BILLINGS – It’s a story fit for Hollywood.
“It’s an unforgettable season, especially that playoff run, just those close games,” recalled Shelby’s Zach Torgerson Tuesday before an afternoon practice in Billings for this week’s Class B All-Star football showdown.
Nobody picked Shelby as a title contender at the beginning of the year. The Coyotes were already thin and early injuries made it worse.
But then something happened at playoff time. Tied late with Bigfork, junior kicker Wyatt Brusven hit a 37-yard field goal to send the Coyotes to the quarters. Then he did it again against undefeated Whitehall. Then in the semis, down six with under two minutes left, Torgerson caught a touchdown to tie it and Brusven’s extra point sent Shelby to its first state title game in 30 years.
One can imagine how the high volume of staggering finishes would heavily increase the blood pressure of Coyote faithful.
“Ours or our coaches, whatever you want to call it,” smiled Shelby’s Curtis Conant. “It’s nice to have a kicker.”
“The community came around us as a team together throughout the playoffs, wished us luck,” said Torgerson. “They were there to support us throughout the run, so that was pretty special.”
That run had been a long time in the making.
“It’s been our goal since we were little, just trying to make an impact,” Conant said, “trying to make our mark on the school and make it a cool thing again to be proud of where you’re from and be proud of the football team.”
It was a fitting way to cap an unforgettable season, but now, it looks like it’ll cap an entire era. Earlier this year, Shelby elected to drop down to 8-Man. They were barely able to field 20 players in November’s title loss to Eureka.
“I’m a little split about it,” admitted Conant. “I wish they’d stick to 11-man because that’s what I grew up with them playing and everything, but I see the reason them dropping down to 8-Man. When you’re only dressing 20-odd kids in the state championship game, it makes you question it.”
Malta coach Jim Benn admires the school’s fight.
“They were scratchers and fighters kind of the whole way through the season,” Benn recalled. “Those kids have got to be dead at the end of the year. It was kind of cool to see them finish with a state golf championship.”
That was after Shelby also made the state basketball championship – a testament to how just how good this year’s group was.
And if this is the end to Class B football, they’ll at least remember it fondly.
“It was good to be close to the top, to play in a state championship game,” Torgerson said. “Not many teams can say they played in a state championship game, and last Class B.”
“Kind of heart-warming, just making your mark,” Conant said. “If we’re going to end it, we’re going to end it right.”
This year’s Class B All-Star game is Friday at 7 p.m. on Rocky Mountain College’s Herb Klindt Field.