HARLOWTON -- Harlowton-Ryegate accomplished something on Friday night that its football program hadn’t since 2003 when it won a first-round playoff game against Noxon. It was also the Engineers’ first postseason win at the 6-Man level.
Engineers head coach Jon Mysse was a player on the Engineers' last team to win in the postseason, but this one was awfully sweet.
“More than I can put into words. I can honestly say I think it feels better as a coach, because I know what it felt like to me as a player and that’s so badly what I wanted these kids to experience," Mysse said. "For them to get to experience that, I can’t even put into words how that feels.”
“All week that’s kind of been our thing. We want to be that team that wants to end that drought for Harlow," said Ryan Fenley. "We’ve had teams that have been good enough, they just don’t ever have it at the end of the season. It’s kind of nice that we have a core group of kids that have been in the weight room for four years. It’s just been a big thing of our coaches pushing us to be better. It’s really nice for us to come through and finally get a playoff win for Harlow and win the first Central Division title.”
The Engineers had to battle their opponent as well as the elements on Friday night. Temperatures were in the 20s and snow fell heavy throughout the game, but Harlowton-Ryegate was prepared for it. Mysse even commented he was surprised the snow was falling straight down rather than sideways.
“The benefit of Montana weather, especially Harlow weather, is if you don’t like it wait five minutes and it can change," Mysse said. "We’ve had this all week, so I think we were a little bit more prepared. A lot of parts of the state, if you looked, didn’t have this snow, didn’t have the cold, and we were out here all week practicing. I think we were prepared for it. It played right into our hand, actually."
“You’ve got to be pretty mentally tough," said Harlowton-Ryegate running back Johnny Mysse. "All week we’ve been in this stuff, so we knew it was coming. We just prepared ourselves all week for this.”
If you look closely, you can see skull and crossbones stickers across the helmets of the Engineers. They’re similar to the Buckeye on the helmets of Ohio State football players and provide Harlowton-Ryegate with a little added incentive, as the stickers only come following a victory.
“I think that’s a little added perk and that’s something we did when I was in high school. I really liked it and I thought it gave some accountability," Jon Mysse said. "When you look at the kids who have the big stickers, they’re making the big plays. That’s the reality, but it also gives accountability to everybody. I give them for 100 yards of offense, so even the linemen are getting them. I just think it’s kind of a cool thing and the kids really seem to like it.”
The Engineers won’t be as fortunate to play at home in the quarterfinals, as they’ll have to make the long trip East to play Froid-Medicine Lake. The Engineers could be a handful for the Redhawks, though, as Harlow-Ryegate features one of the most balanced offensive attacks in 6-Man football. They can hurt you by both air and ground.
“We let our defense do our own thing and we let the offense – we work on that all the time," Fenley said. "We work on cutting routes sharp, work on our planting, we work on everything with everybody. We have four people that rotate through running back. It’s just kind of a team thing, I guess.”
“It’s pretty tough to scout when you’ve got five kids out of your six starters who can run the ball, and they all bring something special when they run it. They’ve all got their own style. It’s pretty tough to stop," Jon Mysse said.
Harlowton-Ryegate has one playoff win under its belt and is looking to keep the train rolling at Froid-Medicine Lake, which defeated Broadview-Lavina on Saturday.