The Choteau High School varsity football team finished their season with a 5-4 record, falling to Fairview, 70-8, on Nov. 2 in the first round of the Class B/C eight-man playoffs.
The CHS Bulldogs came into the game as the fourth seed out of the Northern Division with a 5-3 overall record. Fairview entered the contest as the top seed out of the Eastern C Division with an overall record of 8-0.
The Warriors will be back on their home field Nov. 9 against the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks (9-1 after a first-round victory over Twin Bridges). In other quarterfinal games on Nov. 9, Fort Benton will play Park City at home; Superior/Alberton will play Belt at home; and Drummond/Granite will play Great Falls Central Catholic at Great Falls.
CHS head coach Lucas Gunderson on Monday told the Acantha that Fairview was a great team, the best the Bulldogs have faced in the past three years. He said the Warriors were well coached, athletic, disciplined and very diversified on offense.
“Just from what I’ve seen, they are the number 1 team in the state,” Gunderson said. “It’ll be tough to take them down.”
Gunderson said Fairview’s size advantage and fundamental soundness just boxed the Bulldogs in and left them few options for scoring or for preventing the Warriors from scoring.
“They were fundamentally sound and we just couldn’t get past them,” he said.
Gunderson said the Choteau Bulldogs this year were a resilient group who worked together to overcome adversity caused by multiple injuries, including an early season one that knocked senior Bryce Gramm out for the season and a late season one that sidelined sophomore Carter Morgan for the post-season.
“These kids understand the team concept; it’s never been about anyone individually,” he said. “They were all unselfish.”
Another trait of this team, he said, was that they fought the whole game, every game, even when it became apparent that they could not win.
Choteau’s team had 10 seniors on it, and Gunderson said they will be missed. “They are just a great group of guys,” he said.
Choteau’s seniors are Gramm, running backs Kyler Crabtree and Gage Cummings, quarterback Johnny Rappold, tight-end Keegan Thomas, linemen Brady Armstrong, Declan Fladstol and Chris Fuhringer, center Sam Stutz and wide receiver Kolby Kovatch.
Gunderson said he told the seniors that they have become great young men who will be able to excel at whatever they put their minds to because they have learned how to work hard.
The coach also thanked assistant coaches Dan Yeager and Chad Peebles, the school administration, parents, community members and his family for all their help and support during the season.
In the playoff game, Choteau won the coin toss and began the game on offense. The Bulldogs’ first drive ended with a quick three-and-out giving the ball to Fairview. Fairview senior quarterback Alex Shriver on the first play of the drive took the ball 72 yards on a quarterback keeper for the first of many touchdowns on the day. Senior running back Cody Asbeck converted on the two-point conversion making it 8-0 with 10:22 left in the first quarter.
Choteau fumbled on its next drive, resulting in a recovery by FHS senior wide receiver Braiden Taylor. Asbeck was then on the receiving end of a touchdown that was negated by a penalty. However, the Warriors would quickly get back in the end zone again on another keeper by Shriver and a successful two-point conversion. With 9:51 left in the first quarter, Fairview was leading 16-0.
Choteau turned the ball over on the next drive, throwing an interception to Asbeck. Shortly after, Shriver found Taylor with a touchdown pass now leading 24-0. The Warriors scored one more time in the first quarter on a touchdown reception by junior tight end Paul Hardy. At the end of the first quarter, the score was 0-32.
As the second quarter began, Fairview continued the onslaught. Asbeck found the end zone on a 40-yard run for another touchdown followed by another touchdown run of 30 yards. The first half ended with a running a clock and a score of 48-0.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Choteau kicked off to Asbeck, who scored on a 72-yard kickoff return. Later in the quarter, junior Brady Buxbaum got in on the scoring being on the receiving end of a touchdown. The score was 64-0 at the end of the third quarter.
With one quarter remaining, Fairview sophomore running back Jace Vitt converted for the Warriors final touchdown of the game on a five-yard run making it 70-0. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, leaving Fairview with unsuccessful two-point conversion all game.
In the final seconds of the game, Choteau’s Crabtree found the end zone on a handoff from senior quarterback Rappold, giving the Bulldogs their only touchdown of the game. Crabtree also ran in the two-point conversion.