Red Devils come out 'flat' in final game at Miles City
By Anthony Varriano
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
The Dawson County High School football team didn’t put itself in good position early in the game against the Custer County Cowboys in Miles City, Friday night. The Cowboys secured a playoff spot and didn’t take long doing it.
“I’m shocked. I thought we had a decent week of practice. I thought our mindset was good,” DCHS head coach Ryan Buckley said, adding later that “we tried to throw the carrot out there this week that if we beat Miles City they’re out of the playoffs.”
The carrot didn’t take, as the Cowboys drove down the field on their first possession and kept the drive alive with a fourth-and-short conversion deep in Red Devil territory. With 6:56 left in the first quarter, senior Jacob Morris ran into the end zone, and the point-after attempt was good off the left upright to make it 7-0 Miles City.
Glendive (1-7, 0-5) had a chance to tie it up when senior Jory Opp nearly picked off Cowboy quarterback Gabe Gundlach with nothing but the end zone in front of him, but he was hit from behind and the ball was jarred loose.
The Cowboys (5-4, 2-3) went on to convert a third-and-10 and turned it into a first-and-goal on their next play. Morris ran in from 10 yards out to quickly make it 14-0.
Faced with a fourth-and-two, the Devils fumbled a handoff in their own territory, and Miles City sophomore Tristan Hirsch returned it for a touchdown to make it 21-0 with 1:57 still left in the first quarter.
“I’m disappointed with the way we came out,” Buckley said. “I don’t really know what to say. We were flat.”
The onslaught didn’t stop. Gundlach hit a wide open Tyler Burk for a two-yard touchdown reception that made it 28-0 after the PAT, and Glendive found itself in a situation its seen all year — far behind early.
A good kick return by junior Brandon Held gave Glendive its best field position of the night. Then a six-yard reception by classmate Robby Keiser gave Glendive a manageable second down.
Senior Jameson Crisafulli nearly got the first down on the next carry, but carried again up the middle to move the chains and finally got something going for Dawson. Glendive couldn’t convert another first down, though, and Sean Daniel Taylor punted to Miles City.
Keiser stopped a big play by Mason Dinardi one yard shy of the end zone on Miles City’s next possession, and with 7:17 left until half, Gundlach scored from one yard out to make it 35-0 Miles City.
Miles City kept pouring it on, as Gundlach tossed a touchdown pass with 5:40 left in the third that made it 42-0. Turnovers and the deficit made it difficult for Glendive to limit possessions, and forced the Devils to attempt fourth-down conversions in their own territory all night.
The Devils got something going all the way down to the Cowboys’ 11-yard line late, but an incomplete pass to Keiser on fourth and goal from the 14-yard line turned it back over to Custer County.
A turnover gave Dawson a shot at points before the final buzzer, and on the last play of the game, Glendive finally found the end zone. Dockter ran in from four yards out to avoid the shutout, but there wasn’t enough time for a point-after attempt, resulting in a 42-6 final.
“I didn’t really realize until about halfway through the season … but we’re playing maybe five kids with varsity experience,” Buckley said after the game. “But we got experience for those kids for next year.”
Crisafulli had 10 tackles and three unassisted to lead the team. Keiser finished with eight tackles, three being unassisted, and Dockter added seven tackles. Clapp finished with five tackles on defense.
While the Devils’ record isn’t indicative of a playoff team, they nearly beat one over homecoming this season. The Custer County Cowboys will visit the Fergus Golden Eagles for the first round of the playoffs, and Glendive had a lead against Fergus late that was undone by an explosive play with seconds to go.
“I think we did make strides. It just didn’t show in the win-loss column,” Buckley said.
The Red Devils have the numbers to be competitive next year, with 16 juniors likely to return, seven being offensive lineman to protect Dockter and block for Clapp, Kelly, Held and Ephraim Yohan, who has the speed to give Dawson a big play threat in the backfield..
“Those kids all work hard. As far as I can see they really want to get better, and they will get better. Everything will slow down for them next year,” Buckley said of his young offensive linemen.
Buckley also informed that Cade Hellman, Nelson Crisafulli and Reed Cooley could also see playing time on varsity next year.
“I always tell the kids in the spring it’s time to get out and get recruiting since football is such a numbers sport,” Buckley said.
The Red Devils will graduate 12 seniors this year: Baxter Baker, Crisafulli, Riley Handran, Connor James, Mitch Lucido, Brayden Mulcahy, Elijah Marley, Darien Ehret, Opp, Pat Roe, Caleb Schwindt and Eli Shults.