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8-Man FB Preview: Sheridan at Flint Creek

PHILIPSBURG – It’s playoff time and the Titans are right where they want to be – At home in the first round.

But while this scenario may be familiar, it’s also different.

Flint Creek enters as the No. 2 seed out of the West, having been 7-0 but losing the point differential to No. 1 Thompson Falls. So while the opener is at home the Titans would have to take to the road for any matchups with other No. 1 teams.

More on that in a minute. Let’s first break down the two teams and their seasons…

Sheridan Panthers at Flint Creek Titans

George Mungas Field on the campus of Granite High School

Philipsburg, Montana

1 p.m. Kickoff

Weather: Partly Cloudy with a chance of Rain at 15% at kickoff. High of 56 at kickoff on the way to a 58 overall. Winds out of the southwest at 15 mph.

For the Flint Creek Titans the 2021 postseason has come, despite a large graduation class and the transfer of power from coaches Mike Cutler and JC Holland to Jason Ostler and Jerry Metesh. But at 7-0 and a No. 2 seed in the postseason, the transition appears to have gone off almost seamlessly.

But in the second year of games being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Titans were gifted an unexpected bye in Week 3 when Plains cancelled their game with Flint Creek. The game figured as a no contest as per MGSA rules, but served more as a wake-up call the next when they played Mission.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 26-8 first quarter lead before the visiting Titans got their bearings and finally posted a 76-62 victory.

Now, having had a Week 9 bye that was scheduled before the season, Flint Creek Head Coach Jason Ostler thinks his team may have learned a valuable lesson.

“We won’t know if we did (fix getting prepared) until the game,” observed the first-year head coach. “But we’ve been real aggressive and physical in practice. That close game (vs. Mission) was really kind of an eye opener for the kids, that nobody was going to give them anything no matter who you’re playing. But things have been better in practice since then.”

The off week has allowed the Titans to get healthy for their playoff opener, with everyone being in good shape as they prepare for Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff.

For Sheridan they had bye’s in Week 3 and Week 7, with the latter leading to a pair of losses as they head into Saturday’s game.

When glancing at the statistical summary on Max Preps, all indicators point back to senior tailback Kaiden Batzler. He leads Sheridan in rushing yards (135/gm), total yards (175.6/gm), tackles (8.8/gm) and points scored (20/gm).

“On film he is their go to guy,” said Ostler. “He’s a big strong runner and they move him all over the field. But they have a couple of other real good football players too. Kole Hill (Sr/QB) and Cade Cathey (So/WR) are real aggressive, fast–movin’ kids. They look like a good team.”

Scouting sources say that Sheridan will rely heavily on Batzler to move the ball on offense. He’s a player that Flint Creek saws in 2020 when the Titans beat the Panthers 74-0.

The Titans have shared the responsibilities more offensively, sporting a strong team effort in reaching the playoffs. Junior Andrew Tallon has been the primary play caller under center using an array of targets to move the ball down field. While senior Avery Metesh is clearly the speedster of the group, Tallon has also shown he can effectively use the likes of Cooper Bradshaw, Hayden Mason and Colt Parsons as well.

Out of the backfield Tyler Burden has shown that when he has the ball he can move the pile as well as anyone, using a sizeable offensive line to create holes in the opposing defense. When the Titans want to go to a little more speed, Chase Goldade has been the weapon of choice.

Scouts have noted that Sheridan has a couple of defenses it will use to try and stop Flint Creek, but that neither are esceptional in any particular fashion.

The winner of Saturday’s game will advance to the quarterfinals where they will meet the winner of No. 1 (E) Fairview Warriors vs. No. 4 (N) Chinook Sugarbeeters. For Flint Creek and Sheridan a Warrior win would mean an 8-1/2 hour drive to the North Dakota border while a Sugarbeeter upset would bring a second round game back at Drummond as the locals would hold the higher seed.

In the 2021 postseason, the Western Conference as the ‘golden ticket’, earning a home game in any matchup where they face a seed of equal ranking. The South, East and North follow in that order when determining home field advantage.

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