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Darby presents challenge, Hawks remain undefeated


October 7, 2021

Heading into Friday’s matchup at Darby, the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks had defeated their previous three opponents by a combined score of 174-12. For a team that will be heavily favored in each of their remaining three games, Friday night at Darby High School could be just the reality check that the Blue Hawks needed.

In the first quarter Thompson Falls took to the air to take an early 6-0 lead via a beautifully thrown deep ball from junior quarterback Elijah Ratliff to senior running back Nathan Schraeder. The Blue Hawks were able to take advantage of some solid scouting en route to the 55-yard touchdown. On the play, Thompson Falls deviated from their standard run heavy formation in favor of a “spread” passing formation. “We saw some things on film and decided to spread them out. Elijah threw a good ball,” Blue Hawk Coach Jared Koskela said postgame.

Darby was able to march the ball down the field and tie the game at six via an excellent play from Darby quarterback Preston Smith, who coach Koskela was quick to praise. “Their quarterback is going to get all-state votes from me,” Koskela siad. On the following drive the Blue Hawks went back to the passing game, this time with less favorable results. Ratliff launched an ill-advised desperation heave that resulted in a Darby interception return for a touchdown. The play was indicative of the overall lackluster start from Thompson Falls, prompting some strong words from Koskela. “The first quarter was a blessing. It wasn’t something we wanted, but something we needed. We got punched in the face.” Koskela attributed the slow start to a lack of spirit this week in practice as well as potentially underestimating the opponent. “We came out with a shell-shocked mindset,” he stated. “We had bad snaps, kids going the wrong way, desperation throws.”

The Blue Hawks were able to rebound from their slow start, however, with their ever-reliable ground attack. Senior running back Trae Thilmony got loose for a 70-yard rushing touchdown followed by a 12-yard touchdown on the ground from fellow senior running back Ryan Bucher. At the end of a wild first quarter, Thompson Falls held a 20-19 lead.

The second and third quarters saw Thompson Falls get back to their bread and butter, running the ball and playing stout defense. Thilmony added his second rushing touchdown of the night on a two-yard score, followed by a one-yard touchdown plunge from Ratliff, and yet another running score for Thilmony from 12 yards out. The Blue Hawk defense was able to stifle Darby’s offense in the second and third quarters, not allowing any points. Thompson Falls was led defensively by solid performances from Bucher, who had three sacks, and junior safety Breck Ferris who recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass. Ratliff led the Blue Hawks with seven solo tackles and three assists.

Heading into the fourth quarter, Thompson Falls held a commanding 42-19 lead. Thilmony added another rushing touchdown from 10 yards out to cap off a memorable rushing performance for the senior running back. Thilmony led the team with 172 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Ratliff also contributed in a big way on the ground with 149 yards and a score on the night.

Time expired with Thompson Falls ahead 49-26 in a game that will hopefully be a lesson for the Blue Hawks moving forward. Coach Koskela is looking forward to working on some different things in the remaining three games, specifically continuing to develop the pocket passing abilities of quarterback Elijah Ratliff. While coach Koskela is looking to refine the passing game, he won’t be hesitant to call out his team when it comes to making fixable mistakes, particularly when it comes to preparation. “If they’re not perfect, I’ll let them know.”

The undefeated Blue Hawks (6-0, 5-0 in the conference) continue their pursuit of the perfect season Friday night in their homecoming game against Arlee. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on October 8.


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