ANACONDA – The Deer Lodge football team needed a stop late in the fourth quarter as it trailed Anaconda, Monday night at Mitchell Stadium.
The Copperheads were facing a third-and-3 when they called a quarterback sweep to the left side. Luke Jensen — starting in place of injured quarterback Braxton Hill — tucked the ball tightly under his arm, broke an attempted tackle by Warden cornerback Judd Applegate and scampered six yards to get past the first-down marker. Two kneel-downs later, the Copperheads walked off the field with a 27-22 win.
“We stepped into practice last Monday after we lost Braxton and said you just gotta step it up,” Anaconda head coach Bob Orrino said. “They all surrounded Luke and they played with confidence.”
The Copperheads expect Hill back from a shoulder injury in as little as two weeks, which has to be a sigh of relief for the team. Jensen struggled at times during the game and completed just 5 of 16 passes, though did throw two touchdowns, including an 83-yard strike that put Anaconda up 15-0 in the second quarter.
Gabe Byrne caught that pass and had a huge night, leading the Copperheads in both rushing and receiving. He finished with 17 carries for 94 yards – with 88 of those coming in the second half – and three catches for 109 yards.
“He’s just a heckuva runner,” Orrino said. “He’s a north-south runner and has that cutback vision. It came to fruition for him, which was nice to see.”
Deer Lodge was in the game the entire way and cut the deficit to 15-14 with a 61-yard touchdown run from Zack Havener on the Wardens’ first offensive possession of the second half. Havener had eight totes for 118 yards and was a critical cog in the Deer Lodge offense.
Anaconda, however, was able to respond with a grinding seven-play, 67 yard drive following the Wardens’ touchdown. Austin Anderson capped off the march with a six-yard run, though the two-point conversion wasn’t successful.
Deer Lodge quarterback Greydon Nicholson turned in another gutsy performance did everything in his power to keep the Wardens in the game. He had 96 yards passing on seven completions and tacked on 14 carries for 64 ground yards. It just wasn’t quite enough to help overcome the Wardens’ mistakes and miscues.
“Greydon is a hard-working kid, but he’s also a mentally-tough kid,” Deer Lodge head coach Patrick Munson said. “So if something goes wrong, he’s going to come back and do better on the next play. He’s also the type of kid that’s going to do anything for his team to help the team win.”
Nicholson also plays defensive back and had no small part in containing Anaconda’s huge wide receivers and potent passing attack.
“It was a tough matchup. Those guys are hard for anyone to match up with,” Munson said. “I was proud of our kids. We played good position and found ourselves in a spot to make a play on the ball.”
The rivalry part of the matchup was played up as well, with tempers flaring and a massive number of penalties called on both teams.
Chippy is perhaps the best word to describe the game. Third down and more-than-20 was common throughout the game and gave the whole contest a hotly contested feel.
The penalties and miscues hurt both teams, though it was expected in any game that pits two teams with such close proximity to each other.
“There’s a line there we can’t cross and sometimes our kids crossed it,” Orrino said. “We have to bring them back and talk to them. But this is a rivalry game and they were fired up for it.”