Bigfork’s football season ended in Red Lodge on Saturday, as the Rams defeated the Vikings 28-25 in the first round of the Class B playoffs.
Still, the young Bigfork team played “probably their best game of the season” against the undefeated Eastern B champions, according to first-year Head Coach Patrick Munson.
The Vikings collected three touchdowns in the first quarter – including two touchdown runs by Levi Taylor – to take a 19-14 lead into the second quarter.
Munson said both teams “exploded on each other offensively” in the opening frame before the defenses settled into the game. “It was a hard-hitting, power-running kind of day,” he said, adding that the icy field made the passing game especially difficult.
Red Lodge managed the only other score before halftime and took a 21-19 lead into the break.
Red Lodge expanded its lead with a touchdown late in the third quarter, but Bigfork senior Kainin Lafontaine responded by returning a kickoff for a touchdown to cut Bigfork’s deficit to three. Munson said the special-teams unit did a great job blocking to set up a lane for Lafontaine up the middle, and Lafaontaine was able to keep his speed without having to cut and evade tacklers on the slick field.
Needing a score in the fourth quarter, Bigfork had to turn to the air, but two interceptions by the Rams sealed a Red Lodge victory.
Munson said turnovers haunted the inexperienced Vikings all year, and costly mistakes kept them from pulling off the upset on Saturday.
“Being such a young team, there’s a lot of variables,” he said. “There were so many first-year starters, even among our upperclassmen.”
Taylor led the Vikings’ rushing attack, racking up 156 yards in 21 carries. Benson had two carries for 53 yards, one of them a 48-yard touchdown tun.
Lafontaine hauled in three catches for 73 yards, the bulk of Bigfork’s yards through the air.
The Vikings finish the season 3-6 overall.
Taylor took over for last year’s star running back, Randy Stultz, and was Bigfork’s season leader in all-purpose yards.
“It’s really promising knowing he’s a sophomore,” Munson said. “He’s a hard-working kid.”
There were also big shoes to fill at the quarterback position, Munson said, with the departure of Anders Epperly. Sophomore Patrick Wallen won the quarterback competition at the beginning of the season and was solid throughout the year.
But Munson said everyone who competed for the position will be back next year.
“The competition is good ... it helps keep everyone on their feet,” he said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Munson highlighted freshman Isak Epperly and sophomore George Bucklin, who each had four interceptions.
After a promising transition year – the first season without 16-year head coach Todd Emslie – Munson is thrilled by the what this young Vikings team could bring to the field next season.
“We had to call on a lot of underclassmen ... that’s the nature of this year’s team,” he said. “We’re excited to see what they can do [next year], and we know there’s room for improvement.”
“The kids were fun to coach all season long,” he added. “They came every day with a good attitude.” »
Red Lodge 14 7 7 0 – 28
Bigfork 19 0 6 0 – 25
RL – Finnegan Davis 7 run (Jay Graham kick), 9:18
B – Levi Taylor 18 run (Tanner Stone kick), 7:59
RL – Davis 77 run (Graham kick), 7:28
B – Luke Benson 48 run (Stone kick no good), 6:24
B – Taylor 6 run (conversion no good), 1:57
RL – Braden Tomlin 6 run (Graham kick good), 9:49
RL – Austin Heimer 1 run (Graham kick good), 3:09
B – Kainin Lafontaine 89 kick return (conversion no good), 2:54
First downs 14 20
Rushing 36-247 49-326
Passing 4-10-76 5-12-55
Total offense 323 381
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties 5-30 6-45
RUSHING – Bigfork, Levi Taylor 21-156, Luke Benson 2-53, Kainin Lafontaine 8-26, Patrick Wallen 4-14; Red Lodge, Finnegan Davis 20-135, Braden Tomlin 9-92, Rizon Berndt 5-43, Austin Heimer 7-30, Jay Jetmore 7-25, Bannack Kisthard 1-1.
PASSING – Bigfork, Patrick Wallen 4-10-2-76; Red Lodge, Austin Heimer 4-9-45, Braden Tomlin 1-3-10.
RECEIVING – Bigfork, Kainin Lafontaine 3-73, Walker Fisher 1-3; Red Lodge, Braden Tomlin 4-45, Austin Heimer 1-10.