By Tyler Allen EBS Senior Editor
BIG SKY – The evening of Friday, Aug. 26, was historic for the Lone Peak High School football program. It marked their inaugural contest as an eight-man team, the Big Horns’ debut in the 8C Southern Division and the program’s first game played under lights in Big Sky.
The momentous occasion and large crowd didn’t faze the Harlowton Engineers, as they scored with 8 seconds left in the first quarter on their way to a 28-12 victory. But after the initial touchdown the Big Horn defense found its stride and shut out the visitors for the balance of the first half.
“It was our first eight-man game and I could tell they were a little nervous, a little flat,” said Big Horn head coach Matt Bakken. “Our defense did a great job, especially in the first half, holding them to six points. Our offense has to work on timing and not making any mental mistakes.”
Bakken said his team played well considering it was adjusting to a different game than the six-man format the program competed in until this year. Eight-man rules are more traditional, with 10-yard first downs instead of 15 yards, and the post-touchdown kick is worth one point instead of two.
The school petitioned the Montana High School Association to allow the team one more year in the six-man class to give them time to adjust, Bakken said. But with a total school enrollment cutoff of 65 students and Lone Peak’s student body at nearly 100, the Big Horns were denied.
“It’s a new game. Having those two extra defenders makes it more difficult to get first downs and hard to break a long run,” Bakken said. “It’s a more defensive game, you can’t dance around in eight-man, you have to run straight at them.”
Harlowton opened up a 28-0 lead in the second half before Big Horns quarterback Eddie Starz connected with Liam Germain for a 32-yard touchdown. Germain added a 15-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 28-12 late in the third quarter, but that would end the scoring for the night.
Starz and fellow senior, running back Bridger Babcock, both received All-State honors last year and the team will look to them, as well as defensive standout Holden Samuels, to lead them in the Big Horns’ new division.
Bakken said the team would be working on fundamentals and tackling ahead of their big game on the road against Denton/Geyser/Stanford on Saturday, Sept. 3. DGS is the defending six-man state champion and also moved to eight-man this season.
The Big Horns will have one more game under the lights in Big Sky this season, when they host Shields Valley on Oct. 7 for homecoming. Their next home game is Saturday, Sept. 10, against Broadview/Lavina.