JORDAN — In 2017, Jordan’s football team suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the first round of the 6-Man playoffs as a No. 4 seed. This year, the Mustangs grabbed the No. 3 seed out of the East and went on the road to defeat South No. 2 Roy-Winifred 88-40 in last weekend’s first round.
The big number on the scoreboard has become commonplace for the Mustangs’ offense, which has scored more than 70 points three different times this season.
“We have a few track guys, I think that helps,” Jordan head coach Brian Bills laughed. “We know that 6-Man football is more of a track meet than a football game. It helps having that speed and athleticism to make big plays.”
The big plays are largely generated by a pair of juniors, quarterback Keenan Murnion and wide receiver Ed Murnion — a familiar last name in track and field circles. In May of 2016, brothers Kelly and Connor Murnion led Jordan to a second-place finish at the Class C state track meet. Kelly won all three sprints and set new state records in the 200- and 400-meter races.
Both Keenan and Ed possess that same sort of game-breaking ability, which has made the Jordan offense so explosive.
“Keenan, he’s our quarterback and linebacker. He’s the brains of our offense and defense. He can see things and call things on the fly, he’s always been there for us,” Bills said of his junior quarterback. “Ed, he’s a little bigger. We use him at receiver and running back. He also gets a great push on the defensive line. Those guys have been showing phenomenal gains from last year.”
The junior duo has received substantial playing time over the past few seasons, going against some of the best teams in the state within their own conference. The 6-Man East has had a team play for the state championship in three of the past four seasons. Jordan has made the playoffs each of the past three seasons, but this is the first time the Mustangs have won.
The conference also had three different teams in the top five of the MontanaSports.com polls throughout the season, as the conference stood out among the state’s best.
“We kind of knew that coming in, but we’re a little biased because we’re from the East,” Bills said. “We see a lot of farm boys: strong, hard-working young men out here in the East. If you can do well in this conference, you can hopefully make noise in the playoffs.
“Since we see so much talent, every week is a challenge. Every week we see guys where there’s at least one or two just amazing athletes that we go up against. … Those sophomore and junior classes have seen a lot of close games from both sides, so we kind of know what it takes to finish off a game.”
Facing teams with championship pedigree is nothing new for Jordan, and this week will be no different. The Mustangs make the more than 450-mile trip to Hot Springs where a hungry champion awaits. Hot Springs was away from 6-Man football last season, but the Savage Heat won the 2016 title.
“Hot Springs is a strong team. They’ve got some talent, some speed, some studs. They’re going to be a really good team to play this week,” Bills said. “I think they’re going to do the same things that we do – try to use their speed and quick-scoring ability to get up on us. We’re very similar teams in that we both have athletic guys and not huge teams in terms of size or numbers.”
Kickoff is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. in Hot Springs. The winner moves on to the semifinal round to face the winner of Saturday’s game between Geraldine-Highwood and Richey-Lambert. As the lowest-seeded team remaining, Jordan will be on the road for as long as it remains in the playoffs.