BILLINGS — There were more than a few Fairview Warriors, including their coach it turned out, who didn’t get a full night’s sleep before Saturday’s 8-Man football championship game.
Can you blame them? Especially Fairview’s group of 12 seniors, who have seen their seasons fizzle out in the playoff semifinals, first round and quarterfinals the past three seasons.
The momentum for this year to be the Warriors’ dream season had been building for some time, and now its completion was a few hours away.
“I did not sleep good, I kept waking up, thinking about it,” Fairview senior receiver/defensive lineman Josh Herron said. “And this morning, I was butterflies all day. In the locker room, everyone was kind of uneasy, butterflies in their stomach … yeah, definitely nervous.”
But then senior Cody Asbeck took the opening kick 77 yards for a touchdown, and the Warriors were well on their way to the first football title in school history.
Fairview, No. 1 in the final 406mtsports.com rankings, defeated No. 3 Alberton-Superior (Clark Fork) 70-6 on a sunny afternoon at Herb Klindt Field on the campus of Rocky Mountain College, finally completing the much-wanted milestone for the Class C eastern Montana school.
Asbeck ran for another score and caught three touchdown passes from Alex Schriver, who also threw two scoring strikes to Jesse Selting. Schriver ran for two more touchdowns and returned an interception for another, and the more the senior talked about what this season meant to him, the closer he came to tears.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Schriver, stopping and starting as he tried to fight off his emotions. “We worked so hard for this, that’s all I can say.”
Fairview (11-0) rolled through the regular season, winning by an average margin of 57 points. It was similar through the first three rounds of the playoffs, where the Warriors’ average margin of victory was 54 points.
Saturday, Fairview had a 34-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and led 56-6 by halftime.
“We have a great group of seniors and they worked so hard at this and they prepared so well for the last couple years,” said Fairview coach Levi Seitz, who admitted to waking up in the middle of the night as various game-situation scenarios kept running through his mind. “But each week throughout the playoffs they’ve just been locked in and studying and putting in the work. They deserved it. They worked their tail off.”
The loss was the first of the season for Alberton-Superior (12-1), which received its lone score on 7-yard touchdown run from Trey Green to make it 34-6.
Like his coaching counterpart, Mountain Cats coach Jeff Schultz will say goodbye to a talented senior class, one that helped get the fourth-year co-op into the championship for the first time.
“Fairview’s an excellent team, a very tough team,” Schultz said. “But I’m proud of our guys. These seniors we had, they kind of got our program back on track to where it needed to be, and these seniors and juniors did it.
“This is a fun group. My best memory is going to be the first day of practice. We go in there and we’re just heckling the guys and they’re throwing it right back. I was like, God, I missed this” over the off-season.
Shortly after Fairview received the championship trophy, Asbeck talked about his teammates while just over his shoulder the celebration was beginning in earnest. Even without a state title, Fairview has had a rich football tradition, and Asbeck summoned up the school’s back-to-back championship losses in 2011 (Twin Bridges) and 2012 (Superior) to try to put into context what Saturday meant to the blue-clad swarm of players and fans still standing on the Herb Klindt turf.
“It’s been a four-year journey for us, I mean, even longer than that. All the way back to the last time we made it,” Asbeck said. “When we were in fourth and fifth grade we dreamed about this. It’s been a heckuva a ride. I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. I love these guys.”
Another sleepless night might have awaited the Warriors. But for an entirely different reason.