FB 2021 - 8-Man final a shootout of Western Division powers
GRANITE COUNTY – And then there were two.
When the Flint Creek Titans (No. 2 West, 10-0) take on the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks (No. 1 West, 12-0), it will showcase the best two teams left in the MHSA 8-Man Football Championship.
While the two squads may look very different, they also share some similarities that should make for one heck of a final.
More on that in a moment…
The Titans and Blue Hawks share more similarities than just being from the Western Conference. In fact at this past summer’s Bob Cleverly game Thompson Falls Head Coach Jared Koskela made to sit and listen as retiring co-Head Coaches Mike Cutler and JC Holland held court.
“They had what we wanted and so I made sure to stand in the back and take it all in,” Koskela said of getting his team ready for 2021. “They talked about a lot of things and we brought some of that back here to Thompson Falls.”
So it may be no wonder that two teams that bear the likeness of what those created in Granite County are in the championship game.
Photo Courtesy Thompson Falls High School
Blue Hawks’ Offense
Like Fort Benton, Thompson Falls likes to run the ball except they do at a lesser rate of an 80/20 split. Flint Creek proved it can run with the big dogs, or Longhorns, last week when they went to an 85/15, but over the course of 2021 have been closer to 71/29.
Senior Trey Thilmony leads the attack with 1,095 yards on 130 carries. He has scored 17 of the Blue Hawks’ 62 rushing touchdowns on the season. While junior quarterback Elijah Ratliff has fewer yards (775) on more carries (141) he has accounted for 21 scores on the ground. The two make a tough one-two punch that is the core of their team’s offense.
Ratliff is 36-for-66 in the air this year for 684 yards and 12 TDs and just one interception. His two favorite receivers are Ryan Bucher and Nathan Schraeder, each with nine catches and 338 yards between them.
Scouting reports seem to indicate that the key for the Titans will be their secondary and effective they can be at shutting down running lanes and containing Thilmony and Ratliff.
“They’re tough, big and physical,” said Flint Creek Head Coach Jason Ostler. “They’re real similar in size (to Fort Benton).
“We’re going to have to keep our eyes on pulling guards and trapping. They like to run power, like Fort Benton where we have to key on the inside run. We’ve been playing in that same ‘stop the inside run’ mode since Fairview.”
Flint Creek Courier File Photo
As per usual, Flint Creek never seems to put all of its eggs in one basket.
Andrew Tallon will line up under center behind what has proven to be a solid offensive line consisting of Center John Langton, his brother Cordell, and brothers Ben and Cooper Bradshaw. Tallon has been a 66.3% passer for 16 TDs and one intercept. But is some situations the Titans will line up with Chase Goldade as a QB/Direct Snap. Goldade, an offseason transfer from Hellgate, is 13-of-20 passing with four scores and has proven a tough, hard hitting runner with 109 carries for 593 yards and 11 scores. He is also the team’s go to guy when it comes to two-point conversions, having collected 23 on the year.
But Goldade is Flint Creek’s third rusher behind Tyler Burden and Tallon. Burden started the year slowly but quickly became the main ball carrier, amassing 1,111 yards and 15 touchdowns on 156 carries. When Tallon pulls the ball down he’s collected 759 yards and 16 TDs on 106 carries.
Avery Metesh and Cooper Bradshaw are the biggest threats on the outside for Flint Creek, with the former leading all receivers with 555 yards and nine TDs on 37 catches. Bradshaw lines up at tight end and has caught 12 balls for 224 yards and a trio of scores.
“It’s not that hard to figure out what we want to do,” explained Ostler. “If he’s been watching film all season, and I assume he has since they’re a good program, they’re going to have a good idea of what we want to do.”
In last week’s win over Fort Benton, the Titans also got a glimpse of what could be a third strong receiver in Colt Parsons who had a 44-yard scoring play called back on an offensive penalty. In 2021 he has 11 catches for 68 yards and two scores.
“We just have to take away some of the things they like to do,” said Koskela of the Titans. “If we can force them into one area we can then focus on that and making an impact.”
Big Game Experience
The Titans return 17 players from last year’s championship team with experience in the big game. Thompson Falls has faltered in its previous two 8-man seasons, never having made it past the quarterfinals until this year.
When asked if he thought experience might play a role in the game, Ostler responded, “Sure. There can be advantages to it when you have an experienced group of kids and know what to expect. But it’s a different team every year.”