GRANITE COUNTY – At this point, fourth-year Head Coach Mike Cutler and the Flint Creek Titans are just grateful to be playing.
In a year that will be as unpredictable as any other in recent memory, Cutler and the Titans are set to open the new year at home Friday night against Plains. The Horsemen finished an even 4-4, losing the bulk of their skill players to graduation while maintain a good portion of their linemen.
But over the last several months it’s been a team on a mission that has found the members of the Titans working hard to regain the glory of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Flint Creek players have gathered in groups to work out and solidify a camaraderie Cutler hopes will take them into the opener and beyond.
Flint Creek Titans
7 p.m. at Granite High School
The Montana High School Association (MHSA) shut down sports in the spring, and with it organized workouts for any of its teams. Since then they have established guidelines that make practices and games look very different from what they did a year ago. But Cutler sees a glimmer in his players’ eyes that tells him they are ready to go.
“The kids are just so hungry. They are so thirsty and hungry to play that they’ll do anything to have that chance to play,” said Cutler, who submitted a plan to the Granite County Board of Health for practices, games and travel. “We went around with them a little, but the kids had already been with each other so much during the summer and they could see how much they wanted to play.”
It’s that hunger and wealth of game experience that Flint Creek will carry into their first game of the 2020 season Friday night in Philipsburg.
“We’ve gone from a team that didn’t have much depth to one that is three and four deep at some spots,” Cutler observed. “The co-op has never had a team like this with this kind of depth. We were able to have a full varsity and JV scrimmage. Our JV team got thrown to the wolves last year because we were so thin. That won’t happen this year. We’ll be able to protect them and put them in when they’re ready to be put in.”
After having just 10 seniors graduate over the past three seasons, the Titans sport seven this season that will bring a lot of talent to the line. And while each will contribute heavily to cause, the focus of every team playing the green and black will be likely be Kade Cutler.
Offensively the third-year starting quarterback had 2,908 offensive yards and 53 touchdowns in 2019. On the other side of the ball he was second on the team with 56 tackles and tied teammate Preston Metesh in pass breakups with 10.
Cutler is headed to Montana State University next year on a scholarship.
Metesh was one of Cutler’s favorite targets last year, amassing 699 yards and nine TDs as a receiver.
The rest of the offense is experienced, but somewhat under the radar for most people looking from outside. Juniors Leyton Wagner and Avery Metesh figure to be key contributors as they played well in a 2019 effort that saw just two senior players finish the season in Wyatt Rigby and Daniel Brabender. The third, Conley Wagner, was sidelined in Week 1 with a fractured foot that kept him sidelined all season and well into the winter.
In what is surely the most competitive environment the co-op has ever had in the trenches, The Titans got an infusion of talent in the form of senior Mason Graeff. Graeff was a member of the two championship seasons before taking 2019 off. He returns at a hefty 247 and is ready to play.
“He’s done a lot of good things,” said Cutler. “Missing last year hurt him a little, but he’s got potential to be an all-state lineman. He really gets after it.”
Despite an experienced team and a growing program, the biggest opponent any team will face this year is Corona Virus. One outbreak and the season could be shortened or ended in a most unceremonious fashion.
“We’re just thankful we get to play Friday night,” said Cutler. “All we can control is our next practice and prepare for our next opponent.
I’ve played both sides of this. I told the guys ‘We don’t know what’s going to happen, so just play it like it’s your last game.’ Same speech I give to seniors in the playoffs.
For Coach Cutler, every game will be coached like it’s his last. The coach told his parents in their preseason meeting that this will be his last on the sidelines.