POLSON — It seems that even cold, wet weather and a bitter rivalry can’t derail the red-hot Polson football team.
The Pirates (4-0, 7-1 overall) fought back from a one-point first quarter deficit by scoring 14 in the second quarter and shutting out the visiting Ronan Chiefs for the final three quarters to gut out a 26-7 win in a game laden with playoff implications.
“There’s nothing better than being undefeated in conference and then getting to play your rival for the conference championship,” senior running back Joe Andrews said.
In a match-up of two teams with fierce running attacks, it was the Pirates who scored first when Andrews took the ball 23 yards for a score five minutes into the game. Andrews finished his final regular season home game with 111 yards on the ground, two rushing touchdowns and an average of 10 yards per carry on the night.
“You can have as many options as you want in the backfield, but it all starts with the offensive line, those guys get the job done,” Andrews said. “They step it up when they need to, they make some big plays and that’s how it goes for us.”
The Chiefs came right back on their next possession as Ronan senior running back Xavier Morigeau punched in a six-yard run for a score two minutes later. In a change of pace, the Chiefs kicked the point after the touchdown rather than go for a two-point conversion, as they had on most scores this season. That would be all the scoring for the Chiefs, despite a strong effort running the ball all night.
On one of the next plays, Ronan coughed up the drenched football and Pirate senior defensive back Ty Fouty took the ball 35 yards for a score. After a two point conversion, the score stood at 14-7.
“That was a huge momentum shifter,” Andrews said of the turnovers. “We’re smart, we know what to do, we get the job done and capitalize when we get those opportunities. We played hard and we never give up; it was good.”
The Pirates found themselves in tough defensive situations after untimely turnovers, but still managed to keep the Chiefs out of the end zone. After a Chiefs punt in the second quarter, the Pirates took two runs, including a four-yard score, by senior running back Tim Rausch to push their lead to 20-7 with 5:35 left in the half.
Rausch had a big senior night as well, scoring the second-quarter touchdown and adding 156 yards rushing.
Polson capped off its scoring as Andrews went untouched on an 80 yard scamper with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. The Pirate seniors had good nights, with the four touchdowns scored by three different seniors.
“It’s emotional, man,” Andrews said. “I mean this senior night, under the lights, the last regular season game under the lights. There’s no looking back, we just gotta run the table now.”
The Pirates undefeated conference record means they have a bye this week, and will face the winner of a game between Belgrade and Miles City, a second-round contest on Saturday, Nov. 7 in Polson. The Pirates have a history with Miles City, losing 26-20 at home in last year’s playoffs. The Cowboys were the eventual Class A State Champion.
“We want it all this year,” Andrews said. “There’s no turning back. The senior class, we started in fourth grade together, first class to come through little guy football. We know each other, we’re a tight group, so there’s no looking back for us here, we got to take it all.”