FAIRVIEW — There’s something special about football in small-town Montana.
The Fairview Warriors know that all too well. A program that’s essentially been a powerhouse for a decade-plus has captivated the town split by the Montana-North Dakota border.
“It really does seem that way, especially when you go on the road. It's like, last person out turn off the lights," Fairview head coach Derek Gackle told MTN Sports. "You play a Saturday afternoon game — it's fun because when it's a night game, you hear the crowd but you don't really see them because you're in the lights. When you play on Saturday, you can see all the cars and see all the people."
These kids have basically grown up with championship expectations, and on Friday nights in Fairview you can find cars circling Starr Field to catch a glimpse of one of 8-Man’s most exciting shows.
“Watching those teams do good as kids, they were big role models for us," Fairview senior quarterback Jeff Tjelde said. "We wanted to grow up and be like them and do what they did in high school. That pushed us to work hard and try to do our best and do what they did to bring to the town."
“It's been a nice run. It's been about 15 years of success," Gackle said. "The town rallies around you. When you have success, especially in football — and I don't know if it's because it's the first sport of the year, it gets everyone fired up or what.
“You get homecoming, you get all the things associated with football, so it kind of kicks off your whole school year when you have a good football season. The crowd rallies around you. The expectations now 15 years later are pretty high. They expect to win here in Fairview. The players expect to win and the coaches expect to win."
Fairview isn’t alone in being passionate about their football team. In fact, that’s one of the great things about being from small-town Montana — cheering for neighbors and relatives alike.
Of course, Fairview can be a long destination for much of the state, and vice versa, but the economic impact of a strong football team is one Warrior fans have grown familiar with, and they make sure to repay the favor on their road trips.
“I'm kind of biased for Class C small towns, because I think we're a little more passionate than some. I can't say for sure, but we travel well," said Judd Burman, a Fairview graduate and owner of the Waterhole #3, a local bar. "People come to town and they like to experience things. I know when we travel we go to the businesses and like to spend money because it does help out the local economy."
Fairview had one of the longest road trips of the year last year when it fell in the semifinals at St. Ignatius. Lots of pieces are back, and with how the bracket is laid out, the top-ranked Warriors could find themselves again traveling to western Montana, this time in the second round.
“It basically becomes a four-day trip. The difference was last year we came back and we were done because we lost. The goal isn't to lose that game," Gackle said. “And it's a grind on your body when you get back.
“Getting there, the buses are so nice anymore. The school is great. AD is great and they help us out and give us great accommodations, so we've just got to show up and play."
You can bet the Warrior faithful will be making any long cross-state trek come November.