FROID — The Froid-Medicine Lake football team has encountered an unfamiliar problem this season.
“It gets dark around 5, so we only get an hour (of practice),” said coach Michael Reiter.
That’s what happens when you play into November, and Froid-Medicine Lake is making an appearance at this stage for the first time in the co-op’s 6-Man history (the co-op was the 8-Man runner-up in 2000 and Medicine Lake finished runner-up in 1952 and 1985). The Redhawks are set to host White Sulphur Springs in the 6-Man state championship game on Saturday, so those November practices are still necessary.
“We had a parent donate a big light machine that shows the whole field for practice, so we can get more practice in,” Reiter said. “Everyone’s super supportive, everyone wants to help out. It’s a really good thing. The community’s really responded to how our team’s played this year.”
While it might be uncharted territory for the Redhawks, it’s not completely unexpected. After slowly building the program the past two seasons, Reiter and his assistant coaches, Jalen Hendrickson and Ian Logan, knew this year’s team would be competitive.
Their coaches might not have predicted a run to the championship, but the Redhawks have certainly earned their appearance. They ran roughshod over the always-competitive 6-Man East before convincingly winning their first two games in the playoffs — 56-6 over Broadview-Lavina in the first round and 52-6 over Harlowton-Ryegate in the quarterfinals. That brought on championship-or-bust Big Sandy in last week’s semifinal round.
“Big Sandy was no joke, they were the real deal, they were a really good football team,” Reiter said.
“Kade Strutz, he was pretty good. It was hard stopping him. He went off pretty good on us for four scores and 200-some yards. He was pretty good,” Reiter continued. “I think the difference was we just kept battling, we kept staying in there. First two possessions of the game we turned the ball over on fumbles, where we had to battle back. And we just kept going at it, kept working hard and things started turning back in our favor.”
Freshman quarterback Mason Dethman had a hand in five touchdowns last Saturday as Froid-Lake rallied for a 42-26 win over the Pioneers. Dethman has continued to progress this season to give the Redhawks a dangerous weapon, both throwing and running the ball.
But as good as he’s been, his success has also been assisted by a strong group of upperclassmen — the guys who slogged through 1-7 and 3-5 seasons the past two years to reap this year’s rewards.
“(Dethman has) grown a whole bunch. It also helps that he’s got very good leadership above him that kind of helps him through a lot of things,” Reiter said. “He’s starting to take on a little bit more of a leadership role himself. He’s still growing, still developing. He’s got a lot to pay to the older kids that helped him out with that. I think he understands that everything he’s doing, it’s a great bonus to have the other kids around him to help him do it.”
“Performance-wise, everyone’s stepped up to the call of the season and done really well,” Reiter added. “Ashdyn Hobbs, junior running back, has really stepped up, ran the ball hard for us, gets a lot of yards after contact. Colt Miller, senior end, catches a lot of balls for us and he blocks very well. I mean, most of our running game goes through him, because he does his job very well. Walker Ator, leader, he’s kind of that locker room guy that gets everyone jacked up, makes sure everyone stays on their right path and everything of that sort of nature. Isaac Johnson, another one, vocal leader that holds people accountable respectfully and holds himself to a higher standard as well. Brett Stentoft has really stepped up, played offense and defense for us exceptionally well. He’s been a huge asset for us. Connor Huft is playing safety, he’s been a shutdown guy for us where it seems every game he gets an interception, and I’m sure half of them went back to the end zone for pick-sixes. It’s a really well-rounded team where everyone has their role and everyone knows it, and they hold each other accountable.”
Reiter is effusive in his praise for his team, but he also knows the Redhawks will have their hands full this weekend. White Sulphur Springs enters Saturday’s championship with an unblemished record, as well, though the Hornets played only three regular-season games this fall due to the pandemic-altered schedule. They swept Valley Christian, Noxon and Hot Springs to win the West’s No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
And in the playoffs, White Sulphur Springs has been red hot, running away for a 78-21 win over Sunburst in the first round, a 44-6 win over Savage in the quarterfinals and a 54-13 win over previously unbeaten Shields Valley in last week’s semifinal game.
“Their running game is pretty good,” Reiter said of the Hornets. “They take shots down the field where they’re pretty accurate with the deep ball. We just got to cover the deep passes and make sure we fill our gaps and do our jobs on defense to make sure that we keep their big plays to a minimum, and hopefully we can get a stop when we need a stop.”
“It’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be fun,” he added. “I’m looking forward to it. White Sulphur Springs isn’t anybody to overlook. They’re in the same spot we are for a reason. It’s going to be an exciting game.”
Froid-Medicine Lake and White Sulphur Springs kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Medicine Lake for the 6-Man title.