By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – The Lone Peak Big Horns ended their first campaign as an eight-man program on Oct. 19, with a 74-14 loss to powerhouse Ennis High School. The defeat kept the Big Horns out of the playoffs, as they ended up fifth place in the conference with a 5-4 record.

On Oct. 15, Lone Peak handled Absarokee 63-0 in Big Sky for their final win of the 2016 season. However, they were overmatched in Ennis during an elimination game.

“Ennis, they’re a really good football team. I think they’re probably going to win state,” said Lone Peak head coach Matt Bakken. “They’re fundamentally sound and well coached. Our kids could have played better, but we’re still a pretty young squad.”

LPHS only dressed two seniors this season—Eddie Starz and Bridger Babcock—but they’ll have as many as eight seniors next year. Bakken says the future looks bright for the Big Horns.

“We’re hoping next year we get our juniors and sophomores in the weight room, getting stronger and faster,” Bakken said. “I think they’re going to be a good squad, we just need them to get to some camps [next summer] and improve.”

Standouts for Lone Peak this season included quarterback Eddie Starz who led the team in both passing and rushing yards—as well as touchdowns in each category—and also interceptions on the defensive side of the ball.

Babcock returned this year to notch the team’s second most rushing yards and touchdowns after being sidelined with a knee injury he sustained in the playoffs last season. Bakken said he wasn’t sure Babcock would be able to play this year, but the senior focused on physical therapy over the winter to get back on the field.

Junior Holden Samuels is slated to lead the Big Horns at quarterback next season, and Bakken said he ran the option well when he was called upon this fall.

“I think he’ll do a great job next year—he took over in the Tri-Cities game when Eddie got hurt and did a great job driving us up and down the field.” Samuels also led the defense in tackles as outside linebacker this season.

“We didn’t make the playoffs, but it was a transition year for us,” Bakken said, referencing the team’s move from six- to eight-man football. “It took us a bit to adjust to the new rules and new playbook, but after those first couple of weeks our kids started to click and play really well.”