SHELBY — Drummond-Philipsburg is going to its second consecutive 8-Man football state championship this weekend. Without the play of wide receiver and defensive back Jaxon Lee, the Titans might not have reached this point.
In a 28-20 win over Shelby in the semifinals, Lee was matched up with Coyotes star Wyatt Brusven, one of 8-Man’s most explosive players.
“When you have an athlete like (Brusven), you’ve got to put an athlete on him. I just believe in mine,” Drummond-Philipsburg head coach Mike Cutler said after the Titans’ victory over Shelby. “It comes down to, is my athlete better than your athlete? And I believe ours is. That’s no disrespect to (Brusven), because he’s a hell of a player, but I like mine.”
“He’s the best player we’ve seen to date,” Lee said. “They told me they wanted me to stick on him. He played fantastic, he was crazy good.”
Lee wound up with multiple pass breakups and an interception in the fourth quarter to turn the momentum. But that’s no surprise, Lee has been a ball hawk all season. In the postseason, Lee has added six interceptions, three returned for touchdowns, to his regular-season total to give him 10 for the year.
Offensively, Lee is a threat from any spot on the field. Lee battled through double-teams and shadow coverage from Brusven and finished with seven receptions for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while also adding 55 yards on the ground. Lee’s 200 scrimmage yards accounted for nearly three-quarters of the Titans’ offense.
“In my opinion, he’s the best player on the field. He’s going to be the best player on a lot of fields,” Cutler said. “I’m proud of him. That’s nothing against our guys, they’re good football players. He’s just one part of it.”
“Athletes do what they do, I guess,” Lee said. “Our boys were prepared for it. We thought if they were going to double-team me, we have others plans. And we did and that’s what we did.”
It was a slow start to the season for Lee. With sophomore Kade Cutler taking over the quarterback position, the connection between the two has gradually improved throughout the year. Lee had 11 touchdown receptions in the regular season and has added five more in the playoffs.
“We definitely are starting to click,” Lee said. “At first, it was a little shaky. It just has been building now. Me and Kade, we’re just balling, I guess, at this point.”
A big part of the Titans’ explosive offense is what Lee brings to the table on special teams. Often, teams will refuse to kick the ball to Lee, setting Drummond-Philipsburg up with great field position. In the regular season, Lee had seven total touchdowns on only 23 returns.
“It’s been that way for us all year. The teams that do kick it to him pay for it,” Cutler said. “He’s got eight or 10 punt returns and no one kicks it to him on the kickoffs. It’s a big deal, especially in an 8-Man game where there’s only 80 yards.”
Lee and the Titans turn their focus to Great Falls Central and the high-powered Mustangs. Saturday’s championship tilt is at historic Naranche Stadium in Butte, a short drive for the defending state champions.
“As far as I’m concerned, that’s a home game for us,” Cutler said. “Butte will turn out and support the Titans, and we’re excited to go.”