PHILIPSBURG – Team. It sounds like a cliché that every coach preaches.
But for the Flint Creek Titans it is the absolute gospel.
The Titans ran under, over and around the visiting Culbertson Cowboys Saturday afternoon, beating them 74-14 in the second round of the MHSA Class C 8-Man Football Playoffs. The win puts the Titans into the semifinals of the state tournament on the road at Shelby, which won an offensive shootout against Circle 59-42. The game will pit the 406mtsports.com’s top two teams in 8-man football against each other Nov. 10.
In the other half of the bracket, Great Falls Central upset Scobey 52-22 while Fairview beat Arlee 32-20. Fairview will play at Great Falls Central, also Nov. 10.
While it would appear that the Titans had the Cowboys tied up behind the woodshed from the opening kickoff, just the opposite was true. Flint Creek did hold Culbertson to a four-and-out on its first possession, and then had senior running back Colby Manley run the ball in from 22 yards out on its first play from scrimmage and a 6-0 lead.
But the Cowboys marched the ball down the field using a passing game that was completely foreign to what scouts anticipated. The pass-heavy attack put the ball on the Titan nine when Payton Hauge hit Noah Nickoloff with a TD pass and a conversion that gave the Cowboys an 8-6 lead.
“They got a couple of plays where our defensive ends weren’t getting a jam on their tight ends,” said Titan Head Coach Mike Cutler, “but other than that they got nothing.”
When asked if the initial score was a wake-up call for his guys, Cutler responded, “I suppose, but once we got settled into our responsibilities we got it done.”
And that’s when the Titans began to act out their team gospel. When Manley took the ball and ran for the second of three rushing touchdowns on the day just over a minute later from the 10-yard line, Flint Creek moved and acted as one. From team tackles to several players getting downfield to blocking for runners, the Titans overwhelmed the Cowboys and the rout was on.
Before the first period was over the Titans had mounted a 46-8 lead and had started the mercy rule running clock.
Sophomore Kade Cutler had a rushing touchdown and scoring passes to Riley Allen and Jaxon Lee. Lee also mixed in an interception return for 22 yards that he also got into the end zone.
The second period opened with the Flint Creek defense picking up right where it had left off. Daniel Brabender picked off another Hauge pass and returned it the same 22 yards (just as Lee had) for another TD. Before the period ended Cutler and Brabender connected on a 12-yard scoring pass that made it 62-8 at the break.
After halftime the Titans got their final two scores of the game. Manley pushed it in from five yards out and Lee scooped up a fumble - caused by Brabender and Kane Hess - and ran it in from 45 yards out.
Culbertson finally got into the end zone again with 17 seconds to play in the third on a six-yard run by Nickoloff. And instead of a two-point conversion the Cowboys tried an extra point kick, which sailed wide left.
While Culbertson was averaging 41 points a game coming into the contest, the Flint Creek defense was the star of the show despite the offensive explosion of 74 points. The Titans controlled the game and what the Cowboys could do, including taking away their vaunted running game.
“When we ran that defense, they just could not run the football. That’s what happened,” said Coach Cutler.
Hess, who plays line on both sides of the ball, echoed that sentiment.
“We have a game plan and coaches called it,” said Hess. “It was just the way they lined up really. They had two backs that either dive or sweep or quick pitch. Their game was mainly power and we were ready for it.”
Following Hess’ 7.5 tackles, Preston Metesh had six stops and Conley Wagner had 5.5. Wyatt Rigby was in on four stops during the day, but also had two solo quarterback sacks and assisted with Riley Allen on two more.
NOTES – The 8-6 lead by Culbertson marked the first time all season that an opponent had earned a lead over Flint Creek. Arlee had tied the Titans 6-6 Sept. 28, but never managed get ahead of the locals … The Cowboys score was also only the second time all season that an opponent was able to respond to Flint Creek’s first score of the game. … The extra point kick by Culbertson was the first attempt of that nature in more than two years against Flint Creek. … The victory makes Flint Creek 11-0 in 2018. When combined with their 12-0 mark in 2017 they have now won 23 straight games and are tied for 18th all-time in the state … The Titans are now 36-10 as a co-op, including 19-2 at home. … Starting the Mercy Rule Running Clock against Culbertson marks the 10th time in 11 games that they have achieved the 35-plus point margin this year. … Through 11 games in 2018, Flint Creek has outscored opponents 636-96. That’s an average of 57.8 points for and 8.7 against.
Culbertson – 8/0/6/0 – 14
Flint Creek – 46/16/12/0 – 74
10:48 – FC – 6-0 – Manley 22-yard run TD. Conversion failed.
9:12 – CU – 8-6 –Hauge to NNickoloff 9-yard pass TD. Hauge to NNickoloff conversion pass.
8:08 – FC – 14-0 – Manley 10-yard run TD. Manley conversion run.
5:38 - FC – 22-8 – Cutler 2-yard run TD. Cutler to Lee conversion pass.
5:05 – FC – 30-8 – Lee interception of Hauge return 22-yards TD. Cutler conversion run.
3:03 – FC – 38-8 – Cutler to Allen 18-yards TD. Cutler conversion run.
0:56 – FC – 46-8 – Cutler to Lee 8-yards TD. Manley conversion run.
11:42 – FC – 54-8 – Brabender interception of Hauge 22-yard return TD. Cutler conversion run.
2:08 – FC – 62-8 – Cutler to Brabender 12-yards TD. Manley conversion run.
10:55 – FC – 68-8 – Manley 5-yard run TD. Conversion failed.
9:02 – FC – 74-8 – Lee fumble recovery return 45-yards TD. Conversion failed.
0:17 – CU – 74-14 – NNickoloff 6-yard run TD. Kick failed.