FB: Cutler "We've got to beat the tradition out of them"
GRANITE COUNTY – In some ways 2020 has seen some odd similarities with 2017, the first year that Mike Cutler coached the Flint Creek Titans.
From wild fires and pandemics to shortened schedules with lost games, Titan fans are hoping the 2017 outcome – a state championship – will be the same in 2020.
So it only makes sense that next on this season’s dance card would be the same team they faced in the second round in 2017 – the Fairview Warriors.
Before we look at the teams, let’s look at the day and the matchup:
Fairview is coached by Levi Seitz, who has been at the helm since his inaugural year of 2017. Seitz and Flint Creek’s Mike Cutler have both run very successful programs in their short four-year stints. Since 2017, the two programs have accounted for all three of the 8-man championships – The Titans in 2017 and 2018 and the Warriors last season.
When compared over the lifespan of the Flint Creek Co-op (which began in 2014), Flint Creek and Fairview are the only two teams to have made the postseason every year. The Warriors hold a slight edge in success, having won at least one playoff game each season since 2014 while the Titans went out in the first round in each of their first three seasons.
In short, these are the two best programs running.
When speaking about facing the Warriors this weekend, Flint Creek Head Coach Mike Cutler stated his case very plainly, “We have to beat the tradition out of them.”
After decisively claiming the 2019 title, Fairview lost 11 seniors to graduation. It was a hefty loss that has forced a number of players to step up into new leadership roles. And perhaps none of them have done that as effectively as junior quarterback Kanyon Taylor. Taylor follows Alex Shriver who set a number of school marks before graduating. But Taylor has already taken his game to the next level, setting school records for yards in a season with Friday’s game still pending. He has been hyper accurate in the air, completing 93 of 134 passes for a staggering 69%. Taylor has 1,643 yards and 27 touchdowns.
“He scrambles well,” said Cutler of Taylor. “He’s kept a lot of plays alive out there by scrambling around and finding someone open for long touchdowns. I’m not saying he’s not going to run, but he’d rather throw it.”
When asked what kind of pressure that puts on the Titans’ defensive backs, Cutler focused more on his guys up front.
“It’s actually more pressure on our D linemen to keep him contained … We need to keep him from running around trying to find receivers, so our line has to be diligent in their leverages and their lanes.”
Taylor’s favorite targets include Brady Bauxbaum and Garrett George, but none more so than Hunter Sharbano who caught 39 passes for 649 yards and 14 TDs. Bauxbaum and George have combined for 41 catches and eight scores.
When the Warriors run the ball, Bauxbaum is clearly the go-to guy. He has 16 TDs and 893 yards on 122 carries. Taylor has carried the ball 44 times for just 110 yards and six scores, making his runs apparently on scoring opportunities.
A year ago Flint Creek’s Kade Cutler was an offensive machine. As a junior on a very young team, Cutler amassed a staggering 2,908 total yards and 53 TDs between rushing and passing. In 2020, his production has dropped off drastically to 1,244 yards and 24 TDs.
Why? As the saying goes, “What a difference a year makes.”
In 2019 the Titans had just three seniors with a wealth of experience. Wyatt Rigby and Daniel Brabender played full seasons but Conley Wagner was injured in the season opener and lost for the year. That lack of upper classmen leadership forced a number of players to step and mature faster than they normally would have.
A year later, that maturity is paying off in spades and giving both Cutlers – Kade under center and Mike on the sidelines – plenty of other options to get the ball into the end zone.
Cutler is one of six Titan seniors, along with Preston Metesh, Ethan Parke, Tucker Weaver, Mason Graeff and transfer Trevor Morrissey. Metesh has taken up about half of the rushing duties, carrying the ball 79 times for 389 yards and 15 TDs.
But Metesh showed a flash of offense in Flint Creek’s opening round win over Belt that was unexpected. The senior running back exploded for 187 yards and a score on 14 carries, and tossed in 56 yards and a TD on three catches. His 243 yard day was equivalent to 55% of his offensive output in the regular season.
Parke and Avery Metesh are Cutler’s primary receivers when he goes to the air. Parke is the leading scorer with 5 TDs and 379 yards while Metesh has the most receptions with 15 for 180 yards.
“They run that veer and mid-line offense and they do it so well,” said Seitz of Flint Creek when it has the ball. “(Kade) Cutler is good at disguising what they are doing with the ball it’s tough to defend.
“And (Mike) Cutler is so tricky and prepares so well. … They are just a tough team to figure out and defend.”
Defensively, Fairview has allowed three times more points than Flint Creek (144 to 46) but has also played more teams that made the postseason bracket. In the regular season they defeated Carter County and Mondak while losing to Scobey.
The Titans played and beat Clark Fork and St. Ignatius, the No. 3 and 4 seeds out of the west, but both were quickly dispatched from the playoffs.
Parke joins Weaver, Morrisey and Cutler on defense to lead the attack. Toss in the Metesh brothers in the secondary and Cordell Langton at nose guard and Flint Creek has as formidable a defense as the 8-man game offers.
NOTES – When Fairview played Flint Creek in 2017, the Titans won 46-8. Four of Flint Creek’s seniors (Cutler, Metesh, Graeff and Weaver) were freshmen and on the roster for that win. While Metesh didn’t figure into the stat book, Cutler had four rushes for 23 yards after the starters had secured the victory. … Fairview has six seniors on its roster that were on the sidelines for the 2017 loss. … 2017 was the first year at the helm for both Seitz and Cutler.