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Pioneers, Longhorns one win away

Big Sandy, Fort Benton play in semifinal road games Saturday


November 15, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

The Big Sandy defense will be put to the test when the Pioneers play the Jordan Mustangs in the Six-Man semifinals Saturday in Jordan. The game is a rematch of last year's semifinals, as well as the 2019 season-opener for the Pioneers.

The Class C 8-Man and Six-Man football seasons are coming down to the wire.

For the Fort Benton Longhorns, Saturday will be one of the toughest games they will play this season, especially since the Horns are facing off against another No. 1 seed, the Fairview Warriors in the Class C semifinals in Fairview.

Saturday's game will be a battle of the giants and the teams have a lot to look forward to when they play on Fairview's home turf. For the Longhorns, there has not been any major issues in any road game this season, but a team like the Warriors could give them some trouble.

For Fort Benton head coach Jory Thompson, the game will be quite the battle.

"It's going to be a battle, obviously," said Thompson. "Fairview is a very good squad. They're undefeated and have a high number of seniors. It's going to be a dogfight."

Fort Benton has a lot of talent to help out in the intense game against Fairview. Running backs Jace Thompson and Hayden Axtman have been dangerous, physical rushers for the Longhorns' ground game. Thompson and Axtman have been very consistent in their game. Thompson is looking for his line to shine, too.

"I think our line needs to do well," said coach Thompson. "We need some good senior leadership. I think if they have a great day, we'll have a great day."

Not only is the run game a threat, but so is quarterback Garett Diekhans. Diekhans is a versatile athlete that has proven to be a problem for many teams this year. Last week against Park City, Diekhans threw four touchdowns. On top of that, do not be surprised if Diekhans finds an opening and uses his legs. He is a dual-threat quarterback that is not afraid to get physical.

"He makes plays," Thompson said. "If he makes plays like he can, we'll be in the game."

The Longhorn's defense is another tough nut to crack. The defense has bent sometimes this season but has yet to break. When it comes to Fairview, the defense will be put to the test against an explosive Warrior offense.

Fairview quarterback Alex Shriver has been a great offensive standout. Shriver had one passing touchdown and is very intelligent on the field. The Warriors' have a highly variant running-game, as well. Brady Buxbaum and Cody Asbeck have scored their fair share of touchdowns this year.

Plus, Asbeck has proved to be a great player on defense, too. Against Thompson Falls last week, Asbeck had two interceptions on the day. Overall, it was a dominant performance by Fairview on both sides of the ball and the Longhorns will have a big challenge playing the Warriors.

But Thompson has goals in mind to help his team stay one-step ahead in the matchup.

"The key is going to be holding the line of scrimmage," Thompson said. "And we just have to fly around and wrap up the matchups that our safeties and linebackers will have."

The 8-Man semifinal game pits the Fort Benton Longhorns (10-0) against the Fairview Warriors (10-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. in Fairview. The winner will move on to the championship game.

And Fort Benton is not the only undefeated team on the Hi-Line facing off against a tough opponent in a semifinal matchup. In fact, Big Sandy will be facing off against an all too familiar adversary, the No. 1 seeded Jordan Mustangs.

The Pioneers will be facing off against the Mustangs in a road-game Saturday at 1 p.m. in Jordan. It will be a heated matchup between the two teams, especially since they have some history.

Big Sandy and Jordan faced off in the 2018 Six-Man semifinal game, with the Mustangs moving on to the championship game. It was a tough loss for the Pioneers. But, this season, Big Sandy has been ready to play Jordan again. And Big Sandy got its chance to get revenge already this year in its season-opener against the Mustangs. The Pioneers proved their toughness and high-caliber game plan to beat Jordan 44-28, kicking off the ongoing undefeated streak for Big Sandy.

But, the true revenge for the Pioneers comes in the semifinal rematch and, this time, Big Sandy has become a lot more dangerous than previous years. With senior running back Kade Strutz making much of the Pioneers' offensive attack as deadly as it is, it will be no surprise if Strutz has another big game against Jordan. Last week against Roy-Winifred, Strutz trucked over the Outlaw defense and scored five touchdowns, helping make up the 307 rushing yards .

The run-game is very potent for the Pioneer offensive attack and will be tough to take down. Other players like Christopher Burns, who had a touchdown against Roy-Winifred, and Kody Strutz have helped with the ground game, too. Stopping the Big Sandy rushing attack will be a big focus for the Jordan defense.

But, Jordan is not a team to take lightly. The Mustangs have four shutouts this season and have beat many teams that appeared in the playoffs, too. Mustangs have some great weapons that will look to dismantle Big Sandy's championship title hopes.

The team has four Murnions, each a very tough player to face, and a mobile senior lineman in Ben McRae. On top of that, the Mustangs are looking for a revenge if their own this year. After losing to Wibaux in the championship last year, Jordan has big ambitions to meet them once again in the title and beat them this time.

With an 9-1 record, the Mustangs have had a lot going right for them. In the postseason this year, Jordan crushed teams like North Star and Bridger. The Scouts were one of the favorites in the bracket, too. For the Mustangs to shut Bridger out 65-0 last week says a lot about how difficult the team will be.

For Big Sandy, the road game against Jordan will be a revenge story, and getting a win means it will head to the championship. Even better, a win against the Mustangs will mean home-field advantage for the Pioneers, as well. There is a lot on the line in the semifinal matchup.

Big Sandy (10-0) will kick off against Jordan High (9-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. in Jordan.


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