By Al Malinowski EBS Contributor
BIG SKY – The Lone Peak High School football team found themselves in another physical contest Saturday night, this time against the visiting Twin Bridges Falcons. One week after a dramatic overtime win over Ennis, Twin Bridges spoiled Lone Peak’s Senior Night, winning 28-26. The Big Horns dropped to 2-5 on the season while the Falcons improved to 3-4.
The game began with the Big Horns losing a fumble on the first snap of the game. While the Falcons were unable to capitalize on the miscue, turnovers would become a trend that would impact the outcome of the game.
Four possessions later, Lone Peak took an 8-0 lead when sophomore Juliusz Shipman hit Freshman Bridger Flores for a 24-yard touchdown pass, followed by a 2-point conversion pass to Pierce Farr. Flores caught his pass near the 10-yard line, juked the Twin Bridges defender who intended to make the tackle, and dashed into the end zone.
After a Twin Bridges punt, Lone Peak appeared to be driving to add to their lead. On fourth down with 1 yard to go, however, Twin Bridges held, turning the Big Horns over on downs at the Falcon 15-yard line. After a 5-yard penalty and a run for no gain, Falcon Junior Connor Nye connected with Senior Chase Fitzpatrick, who raced past the Bighorns defenders for a 70-yard touchdown. Twin Bridges added a 2-point PAT on a Nye run to tie the score 8-8.
On the ensuing kickoff, Twin Bridges was penalized for kicking the ball out of bounds but no one anticipated the re-kick would work in Twin Bridge’s favor. The Big Horns fumbled the re-kick, allowing the Falcons to take possession deep in Big Horn territory. Three plays later, Fitzpatrick scored his second touchdown of the game, a 6-yard run. Nye added another 2-point PAT run, giving Twin Bridges a 16-8 lead.
Lone Peak responded on their next two possessions with an 8-yard run from Shipman and a 6-yard pass to Sophomore George Helms. Both PATs failed, but the Big Horns took a 20-16 lead into halftime after the Falcons ended their last drive of the first half by throwing an interception, picked off by the Big Horn’s Flores.
During halftime, four seniors were honored for their contributions to the football team during their years at LPHS and numerous Big Horn parents and fans expressed how much each will be missed next season.
Lone Peak seized momentum in the second half when Twin Bridges fumbled on their first possession, and the Big Horns recovered at the Falcon 14-yard line. On third down, Shipman again found Flores, this time with a 13-yard lob pass over the defense for a touchdown and after a missed PAT led 26-16.
After struggling for two possessions that sandwiched a solid defensive stand that turned the Big Horns over on downs at the Falcon 2-yard line, Twin Bridges took advantage of Lone Peak miscues to take control of the game.
On its next possession, the Big Horns drove the ball into Falcon territory looking to take a commanding lead but fumbled. Twin Bridges recovered at their own 25-yard line and orchestrated a 55-yard drive comprised of tough running plays and culminating in a 5-yard touchdown run by Nye. The PAT failed, but Lone Peak’s lead was cut to 26-22.
On the subsequent kickoff, the Falcons executed an onside kick that they recovered at the Big Horn 39-yard line. Lone Peak couldn’t stop the Twin Bridges running attack, as Nye scored an another 5-yard run. The Falcons failed on the PAT but took a 28-26 advantage.
Lone Peak was unable to gain a first down on its next possession, turning the ball over on downs. However, their defense continued to battle, forcing a Falcon three and out. With time winding down and needing a big play, Shipman threw a deep pass as a Falcon defender closed in. The throw was impacted by the rush, and the Falcon’s Nye intercepted it to seal the win.
After the game, each team’s head coach acknowledged an evenly matched and that they knew would come down to a single play. Big Horn Head Coach James Miranda said that while the Big Horns played tough football, the Falcons executed at the right times.
“They made the plays that needed to be made when they had to,” Miranda said. “I’m proud of the guys, the way they played … It’s just this time we came up short.”
Brett Nordahl, Twin Bridges’ head coach, reached a similar conclusion. “We kind of knew from the opening kickoff it was going to come down to something tight, something at the end, and luckily we won the turnover battle and I think that was the difference.”
Due to a scheduling change, Saturday’s game won’t be the last opportunity for seniors Aiden Miller, Robert Pruiett, Isaac Singer and Henry Slade to finish their careers with a win. Lone Peak will host the Choteau Bulldogs on Thursday at 6 p.m. to conclude the season. At press time, the Bulldogs’ season record was 1-6, though the result of this weekend’s game against Chester-Joplin-Iverness was not available.
The Ophir Miners improved their season record to 4-1 with a 52-12 win over the Twin Bridges Middle school team. The Miners will also conclude their season Thursday with a 3 p.m. home game against rival West Yellowstone.