Game considered success despite 71-25 loss

By Mike Coil, Big Sky Weekly sports writer

R[/dcs_dropcap1]are indeed is the opportunity to play the first football game in the history of a school.

That opportunity was embraced with gusto and determination by the students and supporters of Lone Peak High School on a late summer afternoon, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011, when the Bighorns took the field for the first time against the visiting Falcons of Fromberg-Roberts at the LPHS home field.

This was the first time they were able to muster enough players to field a team in Class C since the high school opened in 2009. Of the 49 students at LPHS, 22 turned out for football. This year the senior class has four students, and two of them, Nick McTaggart and Matt Becker, are on the team.

While the final score of 71-25 will go down as its first loss, the Bighorns racked up an impressive list of firsts that will forever stand in the history of LPHS football.

First kick off: Tucker Shea
First kickoff return: Tucker Shea – 32 yards
First snap from center to quarterback: Matt Becker to Justin McKillop
First completed pass: Justin McKillop to Tucker Shea
First injury: Jacob Cruse (injured lower left calf)
First first down: Tucker Shea
First touchdown: Tucker Shea. (kickoff return, 76 yards, 2:03 of the first quarter)
First extra point attempt: Grayson Bell (miss)

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“We are excited to play this game but a little nervous because there are no films of the Bighorns,” Goltz said.

The most electrifying play for the Bighorns was a kickoff return by Tucker Shea of 76 yards in the first quarter. The fans erupted as the play unfolded for the first touchdown in school history. Shea also scored two other touchdowns, a 4-yard running play and a 47-yard pass play, both in the fourth quarter. Shea plays tailback, kicker and kick returner for the Horns.

The grandstands (obtained from the MSU marching band after the renovation of Bobcat Stadium) were filled with family, friends and community members. Attendance was estimated at around 250. School officials, parents and players worked hard to have the field in shape for the game.

In fact, they were still working on the flagpole the evening before the game, Principal Jerry House said at the beginning of the game. To show his support, House participated as a sideline official.

Much of the work on the football facility was donated by the Quarterback Club and fundraising efforts that were widely supported by the local community.

Falcons’ coach Jim Goltz was honored to have the opportunity to participate in the Horns’ first game.

“We are excited to play this game but a little nervous because there are no films of the Bighorns,” Goltz said. “The kids are excited to be in Big Sky, but they are glad they do not have to play the last game of the season up here.” Several of the Falcon players mentioned how nice the facilities were compared to other places that they play.

“It sure wasn’t what we wanted, but we are excited about the kids being able to enjoy something special,” Big Sky’s coach Beardsley said of their first game. The kickoff return by Shea sparked the team and carried them through the rest of the game, he added.

Coach Beardsley thought the Falcons used a good combination of passing to their tall receivers to break the game open. “Given the height advantage of the Falcons, they had a hard time defending the pass,” Beardsley said.

He thought his team did a good job given their lack of experience. Only two Bighorns have previous football experience at the high school level. The team has two seniors, six juniors, three sophomores and 11 freshmen; half the squad is composed of freshman players.

Coach Beardsley was optimistic about the future. His enthusiasm is warranted given that he has players on his team listed at 235 pounds (Becker), 255 (Morris), 275 (Klein) and 310 (Enriquez). The lineup sounds like a starting lineup for a pro team, and it’s doubtful any six-man team in the state can match those numbers.

The next game is Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011 at 1 p.m. at Two Eagles River High School in Pablo, Mont.