PHILIPSBURG – Senior Colby Manley was doing what he does best last Saturday – pounding the ball on offense and hawking it on ‘D’ as Flint Creek battled Shelby in the 8-man semifinals.
That is, until midway into the second quarter.
It was there that he rolled his right foot on the frozen turf during a dive play, leaving him swollen and unable to finish the game.
To say it looked it extremely gloomy for the Flint Creek eight that day would be an understatement.
But as Titan Head Coach might tell you, that’s when the system kicked in.
That’s when juniors Braden Huberg and Conley Wagner stepped up. The two players were asked to fill the void left by Manley at running back and middle linebacker, respectively, with few reps or experience.
Manley is currently listed as questionable for the game, taking time to rest his ankle and doing minimal work in practice this week ahead of Saturday’s championship tilt. Unless he can get the swelling down and be able to put substantial weight on it, his two replacements will have to be ready to roll.
Huberg has been a reserve player, typically getting the assignment of portraying the next opponent’s star rusher while laboring away at the junior varsity level. He’s made a number of varsity appearances, but typically when the game is well in hand and the Titan JV players have taken the field.
“I wasn’t ready for it. It was kind of a shock to me,” reflected Huberg of his play against Shelby. “I was thinking about next year and getting ready for that. I was looking at what I was going to need to do to get ready over next summer. Playing in that Shelby game really showed me what I need to do and be ready for.
When asked about his nerves going into the title game, “I think they’ll be pretty good.”
Cutler had high praise for Huberg and the position he was thrust into.
“Braden did a fantastic job, considering the circumstances,” said Cutler. “But he just hadn’t had the reps. He did a great job.”
Wagner’s has been a defensive starter all season, making a number of outstanding plays. He’s currently third on the squad with 53.5 tackles including 12 pass breakups, an interception, four fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.
But his move to the middle linebacker position won’t be an unfamiliar one.
“I played it on JV (last two years), so I have a general idea,” Wagner stated. “You just have to pay attention (in the game), pay attention in practice and know what’s going on. You just gotta do what you do and work on it in practice.”
As Wagner moves from safety to linebacker, Kade Cutler takes over patrolling the deep threat. That’s a position that he has played throughout the year and at the JV level.
Flint Creek will put it all on the line Saturday against Great Falls Central Catholic in the MHSA Class C 8-Man State Championship Game. It will be played at Butte’s Naranche Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 1 p.m.