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Valier upends Noxon in playoffs

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | November 2, 2022 12:00 AM

In the days of late summer, hope springs eternal on football fields everywhere in this land.

This, the reasoning goes, is going to be our year.

And one of the places that hope was lofty was in Noxon, where a talented, athletic group of young players donned the pads and hit the turf.

But as the season wears on, reality often sets in. Little flaws become exploited and dreams come crashing down, as was the case this past Friday when the Red Devils ran into a seasoned Valier team and lost 52-8 to end their playoff hopes for this year.

The good news: the biggest flaw is not only correctable, it is in the works as the season progresses...experience.

This group of sophomores and juniors to be may not have graduated from the first round of the playoffs this year, but it is quite evident the talent and coaching staff are in place to expect good things from the Red Devils this next few years.

Against Valier, a tall, talented and experienced team, the experience was perhaps most pronounced.

Perhaps it was inexperience, perhaps it was playoff jitters, but in the first half of the first quarter Friday evening, Noxon long snappers produced a fumble and two balls that were hiked over the head of the intended target.

One of those bad snaps set Valier up in good field position, which eventually yielded a five-yard touchdown run and a two-point, point after touchdown (PAT) kick that put the home team up 8-0.

Before the quarter came to an end, another special teams miscue, a side of the foot punt that didn’t go far was in time converted by the Panthers to a 23-yard pass play touchdown.

When the first quarter came to an end, Valier was in the lead, 14-0.

Then came the second quarter, where the Panthers’ defense remained stingy while their offense got things cranked up.

Six minutes into quarter number two, Valier capped a long drive with a two-yard rushing plunge that boosted the home team to a 22-0 lead. Once again the Panthers’ defense forced a Noxon punt, another kick that wobbled sideways and gave Valier the ball in good position.

A short time later, the Panthers found the end zone again, this time on a 25-yard pass play for six. The successful two-point kick resulted in a 30-0 Valier lead.

With time running out in the first half, and with the defense getting the ball back on downs for the offense, Valier put up another eight scoreboard points, this time on a 40-yard touchdown pass and PAT kick.

At the half, Valier led 38-0.

The Panthers got the ball first in the second half and wasted no time increasing their already sizable lead. After overcoming a fumbled snap of their own, Valier completed another successful touchdown pass play, in the process increasing their lead to 46-0 and invoking the Montana Mercy Rule non-stop game clock.

Noxon would finally get on the scoreboard in the opening moments of the fourth quarter but by then it was too big a Valier lead to overcome. The Red Devils lone touchdown was a one-yard leap into the end zone, followed by a PAT kick that made the score 46-8.

In a cruel turn of fate, and maybe a lesson for down the road next year, Noxon went for an onside kick after scoring.

However, that bounced around and was snatched up and returned 42 yards for one final Panthers’ touchdown before time expired in the game and on the Red Devils season.

But take heart Red Devils fans, the future is in good hands with coach Lucas McArthur and staff. They lose just two players, Gage Hendrick, the lone senior from last year’s team, and Johnny Knerr a big, strong running back who transferred to Noxon over the summer.

They have a pair of young quarterbacks who have shown great promise during the year, as have several players who will be sophomores and juniors next year.

Noxon closed the season with a 5-1 Western conference record and a 6-3 season mark. Their only loss in the league this year was to cross-county rival Hot Springs, which also features a young roster and was similarly beaten in the first round this year.

It could be a very interesting few years ahead for six-player football in Sanders County.

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