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Blue Hawks stay unbeaten with 61-6 win over Plains

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
Clark Fork Valley Press/Mineral Independent | October 20, 2021 12:00 AM

A consensus is building that the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks are the best 8-man football team in Western Montana.

After a 61-6 thrashing of the Plains Horsemen Saturday afternoon in Plains, the Blue Hawks are 8-0 and have outscored their opponents 431-94.

That’s an average margin of victory of 42.1 points per game.

Thompson Falls is scoring 53.9 ppg. and allowing just 11.8.

Charlo was the first victim (42-0), St. Regis was next (44-26), then Mission fell by a 63-6 margin. Superior, unbeaten at the time, lost 49-0.

In the second half of the season, Thompson beat Seeley Swan, 62-6, Darby, 49-26, Arlee, 61-24, and then Plains.

Thursday, the Blue Hawks will very likely wrap up an undefeated regular season when they host Troy. The Trojans have just one win this season.

The playoffs will begin in two weeks and the Blue Hawks, if they keep winning, will not have to leave Western Montana or even their home field.

Saturday, the Blue Hawks led Plains 33-0 after the first quarter. Two interceptions were returned for touchdowns and a punt was also returned for six points. A botched Plains punt also led to a short field and a quick Blue Hawks score.

For the 0-6 Horsemen, they wrapped up a rough week in which they lost at Victor (60-6) on Wednesday in a makeup game from earlier in the season.

Saturday, the senior-less Horsemen opened with the ball and picked up two first downs when Nicholas Hill ran for 12 yards on a reverse and then freshman quarterback Darren Standeford hit sophomore Joe Martin for a 2-yard catch.

Martin was hit hard by a Blue Hawks defender, but was able to walk off the field.

The next play was the beginning of the Thompson Falls scoring barrage when junior defensive back Josh Wilhite picked off a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown and a 6-0 lead.

Plains got one first down on its next possession when Standeford hit sophomore Drew Carey for a 10-yard gain. A Thompson offside penalty gave the Horsemen five yards but three missed passes resulted in a punt attempt. The snap was low and Standeford grabbed it and tried to throw, but it fell incomplete and the Blue Hawks were in business at the Plains 30.

Junior quarterback Eli Ratliff, who went over 600 rushing yards Saturday, ran for 14 yards on first down, then 16 for a touchdown on the next play.

Senior kicker Nathan Schraeder split the uprights on the extra point and the Blue Hawks led 13-0 with 7:42 to play in the first quarter.

The Horsemen’s third possession ended the same way the first one did - with an interception return for a score by the opponent.

Ratliff picked off Standeford and cruised into the end zone for a 19-0 lead.

Plains got the ball back and Standeford hit Carey for two completions, but both didn’t result in any positive yardage. A third down pass was off the mark and the ensuing punt was returned 40 yards by Breck Ferris for another score. Schraeder’s kick was good and it was 26-0 with 4:57 left in the first.

Plains punted again after not gaining any yards and the punt died at the Blue Hawks 25.

Thompson Falls needed just two plays to hit pay dirt again. Trae Thilmony started with a 23-yard run, then Ryan Bucher got the call and took it the final 32 yards for a touchdown. Schraeder’s kick pushed the score to 33-0 with 3:25 left.

The Horsemen picked up one first down on the next set of downs after Hill picked up nine yards on a reverse. But they eventually punted and the Hawks got it back at their 35.

Freshmen Bryson LeCoure took over at quarterback and he settled in quickly, hitting sophomore Max Hannum for a 3-yard gain. Wilhite then ran for 8 yards before LeCoure found senior Jordan Fisher on a short pass and he took it for a 34-yard TD. It was now 39-0 with 9:45 left in the first half.

Plains sophomore Denny Black gave the Trotters a first down with a tough catch for 20 yards from Carey on a halfback pass. But two plays later, sophomore defender Nick Tessier picked off a pass and returned it 11 yards to midfield.

The Blue Hawks were back in the end zone three plays later after LeCoure hit Wilhite for a 40-yard TD pass. That made it 45-0 and the running clock began due to the mercy rule.

Plains stopped Thompson Falls on its first possession of the second half and scored a few plays later when EZ Fleenor found the end zone to make it 45-6.

The Blue Hawks scored the final two touchdowns. Ratliff returned and hit Tessier for a 40-yard TD catch. Tessier then picked off a Plains pass which set up sophomore Brazton Dorscher’s 70-yard TD run.

Plains will finish its season Friday at Mission.

NOTES: Plains football manager Grace Horton was honored before the game during Senior Night festivities. The daughter of Rick and Kelly Horton, Grace managed the team all four years. She also played basketball three years and golf two years. She is a National Honor Society member and plans to attend college and enter the medical field as a nurse or veterinarian.