Vikings blast Plains in season opener, aim for Arlee

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  • CHARLO HIGH School quarterback Landers Smith finds an opening in the Vikings season-opening game Saturday afternoon at Plains High School. (Erin Jusseaume/Clark Fork Valley Press)

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    CHARLO HIGH School’s Isaiah Allik (44) returns an interception for a touchdown right before halftime Saturday afternoon at Plains High School. The Vikings will host their arch-rival Arlee Friday night at Charlo. (Erin Jusseaume/Clark Fork Valley Press)

  • CHARLO HIGH School quarterback Landers Smith finds an opening in the Vikings season-opening game Saturday afternoon at Plains High School. (Erin Jusseaume/Clark Fork Valley Press)

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    CHARLO HIGH School’s Isaiah Allik (44) returns an interception for a touchdown right before halftime Saturday afternoon at Plains High School. The Vikings will host their arch-rival Arlee Friday night at Charlo. (Erin Jusseaume/Clark Fork Valley Press)

The Charlo High School football team was not intimidated by their early conference test when they were pitted against a more physical Plains High School football team that outsized their line.

For years, Charlo High School football coach Mike Krahn has preached technique over size and technique can outduel size, especially in the Class C 8-man format.

The Vikings bested a strong, physical Plains football team that could not keep up with their speed for four quarters in their 44-6 victory over the Horsemen Saturday afternoon at Plains High School.

“They got the ball right off the bat and came right at us which is what we expected,” Krahn said. “They were creating seams for them. They were over aggressive and started moving the ball right down the field on us. That is when I was a little worried when they pushed our line back. It took our guys some time to make some adjustments. We adjusted to our live play and finally got settled in and just kept playing.”

The season opener was a typical start to a season for any team: a few more penalties than normal, an early Plains touchdown, and a closely-contested football game. Then, attrition kicked in for the bigger Horsemen, and they were unable to keep pace with the rapid fire Vikings’ offense for four quarters.

“Bridger Foust returned that interception touchdown in the second quarter and the score ended up going from 12-6 to 20-6 and in 8-man that isn’t a lot,” Krahn said. “We got the ball back in hurry-up mode and scored another touchdown right before halftime to give us a 28-6 lead. That really took the wind out of their sail a little bit. We went from being up by six to being up by 22 in a matter of a three-minute time span and (the momentum shift) came off an interception.”

With the new conference realignment, gone are the days of “exhibition games.” Now, every game counts in the conference and the Vikings are looking to win them all with a limited margin for error.

“There were a lot of similarities between the game last year and this year,” Krahn said. “This year you had the same feel and look from last year’s game. They hung with us pretty close and then they committed some crucial turnovers. We stopped them at the goal line and that took the wind out of their sails, especially when you have a young quarterback and young guys that haven’t played a lot. They’ll get those guys coached up and with that line, they are going to be dangerous whoever they play.”

Krahn’s overall assessment of his team’s performance was positive.

“I think overall in the first game we had a couple of penalties and wrong formations,” Krahn said. “I like our offense year in and year out because they don’t get panicked. We convert a lot of third-and long situations and when you do that, it can be really frustrating to a defense. Then we reel off a long run and move the chains. They do a good job of moving the chains. I don’t think we punted in the game but overall I was pretty pleased with our offense. That was one of our big question marks is how our lineman were going to do and would they rise to the occasion. I thought they responded really well.”

The Vikings demonstrated a lot of depth on the offensive line.

“We had a rotation with two guys that are able to rotate and that really makes us pretty versatile,” Krahn said. “It really paid off in the third and fourth quarter when fatigue started to set in and became a factor. We were able to keep (our players) fresh.”

The development of Garrett Vaughan as a quarterback has also allowed Charlo to move around their most dangerous weapon QB Landers Smith to confuse the defense.

“We played Garrett and Landers at receiver, and he did a good job running and throwing the ball,” Krahn said. “That gives us a chance to put Landers somewhere else on the field. Teams have to deal with him so much when they are up and playing a different position. Garrett did such a great job running the offense when he was playing QB.”

Against a more mobile quarterback like Jeriko Smith-Roach, the defense responded well, according to Krahn.

“The Plains quarterback is young and is a sophomore who is still figuring out how to take off and scramble pretty tough,” Krahn said. “Defensively, I didn’t know how to fix that. Our defense did really well even though they gave up quite a few yards, the total yardage count ended up being typical. That is a lot closer to getting to your goal and getting big stops when that happens.”

The Vikings don’t have any time to rest as they get prepared to play their second consecutive conference game against arch-rival Arlee.

“I think a lot of times the kids are pretty amped up and the community excitement adds to the game,” Krahn said. “We really preach to our kids to stay poised and take a lot of energy. Don’t get super hyped up because you’ll have an adrenaline dump, especially in rivalry games. You can wear yourself out before the first game ever starts.”

The Warriors, who are coach by Chuck Forgey in his second year as head coach, are starting to take on more of a mentality of his style of football, according to Krahn.

“I got to spend five days with Chuck helping him coach the all-star game and it is always nice to go spend five days with him and get to do those type of things,” Krahn said. “He is a great guy. He is an offensive lineman and they have a tough mentality. That really is starting to come across his team.”

Krahn also praised another leader on the team, quarterback Lane Schall.

“He is one of those kids that has been playing of a long time and does a good job,” Krahn said. “At team camp, it is a little less intense. You get to hang around the kidsw and get to know them. I really like him and he is the type of kid that gets the team to rally around him on both sides of the ball. He is just a good leader.”

Headed into the game, Krahn knows it’ll be difficult to play and beat Arlee.

“Scheme-wise with the coaches, you never know what is going to happen and they adjusted well to Forgey,” Krahn said. “The participation rate isn’t as high because everyone knows Arlee is a basketball school. Football is a scary sport for people that play basketball. They have a good team, good participation and year after year, they are contending for a playoff position.”

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