell to the Bulldogs 38-28. That loss could have been costly for CJI and might still be within the A Division of the Northern C. However, since that defeat, the Hawks have been dominant and in a three-game winning streak over Cascade, Belt and Hays-Lodge Pole, CJI has outscored its opponents 183-44.

“We had to make a few adjustments,” CJI head coach Jim Vinson said. “We are pretty healthy now and we moved Lane Fischer to running back, and ever since the second half of that Belt game, he has done a great job for us.”

Fisher has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the last two games over Belt, the defending Northern C champion, and HLP, yet he isn’t the only CJI player to get hot. In fact, one of the guys who has stepped up is Richter, who played a vital role in the win over Belt, amassing over 200 yards and three touchdowns. He was good again last week, throwing for two scores and running for another.

And even though Richter, a dangerous dual threat, is just a sophomore, with his namesake, it’s not a surprise to see him developing into one of the better signal callers in the Northern C.

“We have some really good schemes,” Richter said. “And we have been really working hard and I am excited. We are pretty confident.”

Tonight though, the Hawks and Richter will face their toughest test of season, as the Hawks will return home to take on undefeated Great Falls Central and highlytouted quarterback Noah Ambuehl, who is already committed to play at the University of Montana.

“We are going to have to come out hot and stay hot,” Richter said. “I am going to have to be on my game. We are going to have to try and play a perfect game because they are going to be tough.”

At 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the Northern C, the Hawks are close to clinching a spot in a play-in game for a spot in the 8-Man playoffs. Yet, if they can knock off undefeated Great Falls Central, CJI could still have a shot at winning the division title, which would mean an automatic berth in the playoffs and a shot at the Northern C championship.

But even if the Hawks can’t slay Great Falls Central, their dominance in recent weeks shows they are back as a factor in the Northern C and if they keep playing the way they are, their season might just extend into November for the first time in three years.

“Great Falls Central has beat us the last couple years,” Richter said, “so it would be awesome to beat them and have a chance to take first place in the subdivision.”


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