Titans take top slot in 8-Man South Central
GRANITE COUNTY – At the halfway point in the season, the Flint Creek Titans could not be in any better position.
After defeating the Ennis Mustangs 34-18 Friday night in Drummond, the Titans moved into sole possession of first place in conference play at 4-0. A very good Ennis team is in second at 4-1, with Flint Creek now holding the tiebreaker over the Mustangs.
But what may be more important is that Flint Creek also holds what many call the ‘Golden Ticket’ in the postseason. The Montana High School Association (MHSA) issues a determination as which conference would get home field in the case where two similarly ranked teams meet in the playoffs. Each year they rotate that honor with one conference getting preeminent domain above all the rest and this year that conference is the South Central.
That means should Flint Creek finish as the #1 team in the conference, they would play every postseason game at home. This last occurred in 2017 when Flint Creek claimed its first state championship. They played rounds one and three in Drummond and rounds two and four in Philipsburg.
The Titans were close to having it last year as well, but Thompson Falls beat them out for the West’s top slot by point differential.
The Beast that is Burden
The 2022 season is just five games old and already Flint Creek’s Tyler Burden is making an assault on the team’s and 8-man state record books.
After Friday night’s performance (38 carries, 447 yards, 5 TD) Burden has already had the fourth best rushing season in Titan history, currently sitting at 1,089 yards. He surpassed eight players on the single season list against the Mustangs, creeping by Kade Cutler at 1,073 (2020) in fifth and falling just in behind himself from last year at 1,134 (2021) in third.
At his present pace, and assuming that he plays with the Titans all the way for a title, Burden could surpass Arlee’s Rusty Hanson for single season yardage at 2,149 and the all-time leader Ben Baum of Highwood’s 6-man program who rushed for 2,470 yards in 2008 (MHSA Record Book, updated Oct. 8, 2020). Burden’s current projection would put him around 2,600 yards.
But that’s just for starters.
His 447-yard night is the best rushing night ever in the state for an 8-man player, according to the MHSA Football Record Book. He out-paced Granite’s Barrett Stanghill’s 414 yard game set in 2011.
Burden is currently averaging 217.8 yards per game, 80 yards per game better than Cutler’s 130.5 from Flint Creek’s title year of 2019. That average currently puts him fourth all-time in 8-man football behind Rusty Hanson (238.8, Arlee, 1998), Jordan Nees (233.1, Hobson Moore/Judith Gap, 2018) and Eddie Roberts (219.3, Gardiner, 2015) (MHSA Record Book).
Burden is averaging 10.67 yards per carry thus far, woefully behind John Keltner at 18.00. But Keltner had just two carries for 36 yards. The highest ranking full-time running back is Colby Manley who carried the ball 150 times for 1,183 yards in 2018, averaging 7.89 per rush.
Finally, Burden has 16 touchdowns this season, averaging 3.3 per game. If he maintains that pace over the final four regular season games he will tie Cutler at 29 for the top single-season performance.
Burden is currently one of three candidates for The Missoulian’s Player of the Week honor, You can vote daily for him by CLICKING HERE.
Titans’ Ground Attack
Fueled by Burden’s night against Ennis, Flint Creek put itself into the record books with a staggering 484 yards rushing. That puts them just behind Gardiner’s (1989) and Lambert Savage (1992) of 489 team yards rushing in 8-man. It also ranks them six in all classifications statewide behind Powell County (11-man, 690 yds, 2015), Heart Butte (6-man, 658 yds, 2016), Park (11-Man, 643 yds, 2012), Butte High (11-man, 612 yds, 1923), Heart Butte (6-man, 603 yds, 2016), Valley Christian (6-Man, 496 yds, 2015), and Geraldine (6-man, 496 yds, 1996) according to the MHSA Record Book.