When the undefeated Frenchtown Broncs tried to sweep the left side in search of only one inch needed on a fourth down, Cory Thompson threw the running back for a loss, giving possession to the Blackhawks who, with 3 minutes left in the half, marched down the field to break an 8-8 tie and take a halftime lead of 15-8. The Hawks then went on to win 22-16.
The team celebrates following the game with head coach Mark Darrow congratulating the boys and bidding farewell to his senior players. G. Noland photos
Senior Bobby Clark, the state's Class B record rushing holder, is contratulated following the game in which he rushed for 92 yards, including one touchdown and a two-point conversion, and passed for 138 yards, including one touchdown.
October 28, 1999
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Gary Noland
Early in the season, Blackhawk coaches Mark Darrow and Shawn Holmes were anticipating that the last regularly scheduled game of the season with Frenchtown would be a game that might decide the District 5-B championship.
Well, projections go awry and the Hawks, after starting the season with three straight wins lost a tough one to Florence, then dropped two more as they tried to recover from injuries, and hopes of a league championshipand a playoff berthfell by the wayside.
But, there's little doubt in anyone's mind who saw Saturday's football game, the last for the season, which team is really the District champion.
The "underdog" Blackhawks didn't play like underdogs. They came out as "top dogs" and handed state-ranked and undefeated Frenchtown a 22-16 loss that kept fans glued to the turf until the final buzzer.
Head coach Darrow thought the game "surprised everyone," except maybe the coaches who had faith in this team all along.
"Mark and I knew all year long they could play like that, and it's tough for us to swallow that we're not in the playoffs," said offensive coach Holmes.
Holmes had to basically re-invent the offense at mid-season when Kaleb Johnson and Ladd Gordon were sidelined with injuries.
Gordon, though, was back in full force Saturday as a fullback, much to the chagrin of Frenchtown Broncs who were unable to stop Gordon picking up crucial first downs on a quick dive play up the center. They were also unable to stop him when he scored the first Hawk touchdown from three yards out to tie the game 8-8 early in the second quarter.
"Lad did a fantastic job, as well as Chris Mood (center)," Holmes said. "We ran at their best linebacker, and I told Mood and Ladd to get after him."
Darrow concurred that the offensive line was a very important factor in Saturday's upset of the Frenchtown powerhouse, which had not lost a regular season game in three years. "We out-hit 'em," Darrow said. "It showed the kids wanted it."
For Darrow, going into half-time with a 15-8 lead was the turning point.
"At that point, the kids felt we could win," he said.
That 7-point half-time lead came in the final three minutes of the first half after Cory Thompson's tackle stopped a fourth-down-and-inches attempt by Frenchtown to sustain a drive past midfield.
Holmes set his offensive squad up in the two-minute offense, with Bobby Clark standing in the shotgun pocket.
Clark twice hit Cameron Gamache for long gainersone for a first down on a third-and-twenty situation that put the Hawks on the 10-yard line with a first down. Clark then scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 6-yard run.
In the third period, Clark, passing on a pitch-out from quarterback Brian Gallea, threw a perfect pass to Gamache that went 46-yards a touchdown. Clark kicked the extra point that gave the Hawks a 22-8 lead.
The Broncs mounted a long scoring drive midway through the fourth period and trimmed the Blackhawk lead to a fragile-looking 6 points, 22-16, with just over 5 minutes left to play.
The Hawks ground out yardage and whittled away at the clock in those last minutes, with Frenchtown calling time-outs in an attempt to regain possession. Any hopes for a last minute reprieve for Frenchtown was dashed when Gordon picked up the last first down, with one minute left, on the quick opener up the center that had worked so well throughout the game.
In a game where every first down was paid for dearlyone, two, four yards at a timethe Hawks utilized the clock to maintain possession, frustrating a Frenchtown team accustomed to setting a game's pace.
Blackhawk strategy was to control the ball. "We took 24 seconds off the clock every play," Holmes said, by signaling Brian (quarterback) from the sideline on when to start the play, and avoiding a delay-of-game penalty. The strategy worked, with the Hawks retaining possession for 16 of the 24 minutes in the first half. The second half was similar.
"That took a lot out of them (Broncs)," Holmes said, adding that they were used to running up a lot of points quickly and wearing the other team down with their momentum.
The game pitted two strong teams against each other. The Blackhawks had no turnovers, and the Broncs only one on a "Hail Mary" pass in the final seconds of the first half that was intercepted by Ty Cameron.
"It was about as old fashioned as you can getthree yards and a cloud of dust," Holmes laughed.
Clark, who last year set the Class B rushing record for a season, accounted for 92 yards on 15 carries Saturday, but the Broncs had their hands full with more than just Clark, with Ty Cameron turning in 41 yards on 8 carries and Ladd Gordon with 28 yards on 10 carries.
Clark, in his final game, completed 5 of 7 passing attempts for 138 yards, including a touchdown.
The Hawk's total rushing came in at 348 yards (162 rushing, 186 passing) to the Bronc's 231 (218 rushing, 23 passing).