BILLINGS — Scobey is back in the 8-Man state championship football game for the first time since 2002.
A late score in the second quarter, a key fourth-quarter interception and 22 points in the final stanza were the difference as the Spartans defeated Shelby 44-28 at Plainsmen Field in Scobey in the 8-Man semifinals to advance to the championship game.
The Spartans (10-1) will play at Drummond-Philipsburg (11-0) for the state championship next Saturday at 1 p.m. in Drummond.
Drummond-Philipsburg downed Fort Benton 48-18 in its semifinal. Shelby finishes the year 6-2.
Scobey will be aiming for its fourth 8-Man championship, having won the crown in 1995, 1996 and 2002. The Spartans were runners-up in 1989 and 2001.
“I’m excited for our kids and community. It’s awesome,” seventh-year Scobey coach Brock Berryhill said in a phone interview with The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com. “It’s hard to do and we are pumped.”
And although it was a cold day, by the end of the game the win salved the shivers.
“It was cold. It was Scobey in November, cold and windy,” Berryhill said. “But when you win, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t feel like it.”
A late score in the first half by Scobey tied the game.
“It was super windy the first half and we were down 22-16 with two minutes left and scored right before halftime to tie it up,” Berryhill said. “That gave us a ton of momentum going into the second half. We buttoned down on defense and got going on offense.”
Berryhill said that Scobey started to emphasize its passing game more in the second half with quarterback Jayce Tande targeting wide receivers Caden Handran and Parker Cromwell, along with tight end Addison Stentfot.
“We started throwing the ball (in the second half). We had some success throwing the football,” he said. “The last drive right before halftime we started chucking it. We have some guys who can catch it and our quarterback is athletic.
“In the fourth quarter we were able to run the ball a little more consistently. We aired it out a lot more than we are accustomed to doing.”
Shelby had advanced to the semifinals with an 87-68 victory at Park City in the quarterfinals.
“It was tough. They are really big,” Berryhill said. “The first half they took it to us and ran right at us. Our kids are resilient and tough and stayed with it. It was a good game.”
Berryhill said Shelby is "salty and really physical and run right at you. They had two seniors. They are pretty junior heavy and will be loaded next year."
Colter Oie had an interception and was one of the Spartans’ leading tacklers. Cole Taylor, a defensive end from Opheim who plays for the Spartans, batted down three balls.
Berryhill called the interception a “turning point.” Leading by a score, Scobey would turn the interception into more points and ice the game.
And while there were restrictions and social-distancing measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Berryhill said the Spartans fans at the game were very supportive.
“The people there were rocking and rolling and having a great time,” he said.
Berryhill is originally from Tennessee, but graduated from Nampa, Idaho, and was coaching football at Boise High School before moving to Scobey. His wife, Jenny — her maiden name is Bowler — is a Scobey native.
“This is a cool little town,” Berryhill said. “We are isolated, but it’s a great place to raise a family and have kids.”
After the game, the well-wishers who weren’t able to attend were congratulating Berryhill and the Spartans.
“I got so many texts and people were pumped up,” Berryhill said. “It’s small-town sports. It’s a big deal.
“It’s a big deal for anybody to go to state, but for small towns it seems to mean a little more.”
On the Spartans staff this year for the first time under Berryhill is former head football coach Larry Henderson, who is the defensive coordinator and special teams coach. Henderson, the head track and field coach at Scobey, was the head football coach at Scobey from 1985 until 2001.
“He’s awesome and a great coach and a great guy,” Berryhill said. “I learn a lot from him. It’s great and really a blessing having him.”
Now, the Spartans are hoping this year ends like 2002 did — with a championship.