Sports

Eureka Wins Third State Football Title Since 2016

Lions shut down Manhattan 20-6, become second team in Class B history to win three titles in four years

Senior Hank Dunn had a game for the ages, classmate Jake Kindel filled in admirably for his team’s injured starting running back and the Eureka Lions won the Class B state football championship for the third time in four years, going on the road and beating Manhattan 20-6 on Nov. 23.

Dunn, Eureka’s quarterback and a starting defensive back, ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns, threw a touchdown pass, racked up 17 tackles and secured two interceptions in his final football game, accounting for almost all of his team’s scoring as the Lions ended a modest one-year title drought. Dunn was a defensive starter on Eureka teams that won the Class B championship in 2016 and 2017, the first two titles in school history.

Kindel, who also started on defense all four years of his high school career, recorded 14 tackles in the 2019 title game and joined Dunn in the backfield in place of running back Chet McCully, who was injured in the first half of Eureka’s semifinal win against Red Lodge on Nov. 16. McCully was a two-way starter and one of the most effective running backs in the state, totaling 1,690 yards on the ground at more than 10 yards per attempt, but the Lions hardly missed their superlative tailback.

“The same thing that happened in the Red Lodge game, they rallied,” Trevor Utter, Eureka’s head coach, said. “Everybody had to do their job a little better to fill the void, basically, and they did that.”

Manhattan (11-1) shortened the game with a clock-grinding offense that limited the number of possessions for each team, and the result was a 7-6 Eureka lead late in the first half when the Lions offense got the ball for just the third time. Eureka cashed that drive in on a 1-yard Dunn run, and the quarterback burst for a 53-yard score in the third quarter to make it 20-6 before the Lions salted the rest of the game away.

Eureka (12-0) put the clamps on what had been an explosive Manhattan offense, bending but not breaking against team that came in scoring nearly 37 points per game. The Lions stopped three fourth downs and kept the Tigers out of the end zone after a Lane Veltkamp score in the first quarter. Eureka left its defensive backs alone all game in man-to-man coverage to try contain Manhattan’s running game, and in addition to Dunn and Kindel, the play of lineman Cory Cheney, along with linebackers Danny Dunn and Chance Muller, helped hold the Tigers in check.

After the game, the large contingent of Eureka faithful who made five-plus hour trek to Manhattan spilled onto the field and celebrated “for the next hour.”

“Tons of emotion and tears of joy,” Utter said of the postgame scene. “It was an amazing day all around.”

Eureka is just the second Class B football program ever to win three titles in four years, joining Baker, which won championships in 2001, 2003 and 2004. The Lions were dominant for most of the 2019 season, outscoring their opposition 541-153.

Hank Dunn ends this season with more than 1,800 passing yards, 900 rushing yards and 37 combined touchdowns. He will play college baseball at Yakima Valley College after graduation. Kindel, also a senior, finishes the year with 126 total tackles.

andy@flatheadbeacon.com

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