Warriors use second half surge to topple Titans
ARLEE – A soggy, sod-covered field marked the final stop on the Flint Creek Titans’ season as they fell to the Arlee Warriors 36-16.
The loss places the Titans at 6-4 on the year while the Warriors improve to 9-0 on the year. Arlee will face Fairview in the second round.
Had the game been played on paper, most folks wouldn’t have shown up. The Warriors were overwhelming favorites and ranked as one of the top 8-man teams in Montana.
But that paper would have been worthless.
Flint Creek showed that it came to play and scored the first touchdown of the game when Logan Hauptman, operating out of a wildcat offense, hit senior Trey Phillips with a 36-yard scoring play early in the opening stanza. Hauptman added the run and the Titans were up 8-0.
Arlee answered on its next possession as Jace Arca bowled in from the one. Kendall O’Neill hit Jake Knoll with the conversion pass to tie the game.
Undaunted, Flint Creek marched the ball back down the field and scored on a signature Hauptman one-yard carry. This time Austin Knoeller added the conversion to give the locals a 16-8 advantage.
Flint Creek’s defense held for most of the second period, save a 22-yard TD pass from O’Neill to Arca that cut the lead to 16-14. The two-point margin would hold for the Titans through halftime.
Both teams made adjustments at halftime, but Arlee’s seemed to take more effect. They received the second half kickoff and drove it down to the Flint 18 where Knoll ran it in for the Warriors’ first lead of the game, 24-16.
As the game progressed on the muddy turf of Arlee, Knoll and Arca added scoring runs that put the game out of reach and closed Flint Creek’s season.
“We added a bunch to that wildcat,” said Titan Head Coach Jason Ostler. “When Jake went down we got pretty limited. Kadin (Graveley) we had back some, but we knew he wasn’t gonna be in super shape, so he was limited. Honestly, it was working really well but penalties got us. You don’t get a (first down) run from third-and-long very often.”
Coming into 2023 Flint Creek graduated 10 players, leaving a large void in experience and leadership. Seniors Trey Phillips and Riley Wiant filled that void and spoke about their year after the game.
“Ya know, I missed my first game against Deer Lodge ‘cause I was sick,” reflected Phillips. “We got our butts chewed after losing to Choteau, and we said ‘We gotta work harder’.
“We didn’t know if we were gonna make (the) playoffs, but Senior Night against Simms we made it. We just put our nose down and grind.”
“After those couple of losses (Manhattan Christian & Ennis) team morale was down,” added Wiant of his teammate’s character, “But we just turned our heads around and got it done.
“Nobody thought we were gonna make playoffs, but we just put our heads down and played ball.”
Ostler, in his third season at the helm, looked back on a tough season for his guys.
“We lost a lot of kids that had played a lot of football,” Ostler said, reflecting on the Titans’ season and having just two seniors. “We had to develop a lot of new leadership. We came out slow and lost a few games I thought we could have won. But they went on that win streak did what they had to do to make themselves eligible for the playoffs.
“There’s just a lot of fight there.”
Hauptman finished the game with 226 total yards, 146 of which came on 39 rushing attempts. He also went 4-for-7 in the air for 80 yards.
Phillips and Knoeller were the leading tacklers in the game, each collecting nine. Eric Pitcher and Wyatt Daniels close behind with seven. Phillips had a tackle for loss and a pass defense, while Knoeller and Graveley each recovered a fumble.
Flint Creek – 16/0/0/0 – 16
Arlee – 8/6/14/8 – 36
FC Hauptman 36 yd pass to Phillips TD. Hauptman run.
AR Arcs 1 yd run TD. O’Neil to Knoll pass.
FC Hauptman 1 yd run TD. Knoeller run.
AR O’Neil 22 yd pass to Arca TD. Run failed.
AR Knoll 18 yd run run TD. O’Neil pass Johnson.
AR Knoll 1 yd run TD. Run failed.
Arca 27 yd run TD. Knoll run.