BIG TIMBER — Loyola Sacred Heart is headed back to the big dance.
The Rams defeated Big Timber 21-6 on Saturday afternoon in Big Timber and return to the Class B state football championship game for the second time in three years.
"They're a very good football team," Loyola coach Todd Hughes said of Big Timber. "They have so many weapons and they're very dynamic. Their first play from scrimmage they took it to the house and scored, but I was super proud of my guys. Defensively, they got close a couple times and we held them tough."
After Loyola was forced to punt on its opening drive, Orry Carroccia took a handoff and went up the middle for an 81-yard touchdown.
Loyola held the Herders scoreless the rest of the way.
"A lot of it is just playing within our scheme," Hughes said. "The defensive front and our linebackers went kind of crazy and we got penetration, stopped them from being able to get outside and use that speed. Bottled them up a little bit."
Ryan Tirrell scored all three of Loyola's touchdowns on gains of 14, 3 and 5 yards. Loyola responded to Big Timber's lone score right away and scored its second two touchdowns in the third quarter.
Hughes said the teams had windy conditions to deal with in the first half, making throwing the ball difficult. Because of that, Big Timber began to stack the box in anticipation of Tirrell running it.
Hughes added that the wind began to die down in the second half allowing the Rams to change their approach.
"We came out the second half and we started ripping the ball and throwing it," Hughes said. "We've got a lot of our weapons on the outside. We have a horse inside running the ball but when they load the box up you have to be able to throw it."
Once they were able to get a comfortable lead, Hughes said they began to milk the clock by running it with Tirrell, who ran it about 30 times.
Loyola (11-1) will host the Class B state championship game next week. Their opponent? The only team to hand them a loss this year — the undefeated Fairfield Eagles (11-0). Fairfield defeated Bigfork 48-14 on Saturday to advance.
"We told them before the game to look at each other and pick somebody out that they were playing for," Hughes said. "We've got a great community. It was kind of a homecoming of sorts. Tirrell's family is from Big Timber. It was just special.
"Anytime you can get to the state championship especially after beating some really good teams in our playoff run, it's a lot of hard work and the kids earned it."
Flint Creek 28, Shelby 20
For the second straight year, Flint Creek is headed back to the 8-Man state championship game after beating Shelby 28-20 in Shelby.
Kade Cutler threw two touchdown passes to Jaxon Lee and ran for another as the Titans — the Drummond-Philipsburg co-op — won their state-leading 24th straight football game.
In a back-and-forth contest, Shelby struck first when Dillon Luly caught a 24-yard score from Damon Irvin. Colby Manley responded with a 5-yard touchdown of his own to make it 8-6. Manley, the team's dynamic running back, sustained an injury in the second quarter and did not return.
After Wyatt Brusven's 76-yard touchdown run, Lee and Cutler connected for their first score to send the game into halftime at 14-14.
Both teams were scoreless in the third but Shelby struck again on a 1-yard touchdown from Tanner Parsons. Lee then caught a 49-yard pass from Cutler to tie the game before Cutler's run gave the Titans the lead for good.
The Titans (12-0) will take on Great Falls Central (10-1) Saturday in Butte at Naranche Stadium for the 8-Man state championship.
Fairfield 48, Bigfork 14
Fairfield used a 36-point second quarter to run over Bigfork 48-14 on Saturday to advance to the Class B state championship game.
Trailing 6-0 heading into the second quarter, future Griz Ryder Meyer threw two touchdown passes to Dawson Allen and ran for another to send the Eagles into half up 36-6. Allen added a touchdown run as did Libien Becker. Becker and Allen each added insurance touchdown runs in the second half for the Eagles.
Meyer finished the game 8 for 13 for 81 yards and two touchdowns and 16 rushes for 124 yards and a score. Allen caught three passes for 56 yards and two touchdowns and tallied seven rushes for 63 yards and two scores. Becker finished with 16 carries for 104 yards and two more touchdowns.
Randy Stultz ran the ball 19 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns for Bigfork.