Just when hope had started to fade and the season seemed lost, that Bigfork magic returned.
The defending champs are not done yet.
Led by senior running back Cody Dopps, the fourth-ranked Vikings rallied in the second half from 20 points down to stun Florence 35-26 in the first round of the Class B playoffs in Bigfork on Oct. 29. The Vikings will try to keep the momentum going in the quarterfinals on Nov. 5 when they host second-ranked Malta (9-0) at 1 p.m.
Following the dramatic win, Bigfork has now won of 14 of the last 15 games dating back to the midway point last season.
“It wasn’t looking good at half,” Vikings head coach Todd Emslie said. “It showed us a lot about this team’s character. I know what kind of kids these are and what their character is, but it’s nice to see them prove it. They really proved it on Saturday.”
Dopps, who had the tough task of replacing standout Travis Knoll this season, turned in a performance second to none. The senior running back had 286 yards on 45 carries and scored four touchdowns in the second half.
“We just made a decision at halftime that we were going to put the ball in Cody’s hands and our offensive line’s,” Emslie said. “(Dopps) popped some unbelievable runs.”
The exciting come-from-behind win called to mind last year’s dramatic playoff run that ended with a last-second, game-winning touchdown in the title game.
But this Bigfork team is telling its own unique story this season, and it’s been an exciting one. The Vikes (8-1) have not lost since the opener on Sept. 2 against Ronan, 32-12. Since then the team has scored 41 points or more all but once, when they beat Missoula Loyola 21-12.
Before Saturday’s game against Florence, the defense had not allowed more than 13 points in any game except against Ronan. The team has not lost at home since Oct. 9, 2009, when Fairfield defeated the Vikings 35-0.
And regardless of whatever ending there may be, this year’s story is already a memorable one.
“That sense of accomplishment that this team has after that (Florence game), it’s going to carry into basketball season and into their lives,” Emslie said. “They learned never to quit and that you just have to work hard. The harder you work, good things will happen.”
In the Class A playoffs, fourth-ranked Polson is ready to go after a first-round bye. The undefeated Pirates (8-0) will host fifth-ranked Miles City (8-2) on Nov. 5. Miles City defeated Livingston 57-14 in the opening round.
Polson is the lone Northwestern A team remaining after Libby lost to Hamilton 28-11 and Whitefish fell 52-19 to Stevensville.
Senior quarterback Vince DiGiallonardo has turned in a great final season at Polson. DiGiallonardo has piled up 22 touchdowns (16 rushing, six passing) and 1,069 total yards (541 passing, 528 rushing).
The Polson defense has been nearly flawless this season, allowing only 52 total points. The Pirates have had four shutouts and allowed more than a touchdown only once, in a 53-32 win over Whitefish.
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