The Columbia Falls football team made school history Saturday at Satterthwaite Field, winning its first ever state A championship over Hamilton, 26-14.
The Wildcats played good old fashioned smash mouth football, pounding the ball with a relentless running attack. The Cats dominated the time of possession against Hamilton. But o the Broncs credit, they did a good job of keeping the Cats out of the end zone. It was four Auguste Emond field goals that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Cats opened an early 10-0 lead against the Broncs after Emond hit a 22-yard field goal with 7:59 in the first quarter and Ben Windauer caught a 3-yard touchdown pass with 2:51 left in the quarter.
Columbia Falls increased the lead to 13 after Emond made a 29-yard field goal with 4:31 left in the second quarter.
But Hamilton would score a touchdown to make it 13-7. The Cats responded with a nice drive at the end of the half and, with 29 seconds left, Emond hit a 32-yard field goal to put the Cats up 16-7 at the break.
Emond missed a 24-yard field goal attempt with about four minutes gone in the third quarter, after a drive that was set up by a Windauer interception. Emond made up for the miss six minutes later with a 24-yard field goal that put the Wildcats up 19-7 with 2:03 to play in the quarter.
But the Broncs responded — early in the fourth Bronc quarterback Carson Rostad hit Bridger Bauder for a touchdown to cut the margin to 19-14.
But that’s as close as Hamilton would get.
With 6:41 left in the fourth, Green connected with Windauer for a 42-yard touchdown reception to put the game away. Emond hit the extra point to make it 26-14.
“I knew the route would be there before the play started. I motioned to (Green) that I was going to be open. I went out and just saw the ball coming through the air and I just went for it,” Windauer said of the play. “It’s awesome to finally win a title. It’s more than I could have imagined. We’ve dreamed about this since we were little kids and we are finally here. We did it.”
Green saw the play materialize, too.
“I looked up and I saw Ben uncovered in the middle of the field,” Green said. “That was actually a choice route. He read his defender and he and I were reading the same thing. He was way outside the defender and knew that he was going to be able to cut his feet and be standing by himself in the middle of the field. From the moment he stepped into the end zone, I knew the game was over. I knew our defense would be able to hold on.”
The team worked long and hard for this.
“This is a dream come true,” Green said. “This group of seniors, we have been playing together since third grade. This has always been our goal and this has always been our dream. It’s everything we dreamed it would be.”
Green was 12 for 20 passing for 165 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 25 carries for 170 yards. The team had 59 rushing attempts for 386 yards. Junior Colten McPhee had 28 carries for 187 yards. Logan Kolodejchuk had six carries for 29 yards.
On the receiving end, Windauer led the way with five receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Morgan had one catch for nine yards; McPhee had one catch for 24 yards; Kolodejchuk had three catches for 19 yards; Logan Bechtel caught one pass for 15 yards and Parker Greene had one reception for 10 yards.
The Cats had a whopping 551 yards of offense in the victory.
Both the Cats offense and defensive lines played stellar ball once again.
“I just wanted us to stay tough and keep pushing their line to keep the ball moving,” said senior center Hayden Falkner. “This feeling is indescribable, especially after losing last year. We were able to come back and get another chance at it and we made the most of it. This is awesome.”
McPhee said they just wanted to hammer the Broncs, and they did.
“We just wanted to pound the ball and run it right down their throat. That was our plan coming in and we were able to execute that,” he said. “Words can not describe how this feels. We left everything out there, for sure. We came into this game knowing that we were going to win. We knew what we wanted to happen and we put it all out there and got it done.”
For Emond, a standout soccer player, it was all about doing his job.
“It was not a surprise being out there so much. I knew it might happen and I just did what needed to be done,” he said. “This is crazy. I’ve never felt this feeling before and I am super stoked that I was able to win a state championship in my high school career. It’s insane finally getting a title win this year.”
Coach Jaxon Schweikert said the game went as planned.
“We felt like if we didn’t put our defense in a bad position, we’d win,” he said.
This was only the third championship game the school has ever played in. They lost in the “fog bowl” in 1970 to Havre and last year they fell short to Dillon.
But this year’s squad was built differently. Last year, they depended on the pass. This year, they’ve pounded the rock all season long behind junior McPhee, Green and Kolodejchuk.
The offensive line was one of the best ever as well. The Cats finished the season with a 9-1 record. Their only loss was to Dillon 16-14, in the second game of the year. The Cats outscored their opponents 91-22 in the playoffs and 381-81 for the season.
The school postponed the usual fire truck ride through town until next Monday — the players, who have missed most of hunting season, wanted to get into the woods before the season ended.
Columbia Falls 25, Hamilton 14
Hamilton 0 7 0 7 — 14
Columbia Falls 10 6 3 7 — 26.