Devils bid for rematch repeat

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By The Staff

The McBee High School football program took decades to record its first-ever playoff victory. Great Falls coach Kenneth Schofield hopes to make the Panthers wait at least a year for postseason win number two. Last Friday’s 14-12 win over Christ Church in the first round of the Division II-A playoffs was a high watermark for the school, and the players know it, according to coach Terry Sowell. “When I first got here four years ago, I didn’t know the history,” Sowell said. “But we’ve got faculty members who’ve been here for a long time. Our Ag teacher told me when I got here, and the kids have heard about it too.”

To go any further, though, Sowell said his team has to want more. “I’ve seen teams before that win one playoff game and get satisfied,” Sowell said. “This isn’t the time to get satisfied.” Sowell said there’s a hurdle for his squad to clear that’s even bigger than a past filled with playoff losses and more significant than the feeling of contentment that comes with a historic win – the players in red and black. “Great Falls has a lot of great athletes,” Sowell said. “They are a well-coached team with a lot of speed.” The Panthers saw that speed one month ago when the Red Devils came to town and claimed a 25-0 victory. “We’ll have to adjust some things from the first time we met,” Sowell said. “We just weren’t blocking them in that game.” Though the Devils won by a comfortable margin, the score stood at 6-0 just seconds before halftime, with Great Falls’ one score coming off a McBee turnover. Great Falls coach Kenneth Schofield said that game was tough and this one will be, too. “We’re going to have our hands full,” Schofield said. “We got some breaks in that first game. They gave us a real physical ball game.” Schofield said he expected McBee to play their standard game this week, keeping the ball on the ground out of a wishbone offense and chewing up the clock. Schofield said his team can’t afford to make the same mistakes they did last week, when they turned the ball over six times and had nearly 100 yards of penalties in a 41-7 first round win over Dixie. “We have to put ourselves in a better position this week,” Schofield said.

Health-wise, Schofield said his team was in good shape coming out of the Dixie game. For McBee, an injury from the first encounter with the Red Devils has lingered. Star junior running back Justin Bristow, who has posted three straight 1,000 yard seasons, has been very limited for the past few weeks, playing minimal snaps in a loss to Chesterfield and only getting in for five plays last week. “He practiced last week, but his ankle was giving him problems once the game started,” Sowell said. “His style is to plant and cut, and he wasn’t able to do that. He’s practiced this week and said he felt better, so we’ll see.” Quarterback Marques Stephens has bounced back from the leg injury he suffered against Great Falls, leading the team in rushing last week. If Bristow continues to be limited with his injury, Santoneo Wright and Delonta Dunlap will pick up the slack. Neither coach said they were a big fan of playing the same team twice in such a short period of time, but said after the first game they expected to see one another again. “We knew we’d eventually have to see them to get where we want to go,” Schofield said. “It’s a credit to our region that we still have so many teams playing.” Sowell said his team would leave nothing on the table. “We look at it like we’ve got nothing to lose playing them,” Sowell said. “Great Falls is supposed to be in the second round and we’re not. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got.” Kickoff is set for 7:30 tonight at Pride Valley. The winner of the Great Falls-McBee game advances to face the Whitmire vs. Ridge Spring-Monetta survivor next Friday.