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8-Man football roundup: Park City blanks Ekalaka as No. 1s, No. 2s all advance

Posted at 4:07 PM, Oct 31, 2020

Montana's 8-Man football teams made things easy on Saturday afternoon.

All eight higher seeds won opening-round playoff games with no game closer than 10 points, the majority of them lopsided victories.

Park City 36, Ekalaka 0

Park City blanks Ekalaka to open 8-Man playoffs

Park City, the No. 1 seed in the 8-Man South, blanked visiting Ekalaka 36-0 to open its title run. Garrett Zimdars scored two rushing touchdowns and Jacob Gauthier added two scores, one passing and one rushing, as the Panthers were never in jeopardy of an upset.

It did take a while for Park City to get rolling, though.

"We knew it was going to be a very tough game, very physical with the way Ekalaka plays, and I thought our kids did a nice job of doing their assignments that we coached them to do throughout the week," said Park City head coach Mark Rathbun. "They executed pretty well throughout the day, and we came out on top because I think we executed decently."

Tucker Johnstone found the end zone first on a 10-yard run midway through the first quarter, giving the Panthers a 6-0 lead. Gauthier threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Colby Coleman to start the second, while Taiten Kindsfather had a successful two-point try.

Zimdars then crossed the goal line on a 5-yard scamper that put Park City in front 20-0 at halftime. The Panthers' defense held at the goal line, stuffing Ekalaka on four consecutive plays before half.

"Defense played well," said Rathbun. "Right before the half they made a really big stop down here, had to shut them down from the goal line on four plays in a row, so that was really big going into halftime. They did a really nice job of bending and not breaking."

"I just saw the ball coming at me, knew it was my assignment to fill that hole and I filled it as best as I could so they couldn’t get any yards off the play," said Gauthier, who made a key tackle in the series.

It took the Panthers only 10 seconds to score in the second half, with Zimdars sprinting 41 yards to the house, and Kindsfather again tacking on two more after the touchdown.

"He’s our main running back, and if we hand the ball off to him and he gets a little space, we know he’s gone because he’s speedy," Gauthier said of Zimdars.

Gauthier ended the day with a goal-line dive with less than two minutes remaining in the third to send the Panthers to the quarterfinals.

Park City will host Shelby next weekend, after the Coyotes thumped Alberton-Superior 60-14 on the Hi-Line.

"It’s really nice to be home. The routine has been pretty good all season long, and we get to keep that routine, so that’s a bonus for us," Rathbun said.

Other second-round contests will pit Joliet at Fort Benton, Fairview at Drummond-Philipsburg and Thompson Falls at Scobey.

Fort Benton 61, St. Ignatius 6

Fort Benton sharp in 61-6 playoff win over St. Ignatius

Fort Benton shook off the rust from a three-week layoff quickly, scoring early and often in a 61-6 win over St. Ignatius Saturday in the first round of the 8-Man playoffs.

William Ullery starred for the top-ranked and undefeated Longhorns, scoring a rushing touchdown, a kick return touchdown and throwing three passing scores. Ullery also caught three interceptions on defense.

“He’s a heck of an athlete, man. He can run, throw, he threw the ball well (Saturday),” Fort Benton head coach Jory Thompson said of Ullery’s day. “He did some good things on the option. He did a fine job for us.”

After a long layoff due to canceled games after opponents were quarantined due to COVID-19, Ullery was just happy to step on the field again.

“Coach was telling us just to be thankful and to seize the moment,” Ullery said. “That’s really what I kind of build myself off of, is seizing the moment. Staying focused and not taking a play off.”

The Longhorns had six interceptions as a team. Hayden Diekhans had two, and Jace Thompson had one. Thompson also led Fort Benton on the ground with 16 carries for 115 yards and a rushing score.

The only score for St. Ignatius came in the second quarter when Bryce Umphrey ran in from 1 yard out.

Fort Benton (7-0) has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and will host Joliet in the quarterfinals next Saturday at 1 p.m. after the J-Hawks topped Westby-Grenora 28-18 in the first round.

“I think the J-Hawks are a good team from what I’ve seen a little bit,” Thompson said. “They’ll be a good matchup for us, they’re a big physical team. And that will be fun.”

Shelby 60, Alberton-Superior 14

After month-long hiatus, Shelby storms out to playoff win over Alberton-Superior

It wasn’t always a pretty game, but Shelby defeated Alberton-Superior 60-14 in the first round of the 8-Man football playoffs. It was Shelby's first game in 29 days.

Between COVID quarantines and poor weather, 29 days is a long time to wait before suddenly jumping into the playoffs, but the Coyotes got right down to business with a strong rushing attack. Cameron Brusven started the scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run in the first, and then Bryce Lee added one from 11 yards out.

However, with that month-long break, the Coyotes also showed some signs of rust. Fumbles, penalties, and even blown coverage allowed the Mountain Cats to move the ball early, resulting in a 20-yard touchdown pass that got them on the board. Still, Shelby led 29-8 at halftime.

"I don’t think anybody has a blueprint for taking a month off after you played five games, but I think we ironed some of those things out, kids played hard," said Shelby coach Mike White. "Second half they came out and I felt like we played more Coyote football for sure."

The story of the game was Shelby's lockdown defense. Good pressure from the front line forced Alberton-Superior’s Bryan Mask into throwing six interceptions. One was a pick-six to Trenton Emerson, while senior Tabris Correa collected three by himself.

"The zone was working well, very well. And he was overthrowing his guys a lot," Correa said. "That's why our zone was working so well."

"We knew they like to throw the ball. We had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do and how they were going to do it. And they got us a couple times," White said. "But I can't say enough about our defense and the way they played. They ball hawked it, and the D-line had pressure and that's what you got to have. You got to have all three phases going."

Shelby's dominant run game continued throughout as the Coyotes racked up 385 rushing yards. Aidan Torgerson had a pair of rushing scores. Lee added his second in the fourth quarter.

But when they got to the red zone, the Coyotes found success through the air as well. Taylor Parsons hit Rhett Reynolds (who also recorded an interception) for short touchdown passes in the second and fourth quarters.

It’s safe to say the Coyotes were itching to break out, and they showed off their versatility in the process.

"I love it. That's why we put 60 points up, because we were hungry to be back out here," Reynolds said. "There's been a couple games where we've had some of our best players not even get the ball. Like Aidan, one game had six touchdowns and next game, he got the ball twice. And that's just huge, like, just being so versatile. You can do whatever and beat teams."

Shelby will be on the road next week against Park City.

8-Man football scores

Drummond-Philipsburg 60, Belt 14
Fairview 44, Ennis 6
Fort Benton 61, St. Ignatius 6
Joliet 28, Westby-Grenora 18
Park City 36, Ekalaka 0
Scobey 50, Cascade 0
Shelby 60, Alberton-Superior 14
Thompson Falls 50, Simms 6