SHELBY – The MHSA Class C 8-Man semifinal football game between Flint Creek and Shelby will never be entered into the history books for its perfect execution.
But if you wanted a game filled with grit, heart and determination, you’d get exactly what you came for.
The visiting Titans had to overcome three different Coyote leads to claim a 28-20 victory Saturday afternoon in Shelby. The win puts Flint Creek back into the 8-Man Championship Game Nov. 10 at Butte’s Naranche Stadium against Great Falls Central. The Mustangs defeated Fairview 28-18 in the other semifinal Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my guys,” said a reflective Flint Creek Mike Cutler after Saturday’s win. “They fought, fought, fought. I would never doubt our kids. They played their butts off, they’ve got a bunch of heart, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
For the first time since the 2016 season, the Titans not only found themselves trailing three times in a game but doing so late into the fourth quarter.
It started in the first quarter when Shelby QB Damon Irvin found Dillon Luly on a 24-yard scoring pass at the 8:57 mark. The Coyotes failed on the conversion, but led 6-0.
Flint Creek responded using a sustained drive to get the ball to the five-yard-line when senior running back Colby Manley punched it in and added the conversion, giving the Titans an 8-6 lead.
After a failed Shelby drive, the Titans worked the ball back down inside the Coyote five when QB Kade Cutler fumbled. The turnover put Shelby on its own four, but they needed only one play to score. Wyatt Brusven found a gap on the right side of the Titan defensive line and scampered 76 yards for the score. He added the conversion run and the ‘Yotes were up 14-8.
After taking the kickoff, the Titans suffered the loss of Manley. While running a play over the middle, Manley injured his right foot, leaving the game never to return.
The loss forced Flint Creek reserve Braden Huberg into action and he did not disappoint. Huberg was able to provide the locals with a rushing attack that kept the Shelby defense on its toes.
“It was kind of sad because one of our best running backs had gotten taken out,” said Huberg of the opportunity. “I had a little bit of butterflies, I’ll admit that much. I really kind of surprised myself with (my performance). I just stepped up and followed Colby’s lead.”
Mike Cutler echoed his approval of the junior’s performance.
“He was thrown to the wolves there,” observed the coach. “He’s not getting a lot of reps (in practice) and he’s the other team’s running back every week. He’s no stranger to playing football and I’m telling you if people overlook him, they’re gonna hurt.”
With Huberg’s contribution and an adjustment to the Titan attack, the locals were able to move the ball effectively. After reaching the Shelby 27, Kade Cutler hit Jaxon Lee for a score and a 14-14 tie that held through halftime and into the start of the fourth quarter.
Flint Creek committed another turnover deep in its own end of the field, giving the Coyotes a short run to the goal line with nine minutes to play. They made use of the opportunity when Taylor Parsons ran it in from the one, giving Shelby its third and final lead of the game, 20-14.
After the kickoff the Titans needed only one play to even the game, a 59-yard scoring pass from Cutler to Lee for their second connection of the game.
It seemed that the way the game had been going that one key turnover or play would make the difference. And it came just a few plays into Shelby’s next drive.
Titan linemen Wyatt Rigby and Conley Wagner got into the backfield for Flint Creek, hitting the Coyotes’ Irvin as he threw. The play caused the ball’s trajectory to climb high into the air, hanging there for what seemed like an eternity. When it came down, Lee cradled it and was tackled shortly thereafter.
“It seemed like it actually took forever to come down,” recalled Lee. “It was just all in slow motion and when I made the catch I have never been so gassed before!”
Kade Cutler made good on Lee’s effort the very next play, busting through the line and running the ball in from the 37. Cutler hit tight end Riley Allen with the conversion pass to secure the win.
Flint Creek – 8/6/0/14 – 28
Shelby – 6/8/0/6 – 20
8:57 – SH – Irvin 24-yard pass to Luly TD. Conversion failed.
2:53 – FC – Manley 5-yard rush TD, Manley Conversion run.
7:25 – SH – Brusven 76-yard rush TD. Brusven conversion run.
3:03 – FC – Cutler 27-yard pass to Lee TD. Conversion failed.
8:15 – SH – Parsons 1-yard run TD. Conversion failed
7:10 – FC – Cutler 59-yard pass to Lee TD. Conversion failed.
6:11 – FC – Cutler 37-yard rush TD. Cutler to Allen conversion pass.