Arlee High School football coach Chuck Forgey noticed one essential characteristic his team demonstrated to get the 36-32 victory over Centerville in the first round of the MHSA playoffs Friday night at Arlee High School — patience.
“When we were behind in that game, we didn’t panic and our team just stayed calm and acted like we’ve been there before,” Forgey said. “The entire game our team just kept playing hard including our ends and receivers. We just thought we had a little bit of an advantage over them and threw the ball a lot. Our receivers had a few mismatches in the secondary but we just kept calm and continued not to panic.”
With the victory over Centerville, the Warriors now advance to play the No. 1-seeded Fairview team in the MHSA Class C 8-man quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at Fairview High School.
Forgey’s team will enter this week’s game pitted against an undefeated Fairview team that several regional coaches have penciled in to qualify for the state championship game in Butte.
The main storyline headed into this game isn’t just the strength of the Warriors’ opponent, but the length Arlee will have to travel to play them. The Warriors will take the approximately 580-mile one-way road that will also require more than nine hours to arrive.
“We are trying to get everything set up ahead of time so we aren’t sitting around wondering ‘what are we doing?’” Forgey said. “We will get on the bus and travel a little bit more, have our last pre-game practice, and just keep the kids occupied because bus rides can be kind of boring and can make you tired.”
Forgey, who is a former player and coach at Montana Tech University, said he plans on utilizing some tips he learned about playing road football during his playing days.
“You just have to break up the monotony and make it as smooth of a process as you can,” Forgey said. “We just have to be ready to go. I did a lot when I was playing and coaching, and I know what I like. I am just going to mold it after that.”
On the field, Forgey knows to control the tempo of the game. They will have to establish a run game early to control the line of scrimmage and the flow of the game to slowly take the home crowd advantage away from Fairview.
The Warriors have the personnel to do it with their running backs, Darshon Bolen and Colt Crawford.
“We have to get a defensive stop, which will be a great thing particularly in a playoff game, and go ahead to build a little momentum,” Forgey said. “We have to realize the game is not won or lost in the first quarter. We just have to come in the last couple of weeks and not panic, forget about the last play (good or bad) and move on to the next one.”
In the first round of the MHSA state playoffs, the Warriors blasted Chinook 70-6.
“They are a well-coached team, and they’ve been rolling over everyone they’ve played,” Forgey said. “They are solid and sound, and we are going to have to execute at a high level on both sides of the ball to compete with these guys. They are a little bigger than us, do everything well and are very aggressive. Beating them will be a huge challenge for us and we are going to have to compete at a very high level to beat a team like this.
“This week isn’t anything new for us, and we are going to get through watching film and the practice field, and the game plan,” Forgey said. “We will get on the bus and hopefully everyone on our team will be ready to roll.”
Aside from traveling and playing a talented team, the Warriors — with a balanced attack — will also have to contend with throwing into the wind, which is always a factor with a team like Fairview, who is on the border of North Dakota playing on a flat-land field in November.
The temperature at kickoff is projected to be in the mid-40s with a 60-percent chance of rain and the wind at only around 10 MPH, which should be favorable for quarterback Lane Schall to get the ball to his dangerous perimeter targets, such as Chase Gardiner and Greg Whitesell.
Gunning for the top dog
Fairview arguably has one of the top-caliber weapons in running back Cody Asbeck.
Arlee, who has to prepare for Landers Smith of Charlo, Jaxon Lee and Colby Manley, both of Flint Creek, is used to facing top-tier game breakers.
“It does make a big difference when you play against kids you played against the whole season,” Forgey said. “It’s a good thing to play against kids like Landers, Jaxon and Manley because we have to game-plan against kids like them in our conference.
On the road again
In the hypothetical scenario that Arlee defeats Fairview, they will have to return home and get ready for the winner of the Scobey-Great Falls Central game.
If Scobey and Arlee both win, then Arlee will have to turn around and travel to Scobey, a 549-mile, nine-hour trip. If Great Falls wins, they will only have to go approximately 200 miles one way to compete.
Either way, the Warriors continue to work, according to Forgey.
“We are happy we are here but we are not satisfied,” Forgey said. “We are ready to keep working and moving on in the tournament.”
2018 State 8-man FB 1st round
Arlee 36, Centerville 32
Arlee (8-2), Centerville (7-2)
Centerville 14 0 12 6 – 32
Arlee 6 12 6 12 – 36
A – Chase Gardner 29 pass from Lane Schall (PAT failed)
C – Carson McGinness 3 run (PAT failed)
C – McGinness 3 run (McGinness run)
A – Colt Crawford 15 pass from Schall (PAT failed)
A – Gardner 4 pass from Schall (PAT failed)
A – Darshan Bolen 8 pass from Schall (PAT failed)
C – Cooper Davis 4 pass from McGinness (PAT failed)
C – Austin Canoy 14 run (PAT failed)
A – Gardner 53 pass from Schall (PAT failed)
A – Schall 15 run (PAT failed)
C – Jadon Davis 51 pass from McGuinness (PAT failed)
— John Heglie contributed to this article.