Mission High School football coach Tyler Murray knew there would be a big learning curve as he and his team both were playing their first-ever Class C, 8-man football game in their 58-0 to Flint Creek last Friday at Mission High School.
Murray, who coached his first-ever high school football game after graduating this spring from Western Montana, continued to study film of successful Class C, 8-man programs determined to find the formula for success.
Murray and his Bulldog team made the adjustments and accomplished something that hadn’t been done since the final game of the 2015 season against Ronan: they won a football game. In 2015, the Bulldogs defeated Thompson Falls and Ronan during the 2015 campaign snapped its 9-game losing streak with a 28-26 victory over Victor Saturday afternoon at Victor High School.
Murray said he felt the messages he and his coaching staff deliver on a weekly basis are permeating through the team.
“The kids really rebounded well and (after the loss to Flint Creek), we told them this week we are 0-0,” Murray said. “Our goal (after every week) is to go 1-0. We have 24 hours to think about it and either feel good about it or bad about it. Then we have to move on. It is just great when you hear the kids start saying the things that you say (to them) to each other. We celebrated for 24 hours and now we are getting ready for Charlo (after the bye week).”
Mission didn’t get out of the game unscathed. Four of their team captains sustained injuries during this adversity-filled game including Gus Bosley, Troy Mitchell, Wacey Mitchell and Flint McPherson, who all suffered injuries by halftime.
“I think it’s great that we showed we could beat a team like Victor,” Murray said. “We knew the first week against Flint Creek wasn’t going to be easy because they beat Arlee, which is a good physical football team. I think what has helped us succeed is the high-tempo practices we’ve had. We were in just a little bit better shape Saturday afternoon playing in 90 to 95 degree weather. Our kids were a little tired but it seemed like our conditioning was pretty good.”
During the game, Victor actually scored more touchdowns than the Bulldogs.
“Victor scored four times and we just converted our 2-point conversions,” Murray said. “When you convert three successful 2-point conversions, that is a whole other touchdown. We ran our simple offense and ran out of our normal plays. We figured out how to drive people off the ball. We are excited about what our team can do when we are matched up against smaller teams.”
This week the Bulldogs, who were originally scheduled to play Hot Springs, will get a bye week as they prepare for Class C powerhouse the Charlo Vikings.
As the Vikings head into the bye week, Murray said he felt his team gained a significant amount of confidence from winning their first game in two years.
“I think the kids are going to come in ready to work and it’s nice because we will have two weeks to prep for Charlo,” Murray said. “I let my team celebrate for 24 hours and live it up. On Tuesday, we will go back to work and get ready for Charlo because there is a lot of stuff that we can do to still get better. After a win or a loss, there are still a lot areas that we can work on and things that we also did well. Our potential got higher I thought with a victory.”
During the game, sophomore Isaac Dumontier, who filled in for Troy Mitchell, threw the game-winning touchdown pass when he connected with football player and cross country runner Troy Matt for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
“Dumontier was a little nervous and we settled him by having him run the ball, get outside the pocket and throw a lot of dink and dunk passes,” Murray said. “He connected with Troy Matt on the corner route and threw the ball pretty well towards the end of the game.”
Murray said he hopes he team is able to sustain the momentum and get healthy as the Bulldogs now have two weeks to prepare for Charlo.
“I watch a lot of film on successful Class C, 8-man football teams, especially Flint Creek and Charlo,” Murray said. “After watching those two teams, we are playing two potential championship contenders in the first three weeks of our season.”
Murray, who is a former football player himself, said he recalls as a high school football player in Class A that playing teams with rich tradition like Charlo can be “intimidating.”
“It’ll be a fun game,” Murray said. “I am preaching to the kids that I came from a Class A school and we had to play Dillon every year but never had success against Dillon. When we would play teams like Dillon or Frenchtown (when I was in high school), some of these teams were so good it got intimidating.”