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Longhorns begin state championship quest at home

 

Last updated 10/30/2020 at 8:57am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Billy Ullery and the Fort Benton Longhorns start the Class C 8-Man playoffs this Saturday with a home game against St. Ignatius. The Longhorns are undefeated on the season.

If the 2019 season was one of the best in recent Fort Benton football history, then it will be interesting to see how 2020 ends up being characterized.

After all, from day one of the fall, the Longhorns have been ranked No. 1 in Class C 8-Man football, and they have yet to have a team come within single digits of them this season. So, it's easy to see why Fort Benton is the clear-cut favorite to win the state championship, a quest that starts Saturday when the Longhorns host St. Ignatius in the first round of the 8-man playoffs.

And while the 2020 quest starts Saturday in Fort Benton, the real quest actually began last November when Fort Benton was throttled by Fairview 48-8 in the state semifinals. That loss was a tough pill for the Longhorns to swallow, especially since it meant the career of four-year starter Garrett Diekhans also ended.

However, in the longrun, the loss that cold November day to Fairview, which went on to win the Class C state championship with ease, obviously motivated the Longhorns, and helped get them to where they are today.

"I feel like we just got kind of unfinished business," Hayden Diekhans, a two-way senior star said to the media before the start of the season. "We were contenders. I feel like we got a lot of unfinished business we have to take care of this year."

From the start, head coach Jory Thompson's team hasn't just been a Class C contender - the Longhorns have been the standard.

The Longhorns opened the season with a pair of shutout wins over Ennis and Cascade. Then, in week four came what was supposed to be the first big test. But in reality, Fort Benton proved to be the test, as the Longhorns smashed Belt 54-20. Week six came another stern challenge from upstart Simms, but in the end, the Horns' again pulled away to a double-digit win to get to 6-0. A matchup against Shelby was to be perhaps an even tougher test, but that game was called off due to COVID-19, so not only does Fort Benton come into Saturday's playoff-opener rested, but the Longhorns, having not played in two weeks, are also hungry.

Not only are the Horns hungry, they're loaded, too. Hayden Diekhans, Hayden Axtman, Jace Thompson and Billy Ullery are all two-way stalwarts for the Longhorns, but they really combine to make Fort Benton one of the most potent offenses in the state. This season the Longhorns have outscored opponents 317-54, which also says something about how good they are on defense, too.

And all of that firepower will be on display Saturday when St. Ignatius, who dropped to 8-man football a year ago, comes to Fort Benton. The Bulldogs are 5-3 and finished fourth in the Western C final standings, and though they have talent, as well, they'll be decided underdogs in what the Longhorns are hopping is just the first step in a four-game march to a Class C state championship.

Saturday's game between the Longhorns and Bulldogs will kick off at 1 p.m. in Fort Benton.

 
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