FAIRVIEW -- Blink and you might miss a Fairview touchdown.
The Warriors have dismantled the opposition in all 10 on-field games this season. The majority of their scoring has come in the first half of games, as Fairview has put teams away early. The Warriors have outscored the opposition 330-28 in the opening half and haven't allowed a first-half score since Oct. 4 in a 76-12 win at Broadus.
Last weekend's semifinal against Fort Benton was much of the same, as stud running back Cody Asbeck ripped off scoring runs of 49 and 41 yards on Farview's first two plays from scrimmage en route to building a 42-0 lead by halftime. That set the tone for the Warriors' 48-8 win that clinched a berth in Saturday's 8-Man title game.
"Cody is such a weapon. Everyone in the state knows the kid. He's got breakaway speed. He's got that quick twitch where he can make anybody miss," Fairview head coach Levi Seitz said. "Most teams, their plan is to try to stop Cody. I know talking to other coaches, well, they say they're going to stop Asbeck. There's very few teams that have been able to do that."
A big reason why is Fairview's four senior offensive linemen -- Ethan Nue, Tom Nue, Hunter Whitmus and Dylan Elletson -- and two tight ends -- freshman Hunter Sharbono and junior Paul Hardy -- that open holes big enough to drive a truck through. The battle in the trenches was going to be key for the Warriors to win against Fort Benton, and Fairview dominated the line of scrimmage, which is something it has prided itself on all season long.
Fairview's dominant offensive line will again be key for the Warriors in the 8-Man title game against Alberton-Superior. Putting points on the board and chewing up clock are increasingly critical when facing the Mountain Cats, as their offense is among the state's most prolific.
Alberton-Superior features its own dominant running game behind tailback Trey Green. Green and quarterback Bryan Mask have been a nightmare for opposing defenses to slow down, as they've led the Mountain Cats to an average of 58.2 points per game, including five games with 60-plus points. Forcing Alberton-Superior to be one-dimensional is easier said than done.
"They're able to air it out, then they're also able to run power football. They can hit you in all different ways," Seitz said of Alberton-Superior. "This year our defense has been our strength. We haven't given up very many points this year. ... We just don't let up. Hopefully we go in with the same mentality that we have to start fast. If we can get our D-line to have good leverage, control the line and open it up for our linebackers to get involved in the running game, or even get some negative plays and force them to pass, that would be huge."
Saturday's game will be in a familiar venue for Fairview. With the switch to a neutral-site 8-Man championship game, the game will rotate between Butte and Billings. This year it's at Rocky Mountain College, which is where the Warriors began their journey this summer.
“It’s kind of a bummer that the game is not (in Fairview), but for us it’s kind of nice that of all the places, it’s at Rocky, because it’s fairly close for us, even though four hours doesn’t seem that close, but for us in Fairview we drive that distance all the time,” Seitz said. “We’ve been going to camp at Rocky for the past three years. It’s cool to start the season going to camp at Rocky and finish where the season started.”
For Fairview's seniors, a championship appearance has been long in the making. The Warriors were bounced in the quarterfinals in 2017 and the semifinals in 2018. However, after last year's loss to Great Falls Central, there was little doubt in the locker room that they'd be back in the semifinals. This year, Fairview and its senior-laden roster have taken it one step further.
"To make the semis and only lose a guy or two, you're definitely expected to at least get back to that point," Seitz said. "It's just kind of that natural step to keep this thing going forward. I think they definitely knew that if they played to their potential that they would be playing in this game. ... To see the look on their face, they're so excited that they're finally at this game."
The Warriors have a chance to make program history, as no Fairview team has captured a football state championship. Fairview has only been to two championship games and lost both -- a 44-28 loss at home to Twin Bridges in 2011 and a 44-12 loss at Superior in 2012. Making history is something that's been in the back of their minds all season long.
"I think that's definitely something they think about. It's kind of hard not to," Seitz said. "It's been a pretty special group of kids, even since they were younger. They've been successful throughout their entire athletic careers, whether it was middle school or even elementary school. They're a special group. I think there's been expectations for this group. They've known that for a long time, and I think they're excited for it."
Fairview and Alberton-Superior will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at Herb Klindt Field on the campus of Rocky Mountain College in Billings to decide the 2019 8-Man state champion.