GRANITE COUNTY – The Flint Creek Titans prepare for every game the same. They run their plays, they hit the tackling dummies and they execute a well-designed game plan by Head Coach Mike Cutler and his coaching staff.
They’ll do all those things this week as well. But when they look at their opponent, they might as well be looking in a mirror.
But before we gaze into the magic mirror at Saturday’s game, let’s take a look at some of the game day details…
High 35/Low 18
Cloudy and windy conditions in the afternoon. A few flurries or snow showers possible. Winds NW at 20 to 30 mph. Wind chill High 23/Low 0. Humidity 76%.
Flint Creek Titans
11-0 / 11-game win streak / PF 636, PA 96
vs Clark Fork Co-Op, W, 50-16, (in Butte)
at Troy, W, 50-6
vs Charlo, W, 52-8
at Seeley Swan, W, 82-0
vs Plains, W, 68-0
at Arlee, W, 36-14
vs Darby, W, 44-0
vs St. Ignatius, W, 68-24
at Victor, W, 62-0
vs. Choteau, W, 50-14*
vs. Culbertson, W, 74-14*
9-0 / 9-game win streak / PF 466, PA 88
at Chinook, W, 48-6
vs Rocky Boy, W, 76-0
at Fort Benton, W, 23-14
vs Cascade, W, 58-0
at Centerville, 50-0
at Simms, W, 62-12
vs Great Falls Central, W, 34-0
vs. Darby, W, 56-14*
vs. Circle, W, 59-42*
*-Indicates Playoff Game
While this is the first-ever meeting of these two programs, the familiarity could not be more intense. Most of that stems from the friendship and deep history shared by Cutler and Shelby Head Coach Mike White. The two grew up together, with White noting that he and Cutler played Little League against each other as kids and spent time together in the summers. Cutler expanded on those memories, recalling their playing time at Western College as players.
“We’ve known each other for forever,” Cutler laughed, speaking of White. “He’s a good guy and a great coach.”
“He’s a hard-nosed guy and you know his team is going to attack, attack, attack,” said White.
Having a shared experience in the game has produced two teams that are eerily similar in how they approach the game. The offensive sets and defensive schemes may vary, but how they and their staffs teach the game and prepare their players sounds almost identical.
In assessing the Titans, White declined to give a specific plan of attack – mostly because there really wasn’t one.
“We’re a pretty balanced team,” observed White, “but we’re just going to have to see what they give us and go from there. We’re able to throw, but we’ve got multiple formations and we’ll just have to see what’s there.”
The Coyotes, or ‘Yotes as they go by on their helmets, are quarterbacked by senior Damon Irvin. Their chief running back is senior Wyatt Brusven and is the man who they prefer to give the ball on a regular basis. When Irvin goes to the air he’s looking for fellow seniors Tucker Tustian at wide receiver and Dillon Luly at tight end.
“He’s (White) a lot like us,” remarked Cutler, “in that he’s not going to put his kids in a situation where they’re at a disadvantage.
Like Shelby, Flint Creek has a similar arsenal of similar weapons. Cutler’s son Kade is the sophomore quarterback that has emerged as a solid play caller and elusive runner for the Titans. His favorite target is junior Jaxon Lee, who will also execute the occasional run and return kicks. But Cutler has also had success passing to Daniel Brabender, Riley Allen and Luke Holland, giving him a variety of targets that will hopefully keep the ‘Yotes guessing.
And when Flint Creek runs the ball they depend primarily on the ‘Farmboy Express’, a.k.a. Colby Manley. With his 11 carries and three touchdowns last week, Manley has now crested the 1,000 yard mark. Like the comic book character Juggernaut, once Manley gets a head of steam up he becomes very hard to bring down.
Shelby holds the edge in size at the line, led by junior Mark Clark at 6-5, 325 lbs. But when that situation has presented itself in the past, the Titans have been able to out play their opponent by executing better than the man across the line. They’ll have to do that again Saturday.
Both Cutler and White agree that this game will come down to the little things – execution, turnovers and each player executing his assignments.
The winner will advance to the championship game November 17 at Naranché Stadium in Butte against the winner of the other semifinal between Fairview at Great Falls Central.
NOTES – At the end of the regular season, the 406mtsports.com Top Ten placed Flint Creek at #1 and Shelby at #2. ... This is Shelby’s first season in Class C 8-Man football after having played Class B. In 2017 the Coyotes were 8-4; losing to Lincoln County 47-7 in the championship game. … Flint Creek’s win in the quarterfinals over Culbertson made them 11-0 in 2018. When coupled with their undefeated 2017 campaign they have won 23 games in a row and are now tied with Loyola Sacred Heart (2012-2013) for 18th all-time. A win over Shelby would move the Titans into a tie with a quartet of teams at 24, which include Huntley Project (2008-2009), Cut Bank (1989-1990), Great Falls CMR (1989-1990), and Denton (2010-2011). … Flint Creek has now scored 636 points on the year in 11 games, placing them sixth all-time in 8-man football. They rank just ahead of themselves from 2017 at 624 points in 12 games. Flint Creek is just 106 points away from the all-time 8-man scoring record of 742 set by Fairview over 12 games in 2012. … At their present average of 57.8 points per game (PPG), the Titans are ranked fourth all-time behind Charlo (68.7, 1971), Fairview (61.8, 2012), and Wibaux (60.7, 2006).