One 8-man football team is guaranteed to enter the championship game with an undefeated record as the four No. 1 seeds in the state square off in the semifinals on Saturday.
Ennis is widely considered the favorite to capture next weekend’s title, but Wibaux has a long history in 8-man football and is seeking a magical run in its final weeks before dropping to 6-man next season. Neither team has lost this season.
Belt used its speed and athleticism to rally past Circle in the final minutes of last week’s quarterfinal game and now host the Charlo Vikings, another physical team, with a trip to the state title game on the line.
Charlo at Belt, Saturday, 1 p.m.
Belt quarterback Harry Green threw three touchdown passes in the first half of last week’s quarterfinal win as the Huskies built a 21-6 lead. But the Wildcats owned the third quarter and actually took the lead into the final stanza. Jaren Maki’s touchdown proved the difference. Green and Maki, along with playmakers Jess Bodner and Keagan Stroop (click here for more on Stroop) will need to break big plays against Charlo’s physical defense in order to advance to Belt’s first state championship game since 1994 when the Huskies edged Denton, 45-42 for the 8-man title.
Charlo avenged an early season loss to Fairview by outscoring the Warriors 64-52 last weekend. Landers Smith threw six touchdowns, two each to Brady Fryberger and Tyson Petticrew, in the victory. Four of Smith’s touchdown passes were longer than 20 yards and the Vikings’ QB will need to make big plays against the Huskies defense. Jared Doty could be an x-factor in the ground game. The biggest matchup will likely be Charlo’s defense against Green and the Belt offense. Trent Dennison intercepted a Fairview pass and returned it for a touchdown, while the Vikings tallied four interceptions in the win.
Wibaux at Ennis, Saturday, 1 p.m.
Ennis entered the season as a heavy favorite to win the 8-man championship and the Mustangs are determined to live up to those standards. Quarterback Tanner Wood had six combined touchdowns in last week’s win over Cascade, who is coached by former Ennis coach Jay Fredrickson. Wood and Jake Knack have been consistent playmakers for the Mustangs but it’s the program’s defense and special teams that are most impressive. Ennis has allowed only 14 points in these playoffs, and 84 during the regular season – many of those coming against backups. The Mustangs will find it challenging to score on defense and special teams against disciplined Wibaux, but winning the turnover battle would certainly help the No. 1 team in the state.
The biggest talk around the Longhorns has been the program’s intention to drop to 6-man football beginning next season. Wibaux has appeared in 13 state championships since 1982, winning six. For what it’s worth, two of those title games were against Ennis with the Mustangs winning each (38-28 in 1982 and 68-56 in 2013). Noah Schneider had five total touchdowns, two passing and three rushing, as the Longhorns downed Victor 36-22 in the quarterfinals. Wibaux’s offense will likely control the clock, move the chains and try to slow the game against the Mustangs. The biggest challenge will be limiting big plays from Wood and Knack to stay within striking distance.