Northwest Montana Sends Three to Class A State Football

By Beacon Staff

Polson started the year running and when the final whistle of the regular season sounded, they had run all the way to a conference championship and a No. 1 seed at the Class A state football tournament.

The Pirates capped off their season last weekend against Ronan with a 26-7 record to give them the Northwestern A crown and a first-round bye in the state tournament, which begins this weekend. With the bye, the Pirates won’t play until Nov. 7, when they will host the winner of Belgrade and Miles City. Polson finishes the regular season with a 7-1 (4-0) record.

Led by a dynamic pair of running backs, Polson uses an explosive running attack to throw off opponents early in games and then wear them out later. Senior Tim Rausch led the ground game during the regular season with a team-high 818 yards and 12 touchdowns. Rausch averaged 10.5 yards per carry.

Fellow senior Joe Andrews carried part of the rushing load as well, chipping in 708 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Andrews averaged just under 10 yards per carry. As a team, Polson averaged nearly 300 yards per game rushing. The Pirates led the conference in points, scoring 38 per game.

In almost any other year, Polson’s rushing game would have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the conference, but this season Ronan emerged as perhaps the most exciting ground game in the state. Until they were slowed slightly the last game of the year by Polson, the Chiefs were averaging almost 350 yards per game rushing, led by senior Xavier Morigeau.

The 6-2, 190-pound running back rushed for a league-best 1,380 yards – more than 150 per game – and 12 touchdowns. His efforts helped pave the way for a surprising playoff run by Ronan, which has struggled to get any victories in recent years, let alone fight for a playoff spot. The Chiefs are the No. 3 seed from the northwest, behind Polson and No. 2 Columbia Falls. Their record is 5-4 (2-2).

Along with Morigeau, Lucas Black and Cory Hardy anchored a no-huddle offense that relied on misdirection plays, multiple fakes and lots of hard-nosed running. In a 70-36 rout of conference foe Libby, the Chiefs broke a national record with 87 carries. According to the National High School Sports Record Book, the previous record was 85.

In the record-setting game, Ronan rushed for 637 yards, a number unheard of at any level of football. Morigeau had 334 yards and six touchdowns on 42 carries. Ronan travels to Dillon for a first-round game on Oct. 31.

The No. 2 seed from Northwestern A is Columbia Falls, which relied on a more balanced offensive attack during its regular season. This balance was on display in the Wildcats’ playoff-clinching 33-14 victory over rival Whitefish in the final game of the season. In that game, quarterback Mitchell Wassam threw for 210 yards and running back John Woody pitched in 190 yards rushing.

For the season, Woody finished with 732 yards rushing, one of the best marks in the conference. Wassam was among the league leaders in passing, throwing for 1,327 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Wildcats head to the playoffs with a 6-3 (3-1) record. They host Hamilton in a first-round game on Oct. 31.

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