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Playoff poise

Vikings never get rattltled after falling behind White Sulphur Springs by 20 points and storm back for a 58-50 shootout win

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After surviving a 58-50 shootout with White Sulphur Springs in the first round of the playoffs Saturday, the Vikings huddled in the middle of the field and calmly raised nine fingers to their home crowd.

Maybe the stoic manner in which they held up their fingers representing the nine games they have won so far in their 12-step program to become state champions was because they had just spent all their emotions in an epic battle that had too many highs, lows and turning points to count.

In a slugfest unique to eight-man football, where the two teams combined for more than 900 yards, the Vikings took the first punch squarely on the chin and if it wasn’t for a goal-line stand, a freshman stepping up big time and a long touchdown pass right before the half they may have not been able to pick themselves off of the canvas.

With the snowcapped Mission’s spotted with the yellowing larch trees making it clear it was the playoff season behind the White Sulphur Springs’ bleacher, it was the Hornet fans doing all the cheering in the first quarter as the fourth-seed from the south took a 20-0 lead over the third-ranked team in the state.

The no-huddle, spread offense of the Hornets came out firing on all cylinders scoring on a 2-yard run set up by a 17-yard and 32-yard pass. The Hornets added another six on a 21-yard pass and closed out the scoring when Hornet linebacker Tanner Blair stole a Chico 

Stipe pass out of the hands of Kolton Andrews and returned it 14 yards to make it 20-0 with less than 20 seconds to play in the quarter. The Hornets also could’ve have added another touchdown early in the quarter, if not for an open-field tackle by Tra Ludeman on a sweep on a fourth-and-goal inside the 1-yard line.

If there was ever a time to panic, this was the time. Not only were they down 20 to an offense that they knew was going to put a lot more points on the board, but their own offense looked dismal. They had no first downs in the first quarter, Stipe, their senior quarterback and leader, misfired on seven of his passes in the quarter, and was playing with a little limp after hurting his ankle and having to sit out a couple plays. The running attack that averaged 241 yards in their eight victories had only managed 11 yards in the first quarter. Even with everything going against them, for some reason the Vikings stayed calm.

“They were beating us in every aspect of the game right at the start. They came out fast and strong, but every week, every time before we step onto the field our coach preaches to us about keeping our poise and staying at that level and not letting yourself get down before the game is over,” said Stipe, who connected on five TD passes and also ran for a 47-yard TD and put the game out of reach with a 25-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. “This game takes four quarters. It’s a 48-minute ball game. If you don’t play all 48 minutes, you’re going to lose. We played 48 minutes today.”

After getting their first first down on a pass interference call 12 seconds into the second quarter, the Vikings moved the ball down to the Hornets’ 4-yard line when freshman Jacen Petersen caught a 15-yard pass. Andrews took it in from there to make it 20-8 and give the Vikings some hope with a little more than 10 minutes to play in the half.

Stipe and Petersen hooked up again about five minutes later on a slant down the middle of the field for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 20-16. Stipe also found Petersen in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard score to give the Vikings a 36-28 lead at 6:53 in the third quarter.

After Petersen’s first touchdown, the Hornets pushed the lead back to 28-16 on a 7-yard TD pass from Cy Williams to Logan Barfuss. It looked like they were going to take the two-touchdown lead into the break, but Stipe found senior teammate Austin Bauer slashing down the Hornets’ sideline for a 37-yard strike with just 6.6 seconds left in the half to make it 28-24 and change the whole outlook of the game and mood of the Vikings in the locker room. 

The Vikings took the opening drive of the second half 40 yards, scoring on 5-yard TD reception by Bauer at 9:54 to give them their first lead (30-28) of the game and a lead they never would relinquish. Bauer finished with 87 yards on six catches.

With Bauer able to find the holes in the Hornets’ zone in the middle of the field and the Hornets unable to just concentrate on stopping the run,  the high-powered Viking offense really got moving in the second half.

They put up 20 points in the third quarter and another 14 in the fourth quarter to hold on for the wild victory.

After the slow start, the Vikings finished with 239 yards on 45 carries. Stipe led the way with 132 yards on 18 carries. After starting the game 0-8 with one interception, Stipe connected on 15 of his next 22 passes for 229 yards and five touchdowns.

Ludeman rushed for 74 yards on 16 carries. Andrews finished with 33 yards on 11 carries and 53 receiving yards on three receptions, scoring on a 32-yard pass to make it 52-28 with 10:16 to play. 

“I’ve never been in a game like that. That was cool,” said Stipe, who was beat up and exhausted after the game. “It’s frustrating, it’s exciting, it’s a good feeling, but I hope we’re never in a game like that again.”

While Viking coach Mike Krahn preaches to his team about keeping their poise and staying calm, he was nervous after the first quarter, after watching the Hornets’ defensive line, which was anchored by the 295-pound noseguard Cody Zimmerman, constantly push back the Vikings’ line to completely stop the run game and cancel out the Vikings’ speed advantage.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a football game, where we’ve been down 20 and comeback and beat them. It just doesn’t happen. It’s tough for high school kids to have that mentality, especially against a team like that that can put up points in a comeback really shows the character of our kids,” Krahn said. “These are things that they are going to be able to draw back on later in life.” 

The Vikings will host the Chinook Sugarbeeters Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Sugarbeeters are 8-1 and beat Scobey 42-6 last week. Their only loss was to Fort Benton the number one seed from the north, who will host Drummond this weekend.


Charlo 58,  Sulphur Springs 50

W. Sulphur20 8022–50

Charlo 0 24 20 14– 58

WSS - Keith Forkin 2 run (run failed)

WSS - Tyler West 21 pass from Cy Williams (pass failed), 

WSS - Tanner Blair 14 interception return (West pass from Williams)

C - Kolten Andrews 4 run (Tra Ludeman run

C - Jacen Petersen 25 pass from Chico Stipe (Stipe run)

WSS - Logan Barfuss 7 pass from Williams (Forkin pass from Williams)

C - Austin Bauer 37 pass from Stipe (Andrews pass from Stipe), 

C - Bauer 5 pass from Stipe (pass failed)

C - Petersen 6 pass from Stipe (pass failed)

C - Stipe 47 run (Ludeman pass from Stipe)

C - Andrews 32 pass from Stipe (Austin Reynolds pass from Stipe)

WSS - Blair 47 pass from Williams (West pass from Williams)

WSS - Forkin fumble recovery in end zone (Blair pass from Williams)

C - Stipe 25 run (pass failed)

WSS - Blair 22 pass from Williams (pass failed)

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