One monkey off our back. Next year, we’ll unload a few more.
For the first time in thirty one years, the Columbia Falls Wildcat football team hosted a round one playoff game. On an otherwise gorgeous fall afternoon, the Broncs’ big offensive line was just too much for the Cats, who fell 24-0.
Three things frustrated the Cats in their quest to travel to Butte Central and avenge an early season loss: turnovers (several interceptions, some I suspect caused in part by a Mackie Nolan shoulder injury), ball control, and the inability to stop Hamilton’s Ryan Turley (22). The Wildcat offense had some success with the pass, penetrating the Bronc 20 yard line on several occasions, but interceptions stopped the scoring drive several times.
Columbia Falls’ well-respected running game never really seemed to get on track, as the middle of the Bronc defense stiffened, forcing the Cats to use the wings. Hamilton forced the Wildcat defense stay on the field for much of the game, including much of a dominating first quarter.
Despite being down 24-0 late in the fourth, the game never got cheap. The Cats, while clearly frustrated and disappointed in the game’s outcome, kept their class. This season was a lot of fun guys. We’re all looking forward to next year.
Below: photos tell the game’s story.
Boring picture, but it tells the story the Cats fought all day. Size.
Mackie Nolan (14) leaps over Hamilton’s Alex Martin as he scrambles for more first quarter yardage.
Tanner Perry (12) pursues Ryan Turley (22), a familiar sight for the Cats as the game wore on.
Mitchell Wasson (13) gives the crowd a scare, leaving the field with an injury. Wasson later returned.
Jordan Thompson (5) gets some air, hauls in a pass.
Playing catch. Wasson (13) connects with Fairbank (8) in the red zone.
2 unidentified Wildcats corral Ryan Turley, just as Chase Grilley (85) arrives to help.
Hamilton’s Chase Mildenberger gets behind Michael Hader (7) and Scott Palmer (30) to haul in a Bourne pass. Hader made an impressive touchdown-saving tackle, throwing Mildenberger out of bounds.
On the last play of the first half, Hamilton attempted a screen pass. Dustin Knoepfle (60) breaks through the line as an unidentified Wildcat defender leaps to deflect the pass (see the ball in flight at left), which fell incomplete.
The Cats had trouble stopping Hamilton’s Ryan Turley (22), often needing 3 or 4 defenders to drag him down, as this series illustrates. Tacklers included Hegel (10), Hader (7) and Ben Wells (37).
Wasson (13) in the process of knocking down a Justin Bourne pass.
Montana legislator Doug Cordier, part of the volunteer chain gang.
Something we saw very little of all season: Mitchell Wasson (13) actually misses a tackle as he tries to stop Brady Anderson (44) at the goal line. Anderson was stopped short of the goal line by Hader (7), Fairbank (8) and Hegel (10).
On a continuation of the same play, Quentin Hegel (10) and Chase Fairbank (8) cause a Brady Anderson fumble near the Cat goal line. Hamilton recovered.
Chase Fairbank (8) mishandles a Bronc punt, which he recovered and advanced.
Nolan (14) throws a 3rd quarter pass as he’s hit by Bronc Alex Martin, causing an interception.
6’5″ Nathan Woods (75) plugs the hole up top, as Michael Hader (7) fills the bottom, leaving Hamilton’s Brady Anderson with nowhere to go. Woods made the tackle, as seen in the 2nd photo.
Chase Fairbank (8) attempts to stiff arm Jason Shallenberger (5).
Mackie Nolan (14) goes deep, behind protection from Kodie Kenfield (72) and friends.
Mackie Nolan (14) lets one fly as Hamilton’s Brady Anderson bears down on him.
Chase Grilley (85, behind Hader, #7) out leaps defenders to pull in a Mackie Nolan pass near the 5 yard line.
Chase Fairbank (8) lays out to reach a 4th quarter pass from Nolan, to no avail.
Late in the 4th quarter, it isn’t hard to tell how things are going.
Coach Thompson shares an end of season moment with sophomore Mitchell Wasson (13). Key phrase from Wasson: “I’m mad at myself for not doing more.” No surprise, given his leadership and on-field play all year long.
Wasson, the Cats’ on-field sparkplug, seemed to will his teammates to the playoffs, pumping them up between plays all season long. Thompson, in a Hungry Horse News piece earlier this week, noted that having Wasson on the field was like having an assistant coach out there. His leadership has been impressive all year, leaving all of us with great things to look forward to.
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