FB Titans face Longhorns in battle of No. 1s
GRANITE COUNTY – In a matchup of what may well be the top two teams in 8-man football in 2020, the Forth Benton Longhorns will host the Flint Creek Titans in the semifinals Saturday.
Here’s a look at what the day will look like when the two teams meet…
As much as any two teams this year, the Titans and Longhorns are similar in a number of ways from offense to defense to the way they approach the game, these squads have posted the only two undefeated seasons still remaining in Class C in 2020.
The similarities stem from their head coaches – Mike Cutler for the Titans and Jory Thompson for the Longhorns. The two know each other well, having been teammates at the University of Montana Western.
Flint Creek has long presented a problem for opposing teams as they run the unique Veer offense. Teams generally have specific practices to prepare for the Titans potent offense, which has posted a state best 566 points in 10 wins while the Longhorns have scored 442.
“Most times our scouts aren’t running (the) option against us, running what other teams are running,” said Thompson of Fort Benton’s preparation for Saturday. “So that’s always tough. But they’ve got a good quarterback, good running back and a solid line. They’re loaded.”
The Longhorns will have to contend with a much more diversified attack than Flint Creek has had in years past.
Senior Kade Cutler runs the offense and is still a major threat. But unlike last year’s younger squad, the 2020 roster has a wealth of depth that provides a variety of options.
Preston Metesh has handled the majority of the hard running yards all season, but has had two breakout games in postseason. In those games Metesh has amassed 365 all purpose yards and six touchdowns. That yardage has included runs of 67, 54 and 48 yards.
Metesh is also part of a talented receiving corps that includes his younger brother Avery Metesh, Ethan Parke and Leyton Wagner. And when Flint Creek wants a different look, Junior QB Andrew Tallon comes in, sending Cutler to the backfield or the wings.
While the Titans balance their attack between pass and run, the Longhorns primarily move it along the ground. 13 different players have had at least one carry this season with Jayce Thompson (76 carries, 587 yards, 10 TDs), William Ullery (67-373 Yds, 6 TDs) and Hayden Axtman (47-307 yds, 8 Tds) bearing the bulk of the load. Thompson, the coach’s son, hyper extended his elbow earlier in the season, breaking one bone in his lower arm and sustaining a hairline fracture in the other.
When the Longhorns do go to the air, Ullery has seen had success completing 66% (41-62) of his passes for 958 yards and 17 TDs.
For Mike Cutler, Fort Benton reminds him of another former playoff opponent – Forsyth.
Several of the Longhorns were members of the basketball semifinalists in 2020 when Covid-19 shut down the state tournament as well as state contenders in track and field. In 2017 Cutler reminded his team of one key factor that he’ll likely remind this year’s squad, “We’re not going to a track meet, we’re going to a football game.”
Two players that did show up on Cutler’s radar were receivers Colter Ball and Hayden Ballantyne. The two are sizeable with each measuring just over six foot and weighing 175.
“Those two ends are more physical than the Forsyth kids,” added Cutler. “We’ve got more than our hands full.”
Fort Benton, may have lost out on a valuable opportunity early in the season to test its defense when it dropped a game against Shelby from its schedule due to a Covid-19 no contest. Shelby is playing Scobey in the other semifinal Saturday, having survived an offensive explosion against Park City 87-68. Scobey reached the game by eliminating the West’s No. 2 seed Thompson Falls 40-24.
The winner of the Flint Creek-Fort Benton game will host the Class C State Championship.