Imagine being one of the fighters in a much-anticipated matchup of unbeaten heavyweights.
Within 12 seconds of the opening bell, your top-ranked opponent has caught you with a devasting roundhouse right that knocks you back on your heels.
Four minutes later another upper cut followed by another crushing blow three minutes after that.
That’s what happened to the Clark Fork Mountain Cats in a blowout loss to eastern powerhouse Fairview, as the Warriors ran and passed their way to a 70-6 win in the Montana 8-man football state championship game Saturday at Rocky Mountain College in Billings.
Fairview senior running back Cody Asbeck took the opening kickoff at the Warriors’ three yard line and outran the stunned Mountain Cats defenders on his way to a 77-yard touchdown return, staking the Warriors to a 6-0 lead at the 11:48 mark of the opening 12-minute quarter.
After stopping Clark Fork on its initial possession and forcing them to punt, Fairview needed just three plays, aided by a holding penalty on the Cats, to find the end zone again, this one a 40-yard pass from quarterback Alex Schriver to wide receiver Jesse Selting.
The score just four minutes into the first quarter gave Fairview a 12-0 lead.
Less than a minute later, on Clark Fork’s second possession of the game, the Warriors picked off a pass by Mountain Cats quarterback Bryan Mask. Fairview then used a steady diet of passing and running to move to the Cats 38-yard line.
With just under five minutes remaining in the quarter, Schriver broke through the Clark Fork defense and rambled 38 yards for six points. A successful 2-point after conversion boosted the Warriors’ lead to 20-0.
Fairview, which entered the game 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in class C-8
Montana football, once again stopped Clark Fork’s ensuing drive, this time taking over on downs at their own 29.
On the first play after regaining control of the ball, Schriver hooked up with Asbeck on a 29-yard passing TD, upping the Warrior advantage to 26-0 with 3:18 remaining in the opening frame.
Stifled all at every turn by a swarming, relentless Fairview defense, Clark Fork was forced to punt again, leaving the Warriors with the ball on their own 13.
But Fairview wasted no time lighting up the scoreboard yet again when Asbeck hauled in a 67-yard catch and run touchdown. The point after pass was good and as the quarter came to an end, Fairview had a commanding 34-0 lead.
Dazed but still fighting, Clark Fork took the Fairview kicked at their own 14.
The Cats offense began to show signs of solving the Warriors’ defense and put together a long drive aided by a pass interference call on Fairview in the end zone.
With 11 minutes to go in the first half, Mountain Cats senior running back Trey Green burst through the line of scrimmage and plunged into the end zone, putting Clark Fork on the scoreboard.
Ahead 34-6 at that point, the Fairview offense went on yet another scoring journey behind the running and passing of Schriver and Asbeck. A two-yard run by Asbeck, followed by a 2-point conversion run by Schriver boosted Fairview’s lead to 42-6 with eight minutes to go before halftime.
With the clock running non-stop except for timeouts and changes of possession as outlined by the Montana High School Association mercy rule rule, Clark Fork’s next drive ended when Schriver intercepted a Mask pass.
On the next play, Schriver scampered down the sideline on his way to a 31-yard touchdown. He then connected with Asbeck for the 2-point conversion pass and with 2:30 left in the half, Fairview’s lead grew to 50-6.
On Clark Fork’s next possession, Fairview Brady Buxbaum intercepted Mask once more, giving the Warriors the ball on the Cats 21. On that play, Mask collided with Warriors linebacker Braiden Taylor, leaving both players injured and knocking Mask out of the game with a concussion.
Once play resumed, Schriver tossed a 21-yard scoring TD to Selting, giving Fairview a 56-6 lead at the half.
With quarterback Mask sidelined for the game, Clark Fork opened the second half with Green running the show out of the Wildcat formation. They gamely marched downfield until Fairview’s stout defense stopped them on downs and got the ball back at their own 17-yard line.
With 6:35 to go in the third quarter, Schriver once again hooked up with Asbeck on a long 63-yard catch and run touchdown, upping their advantage to 62-6.
Schriver would close out the game’s scoring with time running out in the third when he intercepted a fourth-and-18 Mountain Cats pass and romped 21 yards for a score. Asbeck added the game’s final two points on a successful point after touchdown run.
The loss dropped the third-ranked Cats to 12-1 on the year after a scoreless final quarter.
After the game, Mountain Cats head coach Jeff Schultz had nothing but praise for his team’s 2019 campaign.
“This was one hell of a year,” he said. “I know it hurts these guys, but the year we had was awesome. It was a lot of fun and these guys were great to coach.”
Looking to next year, the Cats will have some holes to fill but have a promising group of returnees as well as a solid junior high group waiting in the wings.
Gone will be star two-way player Green, along with talented two-way standouts Caleb Cook, Kyler Francis, Hewston Coon, Isaiah Kovalsky, Wesley Buchanan and offensive/defensive lineman Jacob Lapinski, as well as senior lineman Jordan Taapken.
However, the Cats return a nucleus of talent, led by Mask, Jake Calloway and standout lineman Aaron Waddle.
As one observer noted after the presentation of trophies, “there are a whole bunch of other teams in this state who wish they could have played in that game.”