GRANITE COUNTY – The Flint Creek Titans and Charlo Vikings have been two of the powerhouse teams in the 8-man’s Western Conference since the former came on the scene in 2014. But five years later the two seem to be taking a back seat to other teams as each struggle to find a new identity as key players moved on.
In Week 3 of the 2019 season these two teams meet in Charlo. Each sports a 1-1 record and a loss now could mean an end to their postseason aspirations.
Before we look behind the lines, let’s see what game night holds…
The Vikings come into the game with new Head Coach Reese Cox at the helm. Cox had been an assistant under previous head coach Mike Krahn for two seasons, handling the skill positions and special teams. That experience gives Cox some insight into Flint Creek and their head coach Mike Cutler.
“We have to find a way to stop the mastermind of Mike,” said Cox the Titans. “He’s always got a good team, they are well coached and he is very, very good at making adjustments. We want to throw things at them so that he might not be able to make all of the adjustments.
“We know they link the veer and the midline option, so we want to try and take those away as much as we can. We’ve worked this week on assigning who is on who. We just hope we’ve chosen right.”
Flint Creek’s offense has taken on some changes since the start of the year. Even in the midst of the loss at Clark Fork, the Titans started sporting a different look after halftime that had the play score for score with the now 2-0 Mountain Cats. Against Troy in Week 2, the Titans had their way with the Trojans despite Kade Cutler’s broken left hand, loss of senior RB Conley Wagner for the season and WR Preston Metesh who is currently out on a game-to-game basis with a deep thigh bruise.
Cutler, a junior in his second season as the starting QB for Flint Creek, showed that despite the case on his non-throwing hand he can still get it to his receivers. He connected three times with senior Daniel Brabender for scoring throws in the first half against Troy.
The Viking lost 8-man standout Landers Smith to graduation and look to sophomore Coyle Nagy to step in at QB. Nagy played against Titans last season in Philipsburg when Smith left the game early with a knee injury.
“He’s not Landers,” said Cox. “He is more of a pocket passer than a runner. He’ll make good use of the pocket and move within it when he feels pressure. He doesn’t really go deep, but is more of a touch and timing passer.”
“The quarterback they have now is only a sophomore but he has potential to be a Landers Smith kind of guy,” remarked Coach Cutler. “He’s small now, but he has the potential to grow and can certainly run the kind of system they’re trying to run.”
Charlo will compliment Nagy’s aerial attack with two senior running backs in Isaiah Allik and Wrangler. Both are over 6-foot and closing in on 200 pounds.
The Titans have been looking to fill the running void left by 2018’s Colby Manley and were hoping that Wagner would be part of that solution. But with him suffering a season-ending foot surgery they have looked to several underclassmen to step, the leader of which appears to be his brother Leyton Wagner. The younger Wagner has shown that he can carry the ball and has been servicing the Titans well.
Defensively, Flint Creek will be attacking a Charlo squad that wants to find a rhythm and stay in it. When asked what he sees in the Vikings with a new head coach, he said, “The head coach now was there before, so a lot of similarities. He’s brought his own little intricacies to the program, but I see a lot of the same stuff.”
The Titans’ success in Week 2 may have been in large part to the team returning to basics. A move that Cutler and his coaching staff felt fit the personality of this year’s squad.
“We’ve got a good group of kids. We just have a group of kids that we need to go back and re-teach and re-focus on fundamental stuff and that’s OK. We just don’t have a team full of players that have been starting since they were sophomores. The coaches had to take a step back and cut down what we want to scheme wise.”