With a victory over Manhattan/Manhattan Christian last Saturday, the Fairfield/Augusta football team advances to the Class B semifinal game Nov. 10 against Bigfork.
The 1 p.m. game in Fairfield pits the Eagles, the number one seed from the North at 10-0, against Bigfork, the number two seed from the West at 9-1. The two teams have met twice in playoffs: in 2010 Bigfork defeated Fairfield in the state championship game, 24-21, and in 2016 in the first round of playoffs, Fairfield won, 56-12.
Last week, the Eagles defeated Manhattan/Manhattan Christian (second South), 34-6. In other quarterfinal action, Sweet Grass County (first South) defeated Colstrip (second East), 37-6; Missoula Loyola (first West) defeated Huntley Project (third East), 56-12; Bigfork stopped Roundup/Melstone (first East), 43-18.
Sweet Grass County will play Missoula Loyola in the other semifinal game at Big Timber. The winner of the two semifinals will advance to the state Class B 11-man championship on Nov. 17.
“We have felt all along Bigfork might be the most talented team in Class B this year,” Fairfield head coach Les Meyer said. “They have great size up front and have a bunch of athletes. They were the state championship basketball team a year ago and many of those same players play football as well. They know how to compete and are in a program that has had tremendous success.”
The Eagles themselves had only hoped for a semifinal game. “We were certainly hopeful that we would be able to get to this point,” Meyer said. “It is a long season and anything can happen. We feel very fortunate to play in the semifinal game. It is good for our team and our community to be able to host such an event.”
In their quarterfinal victory, the Eagles waged a defensive battle against Manhattan/Manhattan Christian.
“Coaches are always talking about the three phases of the game. Well it was so true this weekend against Manhattan,” Meyer said. “We struggled on offense at times due to Manhattan’s defense, and we were able to thwart a fake punt thus causing an interception by Payton Becker at the end of the first quarter who ran it in for a score.”
Defensively, Meyer said, the Eagles played Manhattan’s run very well and caused a fumble which also helped. “We had some good returns in the kicking game and had some big offensive plays,” he added.
Meyer said he wasn’t sure there was a particular turning point in the win. “It was a four-quarter ball game, and we just had to keep playing,” he said. “Defense and special teams really made the difference.
Meyer said some of the highlights of the game were: Becker’s interception on the fake punt, Connor Klick running one of their receivers down from behind and Kolter Bouma recovering a fumble. “Real cool stuff for those kids and then for our team,” he said.
“Our D-line (Derek Simmons, Walker Heckman, Kolter Bouma, Kruize Christensen) and inside linebackers (Connor Klick and Dillon Anderson) played well and, in the end of it all, probably allowed our linebackers to have their best game,” Coach Meyer said.
Ryder Meyer led the team in tackles. “Ryder led in tackles because those front guys took up blockers and forced their runners to go east and west and Ryder was able to flow to the ball,” the coach said. “Keeley Bake caused them to have four holding penalties on him because they had difficulties in blocking him.”
The Eagles had 198 yards of rushing. Meyer led with 112 yards on 12 carries and had one touchdown. Libien Becker carried the ball eight times for 21 yards and Dawson Allen 65 yards on two carries for one rushing touchdown.
Fairfield had 132 yards in the air. Quarterback Meyer passed for 118 yards on 13 of 19 attempts. Bake had 18 yards on two of four passes. Bake was the leading receiver with 62 yards on four carries. Allen had 45 yards on five carries, Simmons 11 yards on three carries, Meyer 10 yards on one carry and Becker four yards on one carry.
The Eagles had two interceptions, in addition to Becker’s. Miguel Perez also had an interception in the second half.
“We are really sore and banged up after our game against Manhattan,” Meyer said. “But I think we will be okay by the end of the week.”
Coach Meyer expressed the team’s thanks for all the support at games. “Bigfork will travel well so we will need all hands on deck this weekend,” he said.
Fairfield/Augusta 7-12-2-12 — 34
Manhattan 0-6-6-6 — 6
FF/A — Payton Becker 60-yard interception. (Dawson Allen kick.)
FF/A — Derek Simmons 5-yard pass from Ryder Meyer. (Kick failed.)
Manhattan — Run. (Kick blocked.)
FF/A — Meyer 80-yard run. (Kick no good.)
FF/A — Safety.
FF/A — Allen 15-yard pass from Meyer. (Kick failed.)
FF/A — Allen 56-yard run. (Kick failed.)