GREAT FALLS — History will be made Saturday afternoon in Dutton when the Power-Dutton-Brady Titans play host to Froid-Lake with the State 6-Man football championship on the line.
Veteran PDB coach Tom Tranmer hopes it will be the best kind of history – the kind that produces a state champion trophy for a program that has never enjoyed that feeling.
“None of our communities has ever played host to a state championship game,” said Tranmer, and he should know. He’s a 1975 graduate of the former Brady High School, and has been coaching football in the Golden Triangle since 1984.
The three small farming communities — located north of Great Falls and south of Conrad — have been involved in a 6-Man championship setting a few times.
Dutton won a state title on the road in 1988 when the Cardinals had their own program. The Brady Bulldogs were runners-up in 1996 and 1997 when Tranmer lost to regional rivals Highwood and Geraldine. The Power Pirates also finished second twice, in 1983 and 1990.
Most of those title-game appearances came in the formative years of the 6-Man game, which was first sanctioned by the Montana High School Association in 1982. Back then, only about a dozen schools played the 6-Man version of the sport. These days, because of smaller enrollments in rural schools and fewer athletes playing football, there are 32 teams participating in 6-Man, and those programs represent 48 schools.
Tranmer knows his Titans (11-1) won’t be favored Saturday against coach Michael Reiter’s Froid-Lake squad that has won 25 straight games, including the state championship in 2020 and all 12 games this fall. One of the Redhawks’ victories was a 58-22 romp over PDB in the third game of the season.
“They (Redhawks) are a big-play team and they made a lot of big plays that day against us,” Tranmer said. “They are very big and very athletic, and they are hard to slow down. But we think coach (Darrell) Laubach will have a good defensive game plan.”
The biggest threats for Froid-Lake are sophomore quarterback Mason Dethman and senior end Javonne Nesbit.
“The quarterback is 6-5 and 180 and Nesbit is 6-4 and 200, so they’re hard to guard,” Tranmer said. “It will take a total team effort to stop them.”
Froid-Lake will be trying to make it five straight titles for the Eastern Division. Westby-Grenora won in 2017, followed by Wibaux, Jordan and the Redhawks.
The Titans are fairly deep with 21 players, 13 from the Power school district and eight from the Dutton-Brady district. Tranmer has six seniors and all usually start on both offense and defense.
The undisputed team leader is senior Spencer Lehnerz, who stars at H-Back and wide receiver on offense, and any position he wants on defense.
“Spencer’s only about 5-8 and 145 but he’s a football player … he’s got great instincts,” said his coach.
Senior Kellan Doheny is the Titans’ quarterback after playing receiver a year ago. He’s also a talented defensive back who intercepted a pass in last week’s 21-13 semifinal victory over Shields Valley.
John Baringer and Jacob Feldman are other seniors, along with Lehnerz, who scored touchdowns against Shields Valley.
Defense has been the calling card for PDB in the playoffs. The Titans have given up only 62 points in three victories – the same as Froid-Lake. The Pirates have tallied 122 points in those playoff wins, 28 more than the Redhawks.
The Titans rotate game-day sites between Power and Dutton, and it’s Dutton’s turn this Saturday. Even though the 1 p.m. kickoff will be competing with the televised Bobcat-Grizzly Game in Missoula (noon kickoff), Tranmer expects a good crowd.
“Folks up here have waited a long time for a championship football game,” said Tranmer, who has coached in many all-star games but only two other state championship games.
“I think these boys will give them a good show.”