FORT BENTON -- Before the fourth quarter of every Fort Benton football game, the Longhorns have a ritual.
Regardless of the score, the song “Jump Around” by House of Pain plays over the stadium sound system and the players huddle up and start hopping and bopping.
“It's fun, man. They get excited and they love playing football,” said Fort Benton head coach Jory Thompson. “The last three weeks have been hard because they haven’t been able to play any football.”
The top-ranked and undefeated Longhorns (7-0) returned from a three-week layoff on Saturday to hand St. Ignatius a 61-6 defeat in the first round of the 8-Man playoffs. Fort Benton led 52-6 entering the fourth, but the team still jumped around like it was a pregame hype session.
Senior quarterback Billy Ullery made sure to find the television cameras. He pointed and yelled:
“Fort Benton Longhorns, let’s go!”
Ullery was hyped, and rightfully so. In the win, he threw three touchdowns, ran for one more, returned a kickoff for a score, and hauled in three interceptions. All in a day's work, for one of Class C’s top athletes.
“Coach was telling us just to be thankful and to seize the moment,” Ullery said. “And that's really what I've kind of built myself off of, is seizing the moment, taking it one play at a time, staying focused, not taking a play off.”
And it seems like there’s nothing he can’t do. In addition to his gridiron prowess, Ullery is also a star on the basketball court and the track, where he regularly wins or places in sprinting events and the long jump.
“He's a heck of an athlete, man,” Thompson said. “He can run, throw. He threw the ball really well (in last weekend's win). He made some good decisions on the option. He did a fine job for us.”
The Longhorns will go as far as Ullery and the rest of his fellow seniors can take them. It’s group that has been building toward this season their entire lives.
“We've been playing football with each other since third and fourth grade flag football,” Ullery said. “I just want to give all the glory to God for everything that I'm able to do. And I have a great team around me and we're going to go far this year.”
Unlike a lot of teams in the state, Fort Benton doesn’t have to worry about a long playoff road trip. As the 8-Man North champions, the Longhorns have home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
“It's huge. The support that we have here is great, Longhorn Nation really gets us going,” Ullery said. “So yeah, we hope to keep carrying this momentum forward.”
The Longhorns have defeated opponents by an average of 45 points per game. Fort Benton’s closest game this year was a 38-18 win over Simms in October.
Fort Benton will host Joliet in the 8-Man quarterfinals on Saturday at 1 p.m.