By Chris Samuels EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – On Sept. 22, the Lone Peak Big Horns hosted the Tri-Cities Titans for the first ever matchup in Big Sky between teams ranked in the top 10 in the state in 8-man football.
The Big Horns came into the Homecoming game with a 4-0 record and ranked No. 10. The No. 3 ranked Titans, also sporting a 4-0 record, held a 22-19 lead with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter with heavy snow falling on the field. The Big Horns drove the ball down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown, until they reached the 15-yard line and then misconnected on a pitch to turn the ball over. Tri-Cities scored on the next play and owned the last minutes of the game to win 42-19.
The first half featured a back-and-forth fight. The Titans senior Tucker Walter ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and senior running back Jordan Nees made the two-point conversion that left the Homecoming crowd somewhat deflated in the opening seconds. Sophomore quarterback Frankie Starz promptly led the Big Horns down the field and senior all-purpose back Liam Germain plunged in for the score. Junior kicker Milosz Shipman converted the extra point kick and it was 8-7, Tri-City leading.
Lone Peak closed the half with senior wide receiver Howie Robin catching a spectacular 30-yard touchdown pass from Starz that was deflected by a Tri-City defender and then hauled in by Robin. The half time score stood at 16- 13, Titans lead.
It started to snow just before half time and by the time the teams took the field to start the third quarter, the field was covered. Both teams channeled energy into their defense, and the Big Horns air attack was stifled as the snow piled up on the field. The Titans continued to run the ball and Lone Peak’s defense stiffened.
The Lone Peak defense was led by junior middle linebacker Cole March, senior defensive end Jackson Wade and sophomore outside linebacker Austin Samuels, who made a tremendous stop on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line to keep the Big Horns in the game.
Midway through the third quarter, senior fullback Rhett Leuzinger took a screen pass at midfield and with excellent blocking and hard running took it 41 yards in for the score to cut the Titans lead to 22-19. After another stop from the Big Horn defense, the home team set out on the drive that would determine the outcome of the game. After moving the ball inside the Titans’ 20-yard line, LPHS committed the turnover with nine minutes left that ended the drive and essentially ended the night for the Big Horns.
The snow and Tri-Cities’ running game ruled the last eight minutes of the game. Nees wore down the Big Horn defense with his running in the last few minutes and quarterback Zack Thomas ran for big yardage as well. The snow was 3 to 4 inches deep on the field and it gave the referees fits trying to find the yard lines and hash marks. The snow-laden field favored the visitors and their ground-oriented attack.
At halftime, Homecoming King Jackson Wade and Homecoming Queen Bryn Iskendarian were recognized.
The Big Horns will host Park City on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 1 p.m.