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Superior ends season in frigid loss at Culbertson

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | November 9, 2022 12:00 AM

Football is a crazy game. Everyone knows it, and it is strangely why so many people love the game with the oblong ball.

You can be riding high, sailing along, conquering the world and then wham, the wheels fall off.

Maybe no one knows that better than the Superior High Bobcats football team following their 56-34 Montana 8-player playoff loss to Culbertson Saturday afternoon on the frigid, wind-blown fields of the far Northeast corner of the Treasure State.

The Bobcats, it was and is widely acknowledged, have a really good football team.

Just a few weeks ago, they were entering a battled of unbeaten Western District 8-player teams for the regular season throne atop the league standings.

Then, wham. The first warning that something may be amiss rocked the bus in the form of a 58-0 loss to St. Ignatius, the other unbeaten team in the mix for the top of the pile.

Fluke? Possibly, although no one would argue that St. Ignatius is not also a really good football team.

Warning sign of things to come, a bad bearing in the wheel case perhaps?

Doubtful on a Jeff Schultz-coached team where detail and precision reign supreme.

Whatever it was the Cats appeared to have shaken off in the form of a first round playoff pasting of Forsyth one week ago.

The Dogies were rounded up, now on to the Cowboys of the high northern Plains. Cowboys as in Culbertson, as in land of large, powerful running backs well suited for play in the high-wind warning area that is the northeast corner of this spacious state.

Like the wind-blasted debris that piled up against the cyclone fence encircling the Culbertson football field, the Cowboys had their hats tied down and were ready to rumble.

And no one rumbled more or better than Cowboy senior running back Kobe Nickolof, the fire hydrant sized ball carrier who spent the afternoon shredding the Bobcat defense for 289 yards and five rushing touchdowns.

Nickolof ran over, under and through Superior’s defense as part of a whopping 431 yards the home team gained on the ground during the game. Almost as eye-catching was that they did not have any passing yardage or completions during their win.

Note from the high plains: wind is not conducive to passing yards. Short, wind-resistant, bull-strong objects like Nickolof are.

And it didn’t take long for that truism to be borne out. An errant, likely wind-blown pass attempt by the Cats on their first possession floated into the waiting arms of Culbertson’s Payton Perkins with just over two minutes gone in the first quarter.

A few plays later, Nickolof bulled over the Superior goal from five yards out for the first score of the game. A successful two-point after touchdown (PAT) try gave the home team a quick 8-0 lead which they would never relinquish.

After thwarting the next Superior possession and forcing the Cats to punt, Culbertson took over at the 40-yard line. A couple of Nickolof first down runs later, they punched into the Bobcats end zone again, this time from one yard out. Another two-point PAT boosted the Cowboys’ lead to 16-0 with more than half the first quarter still to play.

With the wind howling across the plains, Superior got the ensuing kickoff back on their own 32. From there, Bobcats’ senior running back supreme Decker Milender helped move the team down to the Culbertson one yard line. On the next play, Milender lined up in the Wildcat formation where the ball is hiked to a running back. Milender had no problem waltzing into the Cowboys’ end zone on a one yard gallop. A failed PAT left the score at 16-6 in favor of Culbertson with 5:48 remaining in the opening quarter.

Before the initial quarter came to an end, Culbertson capped a yardage gobbling drive with a one-yard run of its own, boosting their lead back to 22-6 as time ran out in quarter number one.

The two teams traded possessions in the opening minutes of the second quarter when a fumble by Superior set up the Cowboys with the ball near midfield. That’s when Nickolof broke loose outside on his way to a 40-yard thundering TD run, giving Culbertson a 28-6 lead with 8 minutes to play in the first half.

Then, with the winds subsiding a bit, Superior embarked on a drive consisting mostly of short, wind-proof passes that ultimately resulted in Bobcat quarterback Jaxson Green sneaking into the Cowboys’ end zone from half a yard out, cutting the Culbertson lead to 28-12 with just over four minutes to go until halftime.

The Cowboys quickly regrouped and put on a drive of their own, culminating in another run by Nickolof, this one a 10-yard TD scamper as time was running out in the first half.

When the halftime horn sounded, Culbertson held a 34-12 lead.

Culbertson opened the second half with a long drive, topped by a Nickolof four-yard smash. That was followed by a Superior touchdown drive that brought the score to 48-20 with three minutes to play in the third quarter. The Cats took advantage of a fumbled Culbertson snap a short time later and converted it to six points.

Heading into the final quarter, Culbertson was ahead 48-26.

Each team added a touchdown before the game clock ticked to zero and the chilled crowd headed for any place warm and out of the wind.

The loss closed out Superior’s season with an excellent 9-2 overall record, while Culbertson moved to 9-1 on the year. The Cowboys will face Belt next Saturday in Belt in the next round of the playoffs.

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