View from the Sidelines
October 31, 2019
There’s no place like home for the playoffs. And there has never been this many local teams even making it this far at the same time before.
The Montana high school sports post season begins this weekend across the Big Sky Country, and Sanders County will be an epicenter of activity like never before at this time of year.
For the first time in recorded sports history in these parts, three of the county’s four football teams have advanced into the MHSA state playoffs. What’s more, all three have earned home games in the first round this weekend.
The Thompson Falls Blue Hawks, who clinched second place in the 8-Man Western Conference with a 55-0 win over Seeley-Swan last week, will host Twin Bridges Friday at Previs Field. The Hawks were ranked No. 7 in the final statewide 406mtsports.com power poll while Twin Bridges was unranked.
The Hawks, the No. 2 seeded team from the west, will enter the fray at 8-1 overall while the Falcons wing in to town with a 3-5 mark after placing third in the Southern Conference.
The county’s 6-Man teams take center stage Saturday as the Western Conference champion Hot Springs Savage Heat, now 9-0 after defeating Gardiner 55-7 last week, will host 5-4 Harlowtown-Ryegate, the fourth seed from the south, and 6-2 Noxon, the runners-up to Hot Springs in the west, will host 5-3 Roy-Winifred, the No. 3 team from the south.
The Devils won a 36-35 thriller at White Sulphur Springs Saturday to clinch Noxon’s first-ever home playoff game and a third straight berth in the State 6-Man playoffs.
As much football as is going on around here this weekend it is easy to forget that the volleyball post season is also hitting full swing and Noxon is right in the middle of that action as NHS will be hosting the District 14C volleyball tournament Thursday and Friday.
The tourney will begin at 4 p.m. Thursday, with the host Lady Red Devils taking on St. Regis followed by Hot Springs versus Plains at 5:30. Charlo awaits the winner of the Noxon-St. Regis match at 7 p.m.
The tournament is scheduled to conclude Friday evening, just in time for the 14C girls to clear out of the area prior to the Red Devils’ big football game on Jenny Lampshire Memorial Field Saturday.
The District 7B volleyball tournament will be played Saturday in Mission.
Unprecedented, but not without reason.
It is not purely by chance that Sanders County has produced three prep playoff football teams this fall and that the fourth team in the county, the Plains Horsemen, came within a horse-hair’s breadth of also getting in, it is by design. By coaches’ design.
Carefully thought out game-plans, good organizational and motivational skills; there is a lot more that goes into coaching football besides patrolling the sidelines, making substitutions and calling timeouts. Good coaches put into motion the possible; they help kids become players and mesh those players into effective teams with common goals.
We are pretty darn lucky around here to have four ol’ ball coaches – namely Jared Koskela of Thompson Falls, Jim Lawson of Hot Springs, Bart Haflich of Noxon and Eddie Fultz of Plains – that seem to know their ways around this game of football pretty darn well.
The proof of that is the fact that we have so many playoff football games to choose from to go watch right here in Sanders County this weekend.
It’s like the old adage about coaching goes, all other things being equal, good coaches will take theirs and beat yours. And looking at the jobs Koskela, Lawson, Haflich and Fultz have been doing, I think we could take any of ours and beat any of yours any day.
Teenagers, old-agers and those in between.
Coaches are pretty used to talking to teenagers and how to do it. They recognize the short attention spans their athletes have and take that into account when they are dealing with them.
Talking to old-agers like me, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I not only have the short attention span I have had since I, too, was a teenager, I also have the ability to forget, almost instantly it seems sometimes.
One of those times arrived last week when I was interviewing Jim Lawson for a story about his Hot Springs Savage Heat football team.
During our conversation, Jim mentioned the fact that the game with Gardiner had been moved to Thursday due to a couple of factors, one of which was the lack of qualified referees available to work games.
He asked me if I could get this breaking news into the paper as it would give more people a chance to watch the game, and I readily agreed to do just that.
And then promptly forgot all about it.
I went back and checked my notes, sure enough it was right there in black and white, I just simply dropped it entirely from my well-used memory banks.
I was a teenager, I was in between and now I am a full-blown old-ager. Please excuse me while I forget something else.