DRUMMOND – In a nine-game season, every game is a big one.
When 3-0 Seeley Swan heads into Drummond to face the 2-1 Titans, Flint Creek knows that they won’t be facing the same Blackhawk team that they have grown use to seeing. This year it’s game on!
Before we hear from the coaches, here’s a few of the specifics of Friday night’s game:
Despite getting beaten last year by the Titans in an 82-0 blowout at Seeley, the Blackhawks enter Friday’s game at 7 p.m. riding the crest of a three-game win streak to start their season – something they have never done since the Flint Creek Co-Op came into existence in 2014. The start is the best ever since at least 2004 (as far back as MaxPres.com goes) and the last time the Blackhawks won three in a row was 2005 when they won four straight on their way to a 6-3 year.
The change is due in large part to first-year head coach Jay Crum. Crum, who was a volunteer with last year’s squad, took over in November 2018 when then head coach David Cahoon resigned. He immediately put a strength and conditioning program in place that found solid footing with his returning players.
“We’ve had 80% buy in from the kids all the way through summer,” said Crum. “Some of these kids have really grown as a result of that and I’m really proud of them.”
Crum brings vast experience to a Seeley program that has managed just three above .500 seasons since 2004, having coached in Washington and California. “I’ve played the game at every level,” added Crum, “all the way to practice squads in the NFL.”
Crum’s experience would lead one to believe that his Blackhawks will favor an old-style game and that wouldn’t be far from the truth. Seeley tries to balance their game 50/50 in run/pass, but it all depends on junior quarterback Owen Mercado and his decisions in Crum’s run-pass option offense.
“We played our worst game of the year last week against Arlee,” said Crum, whose team won 48-12. “We’d like to be 50/50, but against them we were like 80-20. It’s the way it went.”
Crum also noted that some of the Blackhawk passes are screens used to get their running backs out in space.
“They have a couple of extremely fast kids and that’s why I say that (Crum) is doing a great job,” observed Titan Head Coach Mike Cutler, “because he’s getting those kids the ball out in space. That’s what you do when you have speed like that.”
Seeley’s 3-0 record was made by beating Darby, Plains and Arlee, three teams that have a combined record of 3-5 this year. But Flint Creek’s Cutler thinks that could be deceiving.
“It would be easy from the outside looking in to say that,” said Cutler of people estimating that the Blackhawks have played an easy schedule thus far, “but I think it’s still a little premature to go that way. There were some interesting games in the first three weeks that kind of make you go ‘hmmm?’ So I think the conference will start to sort itself out after next week.”
One thing that is certain is that since their opening week loss to Clark Fork, the Titans have been clamping down on opponents in a way much more in line with their style of play. Even though they allowed a 40-point second quarter to the Mountain Cats, they played them even in the second half. Flint Creek followed that by holding Troy to 12 points and a talented Charlo squad to just 20.
“We have so many young kids that are just getting into the nuisances of their run-hit responsibilities and those types of things,” said Cutler. “Coach Holland has been doing a fantastic job and it shows. Our defense is getting better and better every week as well as our offense. If you look at the last two games we played every one of those scores was the result of a missed assignment or big play. We’re right there; it just seems that we have an occasional mental breakdown or mistake at the wrong time that has cost us.
“We have younger kids without a lot of experience and that will slowly go away.”
What neither team can escape in this game is its importance. A win for Seeley Swan keeps them on pace with Clark Fork. A victory for Flint Creek would give them the tie breaker over the Blackhawks and slide the Titans into the No. 2 slot as the teams near the halfway point in the season.