Noxon challenges top-seeded Geraldine-Highwood

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With the No. 4 seed from the West Division, Noxon has earned a berth in the Class C 6-man football state playoffs. The Red Devils, fresh off a convincing 56-14 conference road win over Valley Christian, travel to play Geraldine-Highwood at 1 p.m. Saturday in Highwood. The Rivals are the No. 1 seed from the North Division.

The Red Devils make the seven-hour bus ride to Highwood, broken up by an overnight stay Friday in Great Falls and a practice along the way.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity,” Noxon head coach Bart Haflich said Sunday. “We can find ways to score, we try to make that a tradition. We’ll see how we stack up against one of the better teams (in Class C 6-man).”

While Noxon had a 5-3 season record, Geraldine-Highwood was 7-0 in the North Division and is 8-1 overall.

“They are pretty deep … They’re as good as any (team) in the state,” Haflich said. “They’re big, strong, fast and physical. You’ve got to beat them all (every team you play) if you get in the playoffs.”

Noxon logged three touchdowns on the scoreboard in the first quarter against Valley Christian in Alberton last Friday. After a safety and two points for Noxon, Cade VanVleet scored on a 19-yard run and brother Eddie VanVleet on a 52-yard dash to the end zone. Levi Brubaker kicked his first and second of six straight PATs for an 18-0 first-quarter lead.

Valley Christian found the end zone on a 52-yard pass from Tyler Bell to Ty Messner, but the Red Devils scored the next 24 first-half points on three touchdowns — a 60-yard kickoff return by Brubaker, and 27-yard and 25-yard aerials to Eddie VanVleet, the first one by Jeriko Smith and the second from Brubaker on a double-pass.

In the second half, the Red Devils reeled in their horses and scored twice — on a dive by Brubaker and 12-yard pass from Smith to freshman Wyatt Lackner, his first varsity touchdown.

HAFLICH GAVE credit to sophomore quarterback Smith.

“He did a good job of running the offense … That’s good to see going into the playoffs,” the coach said. “He’s getting a little more experienced and confident each week.”

Haflich also had praise senior Eddie VanVleet, who played well on both sides of the football, and “the rest of the boys did a lot of good things … I’m happy with the way the defense stepped up. Defense is definitely paramount now (in the playoffs).

“It’s down to little things, like extra points. Sometimes those are the difference in the game. And getting a couple of extra stops (on defense).”

The coach indicated that Geraldine-Highwood has a fairly balanced offense, led by quarterback Brady Duvall. And 10 players were involved in the scoring in the Rivals’ 74-42 win over North Star earlier this season.

“They’re deep, they have four or five who are pretty solid,” Haflich said, and he called Isiah Maxwell, one of the Rivals running backs “a beast.”

The Red Devils are excited to extend their season with a playoff appearance Saturday at Highwood.

“A little bit of bonus football. We’re going to go out and see what happens, and try to get another week,” Haflich said.

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