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Pop-up football game dazzles in Polson

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 14, 2020 12:00 AM

Of all the numbers that jumped out of last week’s pop-up football game between Bigfork and Polson, the best might be the 300 or so minutes it took to pull it together, after Polson announced its homecoming game against Stevensville was canceled.

“I saw it on Facebook,” Bigfork football coach Jim Benn said. “And I texted their coach (Kaden Glinsman) and said, ‘You want to play?’ ”

It was about 8:45 a.m. Thursday, Benn said, and added: “To the credit of our administrations, I think we had it sewed up by about 2 o’clock.”

By 8:30 p.m. Friday, the Vikings and Pirates, lakeshore teams separated by 35 miles of two-lane road, had 689 yards of combined offense.

It was halftime.

And it was case of deja vu -- “Benn there, done that” -- for Bigfork’s coach, who for eight seasons led Ronan’s program.

In 2009 he took Ronan up against Libby and, in a 70-36 win, saw his club run 87 times for 633 yards. That included a 42-carry, 334-yard performance by Xavier Morigeau.

In 2015 his Ronan Chiefs played Deer Lodge and threw for 515 yards -- split between quarterbacks Kasey Mock (262) and Kade Schutzman (253), who each threw four touchdown passes. The Chiefs lost in large part because Deer Lodge’s John Bannan ran for a state-record 512 yards.

“We scored 64 points and lost by 20,” Benn said. “I’ve been part of three pretty ridiculous games now.”

Right, Friday. Benn’s son, Cormac, ran for 381 yards -- the fifth-highest total in state history, according to the incomplete records found at MHSA.org (more on that later) -- against Polson.

The 664 rushing yards Bigfork gained would be second in history to the 690 Deer Lodge had against Benn’s Chiefs in 2015. Those Deer Lodge Wardens, some may remember, were coached by Pat Munson, who before stepping down in August was coaching the Bigfork Vikings.

“Now we live across the street from each other,” Benn noted of his friend.

Across the field was Polson’s sophomore quarterback, Jarrett (The Jet) Wilson, who completed 42 of 58 passes for, unofficially, 438 yards. A chunk of yards came in the final 2:23 and the game out of reach, but no matter.

“I’ll tell you, he’s as good as I’ve ever seen,” Benn said. “He puts the ball on people. He’s not a very big kid, but holy smokes he’s special.”

Wilson’s short, on-time throws negated a pass rush and resulted in his fourth 400-yard passing game this season (note: Polson had him for 413 yards Friday).

“He’s done it against a bigger class of schools,” Benn said. “We’re not an outlier.”

No, the Vikings are more of an IN-lier, with Benn having a history of such games. Meanwhile that passing total Ronan had against Deer Lodge in 2015? Fourth-best in state history, but even though Benn submits numbers at the end of the season, it’s not on the MHSA’s website.

The 633 rushing yards in Libby should be third in state history; same deal.

At the end of Bigfork’s 54-40 non-league win, he said, the fans rose in ovation, and not because the Vikings hit on their first six 2-point conversions. Two days before both schools were looking at bye weeks: Bigfork was supposed to play Anaconda, but the Copperheads were under quarantine (that game moved to this Friday).

Instead they squared off, with Wilson and Cormac Benn putting on a show. At the end, the crowd showed its appreciation.

“In the year of COVID, it was kind of a perfect storm of awesome,” Jim Benn said. “The kids had a great time. And that’s what it came down to -- the kids had fun. On both sides, the kids were having a good time.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463, or at fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.