By Chris Samuels EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Lone Peak senior halfback Liam Germain plunged into the end zone from 4 yards out during the Big Horns’ Sept. 2 home opener, putting the home team ahead for good with 18 seconds left in an epic battle against the Bearcats, one of the state’s top 8-man football teams.

Germain’s score capped a two-touchdown comeback in a five minute period and secured LPHS’s victory. Just minutes earlier, sophomore quarterback Frankie Starz calmly led the Big Horns down the field and found sophomore receiver Austin Samuels over the middle with a pass. Samuels raced in for the score. After junior kicker Milosz Shipman converted the point after touchdown, the home team was down by just three points.

Big Horn senior Liam Germain weaves through the Bearcats cover team during a second half kickoff return.

That’s when the Big Horn defense took over. Led by a front line of senior co-captains Jackson Wade and Evan Redmon, the Big Horn’s stuffed the Bearcats inside the 5-yard line and blocked a punt to set up Germain’s final score.

The LPHS football team is in its second season of 8-man football. Last year’s inaugural team finished 5-4 and just missed the playoffs. The 2017 Big Horns are led by seven seniors and are off to a strong start.

“This senior-led team finally believes they can, and should win,” said LPHS assistant coach Dan Wade. “They fought through mistakes, and never quit fighting. The result was a big ‘W.’”

DGS rolled into town with a history of state championships and a 2017 team that was ranked fourth in Montana 8-man football leading into the football season’s second week. Led by quarterback Zack Solomon’s running and passing, the Bearcats promptly broke out to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter before tough running by senior Big Horn Rhett Leuzinger and pinpoint passing from Starz got the Big Horn offensive machine cranked up.

On the last play of the first half, Starz eluded the rush and found senior receiver Howie Robin from 30 yards out to go up 26-20 at halftime with Lone Peak in the lead.

Starz, who was playing his second game ever at quarterback, threw four touchdowns—three to Robin—and just one interception. Starz was thrust into the starting role when senior co-captain Holden Samuels went down with a season-ending ACL injury at football camp this summer.

Leuzinger added a rushing touchdown and led the Big Horns in tackles. Shipman kicked a total of four PATs and did a phenomenal job pinning DGS deep with six touchbacks off kickoffs. Senior Zach Cone snagged a couple of passes and came up big on defense along with junior Cole March and sophomore Ryker Potter.

“The coaches are just really happy for our players, it’s obviously still early, but we hope to capitalize on a strong start and make a real push towards a playoff spot,” said Lone Peak head coach Adam Farr. “We have the talent and senior leadership needed for a special season, it’s a matter of focus and execution from here.” 

On Sept. 8, the Big Horns nabbed another win, defeating the Broadview/Lavina Pirates 42-8 in Lavina. For the first time in the program’s history, LPHS ‘s football team has started the season with a 3-0 record. The squad is currently No. 10 among 44 teams in the state’s Class C 8-man football rankings.

Robin rushed for three touchdowns against the Pirates and caught a touchdown pass, and Leuzinger rushed for two touchdowns. Shipman kicked four PATs and Austin Samuels caught a pass for a 2-point conversion from Starz.

On defense, the Big Horns notched multiple sacks led by linemen Wade and Redmon. Lone Peak also intercepted three passes, with Cone, Starz and Samuels each snagging one.

On Aug. 25, the Big Horns traveled to Harlowton to take on the Engineers, a 2016 playoff team. After allowing the Engineers to gain a 16-14 halftime lead in the first game of the season, the Big Horns dominated the second half and came away with a 47-28 victory.

The LPHS cheerleading team entertains the Big Horn faithful during halftime.

Standout performances were demonstrated by Wade with a touchdown catch, safety and multiple sacks; Germain, who caught three touchdowns; Robin who accounted for two touchdowns; Starz, who completed four touchdown passes and rushed for one, in addition to throwing zero interceptions; and Shipman, who kicked six PATs along with the program’s first ever 8-man field goal from 37 yards out.

The LPHS football team has chosen to participate in Touchdowns against Cancer, a nationwide program to raise money for St Jude’s Children’s Hospital to fund pediatric cancer research. Touchdowns against Cancer runs Sept. 14-30, which will include the Big Horns’ next three games. Contact a Big Horn player or coach to pledge for each touchdown our team scores during this period. For more information on the program, visit touchdownsagainstcancer.com. To contribute to the LPHS campaign, visit pledgeit.org/tac17-lone-peak-big-horns/fundraise.

The Big Horns will hit the road Saturday, Sept. 16, for a match-up with the Gardiner Bruins. Friday, Sept., 22 brings the highly anticipated Homecoming game against playoff contender Tri–Cities (comprised of players from Hobson, Moore and Judith Gap) at 7 p.m. under the lights.