FB: Flint Creek ready to ‘Titan’ Belt in playoff opener
DRUMMOND – Welcome to the 2020 postseason, where the teams get better, coaches get creative and every game might be your last.
Before looking at the matchup of Saturday’s 1 p.m. playoff game at Drummond, High School, here’s some of the day’s particulars…
When the Belt Huskies (No. 2 North, 3-1/6-1) come to Drummond to face the Flint Creek Titans (No. 1 West, 7-0/8-0) it will be a game between two teams that are unfamiliar with each other. However, the coaching staffs know one another very well.
Flint Creek’s Mike Cutler and Belt’s Jeff Graham go way back, with their careers and personal lives having intermingled over the years. In fact the only other time these two teams met in 2014, the Huskies handed the Titans their only home playoff loss ever in Philipsburg, 36-26. Graham was head coach of the Huskies and Cutler was co-head coach of the Titans.
That Flint Creek loss was one of only two home losses ever suffered, and its comes almost seven years to the day as it occurred Nov. 1, 2014.
But things will be different this Saturday. Obviously the teams are different as is the venue (the 2014 game was in Philipsburg). And if Cutler is reminding his team of anything ahead of the contest, it’s that it’s not the size of your linemen that matters but how you use them.
“I’ve never really been concerned with the size of a line,” said Cutler, who is entering his last playoff campaign as head coach of the Titans. “You look at 2017 and we had a center and a guard that were barely 160 pounds soaking wet. I’m always looking for heart in a kid.”
According to Graham, Belt’s front three average 145, a fair piece less than Flint Creek’s trio led by senior Mason Graeff at 245.
Behind that line are no major secrets for the Titans as Kade Cutler leads his team into his senior campaign. Cutler is one of 8-man’s deadliest weapons, although the 2020 has hardly seen him unleashed. In 2019 he scored 53 total touchdowns (224 rushes & 173 passes). But this year Flint Creek has been so dominant that Cutler has just 66 rushing attempts and 53 pass attempts for 24 scores. In short, he just hasn’t had enough snaps to even come close to the previous year’s performance.
But unlike a year ago when Cutler was more or less a one-man show, a group of solid performers have grown up around him to provide a solid supporting case that makes the boys in black anything but a solo act.
Preston Metesh has taken up duties at running back, carrying the ball 79 times for 15 TDs. Backing up Cutler at QB is junior Andrew Tallon, who has given Flint Creek the option of some additional offensive looks. Tallon has thrown seven scores this year in 28 attempts with a completion rate over 60%.
And when Cutler and Tallon have gone to the air, they have spread the ball to seven different receivers led by Ethan Parke (12 catches, 5 TDs) and Avery Metesh (15 catches, 4 Tds).
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive stats available for Belt, but the Huskies do rely on a few key players. Perhaps their top players is senior QB Kaimen Evans, who as Graham described him, “… is one of the most talented kids I’ve ever coached. He’s just a great athlete.”
Teaming with Evans at the QB slot is Aidan McDaniel, another senior who shares time under center but who acts primarily as a receiver. The Huskies also had a third QB, Bridger Vogl, but he is out with an injury to his collar bone.
Graham describes Belt as a West Coast Spread style offense, with people in motion and setting up run-pass options. According to Cutler, it’s a way of getting the defense to take their eye off the ball.
“JC’s (Holland) defense is based on four critical values,” said Cutler of his team without the ball, “Alignment, What’s their leverage (responsibility), Are your eyes right and then bring it. Three of the four happen before the ball is snapped. If you can get those three values consistently, you take the thinking and guess work out of it.
“This plays into what Graham does best as a coach. He can scheme and get his players in motion and get the defense’s eyes wrong. He’s trying to create match-up problems with his motion and shifts. We just have to stay focused on doing our job.”
In October the Montana High School Association (MHSA) issued new rules for attendance at postseason games for the 2020 season due to the influences of the pandemic. These rules include a maximum number of tickets for each player depending on their year in school. If you are not on one of the lists for either Belt or Flint Creek, you will not be admitted to the game.