DILLON — It came down to the last play of the game, but the Dillon Beavers are Class A state champions once again.
When quarterback Kee Christiansen crossed the goal line on a two-point conversion in overtime, the Beavers took a 36-35 lead and there was nothing that Columbia Falls could do.
It was a walk-off victory for Dillon and the ninth state title in program history, the first since 2016.
“The motto that we said all year is ‘go for it’. These kids lay it on the line and I think it would’ve been a cop-out for me to not lay it on the line,” Dillon head coach Zach McRae said.
“And so we put it in the hands of our best athlete, and we went for it and now we get to party.”
The Beavers capped off an 11-0 season and it all came down to one play.
After Columbia Falls opened overtime with a touchdown rush from quarterback Cody Schweikert, Dillon responded swiftly as running back Kale Konen found the end zone for his second score of the game.
And when the offense stayed on the field, the tension at Vigilante Stadium could be cut with a knife.
“I thought that was the right play, I wanted to win it right there and then,” Konen said.
That tension turned into pure jubilation from the Beavers when Christiansen got to the corner and ultimately ended the game.
The senior quarterback’s hands went straight into the air, and the celebration started.
“It was the best feeling that I’ve ever experienced,” Christiansen said.
“There was so much rushing through my head, I didn’t even know what was going through my head. I was just ready to celebrate with my teammates, I couldn’t be more proud of my team this year.”
Dillon held a 28-14 lead entering the fourth quarter and looked primed to extend it further, as an interception from Carter Curnow set the Beavers up at the Wildcats’ 22-yard line.
But Columbia Falls kept battling.
The Wildcats got a defensive stop and made it a one-score game on the next offensive drive with Lane Hoerner’s second touchdown reception of the day.
In the final minutes, the Wildcats put together a methodical drive.
Schweikert connected with Jace Hill on a touchdown, and then again on the two-point conversion to tie the game with 45 seconds remaining.
Just like that, Dillon’s 14-point lead had evaporated.
“That’s kind of been us all year, we’ve never given up on anything,” Columbia Falls coach Jaxon Schweikert said.
But just like the Wildcats, the Beavers showed resilience as well.
After allowing 21 consecutive points including Columbia Falls’ overtime score, Dillon responded when it mattered most.
For the Wildcats, their season ends at 9-3 overall and just one play away from a state championship.
They suffered two losses in September but rallied to win seven games in a row before Saturday’s loss.
“The most that I’ll remember is not really football, but the friendships. I’ve sat here and watched all these kids grow up since they were elementary kids,” Jaxon Schweikert said.
With the win, the Beavers add another state title to a loaded trophy case. All nine of Dillon’s state championships have come since 2000.
Many players on the team were at Vigilante the last time Dillon won a state title in 2016, which also came against Columbia Falls.
Now, the 2023 Beavers are a part of the programs’ rich history of success.
“Growing up as a little kid, we had Troy Andersen and all those tremendous athletes. We came here and watched them do all these great things,” Christiansen said.
“In my last year, it couldn’t be a better time to be a part of the Dillon Beavers history.”
It’s a game that the players and coaches will not soon forget.
There were plenty of ups and downs throughout the 48 minutes of game time, but it ended in triumph for Dillon.
“I blacked out, it’s the craziest thing ever. Just the rush of happiness, tears flooded my eyes. We worked so hard for this, it’s an amazing feeling,” senior Cooper Anderson said.
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