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Hawks battle past Bulldogs in 8-Man opener

 

September 5, 2019

John Hamilton

KINGS OF THE HILL! Coach Jared Koskela and the Hawks celebrate Thompson Falls' 44-40 win over Choteau in Philipsburg Saturday.

PHILIPSBURG – When push came to shove, the Hawks pushed back, and shoved their way to an emotional win.

Playing Thompson Falls' first 8-Man football game in at least 60 years, the Blue Hawks jumped out to a big lead early, watched that lead evaporate and then traded punches with the Choteau Bulldogs in the second half before rallying for the win.

Now 1-0 in non-conference action, coach Jared Koskela and his Hawks will host Victor in a Western Division conference game at Previs Field Friday at 7 p.m. Victor lost its season opener 42-0 to Mission in Victor Saturday.

"I am so glad we got this game to start the season with, a game against a quality opponent like Choteau," he said. "We matched up really evenly with this team and it ended up being a dogfight right up to the last play."

Koskela has reason to feel good about defeating Choteau, a team that advanced into the State 8-Man playoffs last fall with many of the same players they had in uniform Saturday.

The Hawks looked like they were going to blow the Bulldogs off the Philipsburg field in the early going.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Hawks marched down the field, moving 58 yards in five plays, taking a 6-0 lead when Brandon Zimmerman zoomed into the end zone from 32 yards out. With the two-point conversion run from Roman Sparks tacked on, the Hawks led 8-0 with 10:06 left in the first quarter.

The running of Trey Fisher during that drive was a portent of things to come as he picked up 26 yards on four carries. Fisher brutalized Choteau's defense all day long, grinding out 256 yards rushing to pace the Hawk offense.

"Trey had a great game," Koskela offered. "We are tough to defend when he can run the ball like that." Proving he can also pass the ball, Fisher added 46 yards through the air to his stat total.

After holding Choteau on downs the first time the 'Dogs had the ball, the Hawks then drove 72 yards in 11 plays, with Fisher covering the last 23 yards for the touchdown on a run through the right side of Choteau's defense. With the two-point conversion tacked on, the Hawks now led 16-0.

Later on in the first period, Fisher scored another touchdown on a five-yard run and the first quarter ended with the Hawks in control with a 24-0 lead.

Just when the game looked like it would turn into a blowout, Choteau fought back with a vengeance in the second quarter behind the running of Kyler Crabtree.

Crabtree reached paydirt on runs of seven and 15 yards in the second quarter to draw the Bulldogs to within 24-16 at halftime.

Starting the second half on the receiving end of the kickoff, Crabtree gathered that kick in and sped 69 yards to another touchdown. Thompson Falls stopped the conversion attempt to maintain a 24-22 lead.

The Hawks' responded to Choteau's rally at that point, and after Fisher connected with Derek Andersen for a 30-yard pass to set Thompson Falls up at Choteau's 12 yard line, Fisher found Sparks with a touchdown pass from there to build the Hawk lead back up to 30-22.

Undaunted, the Bulldogs fought right back and Crabtree eventually capped Choteau's next drive with a five-yard TD run to make the score 30-28.

The Hawks showed their resolve with another impressive drive down the field after that, building the lead back up to 36-28 when Fisher ran in for a touchdown from five yards out.

Just when the Hawks thought they may have had some breathing room, Kolby Kovatch breathed new life into Choteau's hopes by taking the ensuing kickoff, after bobbling and dropping it, back 76 yards for a touchdown to make the score 36-34 Hawks.

The Bulldogs then took their first lead of the game at 40-36 with 6:35 left when Crabtree scored his fifth touchdown of the day on an 18-yard run.

Refusing to lose at that point, the Hawks turned to Fisher to lead them to the winning touchdown and lead them he did.

On what turned out to be the most important play of the game with about five minutes left, the Hawks were facing third down and 17 yards to go from their own 29-yard line, and Fisher willed himself to an 18-yard gain, breaking tackles and dragging would-be tacklers along with him for the crucial first down.

After that Fisher ran for seven yards on the next play, 12 more on the one after that and four yards after that.

On second down and goal from the four, Sparks busted into the end zone for the game-winning score. Fisher ran in the two-point conversion after that to make the score 44-40 Hawks with 2:55 remaining in the game.

The Hawk defense then secured the win by shutting down Choteau on the Bulldogs' last possession.

John Hamilton

AFTER THE HANDOFF from Trey Fisher (right), Brandon Zimmerman looks for running room against Choteau. Hawks host Victor Pirates Friday night.

Fisher's 256 yards rushing on 31 carries paced the Hawks' attack, Zimmerman added 91 yards on 13 carries, Sparks 72 yards on 16 carries, Trae Thilmony 40 yards on 10 totes and Jordi Fisher four yards on one carry.

Andersen caught one pass for 30 yards, Sparks one for 12 and Thilmony one for four.

On the defensive side of things, Matt Duplechain piled up seven unassisted tackles and nine assists to finish with 16 total tackles, Trey Fisher made a team-high nine solo tackles and 11 altogether, Zimmerman and Thilmony added seven apiece, Dakota Irvine and Sparks five apiece and Brad Lantz four.

The Hawks' next 8-Man test is with the Victor Pirates Friday night on Previs Field. Koskela has been studying film of the Pirates.

"They are very young, an up and coming team," he said. "We are just going to stick to the same game plan and see where that takes us."

 

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