MISSOULA — In a matchup of modern versus old school, the past didn't stand a chance.
The Loyola Sacred Heart football team used its intricate spread offense to bury run-happy Malta 48-6 on Saturday in a Class B playoff opener at sun-splashed Rollin Field. The game was all but over by halftime, with the Rams racing to a 35-6 lead.
Loyola senior quarterback Scott Twite completed 14 of 19 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. It was his first playoff start under center, but there were no signs of jitters.
"I wasn't overly-nervous, but you can't help but be nervous when you're facing possibly the last game of your career," said Twite, whose team will take a 6-3 record to Colstrip (8-1) for a quarterfinal playoff showdown next Saturday. "I have to give it up to the O-line. We're hard on them but they do a pretty darn good job."
Rams coach Todd Hughes used the word "outstanding" to describe his team's passing attack.
"I really think that we're kind of peaking right now," said the veteran skipper, whose team totaled 386 yards passing and 78 running. "The game is slowing down for Scott (Twite) and he's making the right reads and checks."
Early in the game it looked as if Loyola might have its hands full with Malta's no-nonsense offense. The Mustangs matriculated 72 yards on their first possession, scoring on a Trey Simanton 2-yard plunge.
"We thought we knew what they were going to do and we just had a little bit of misalignment that first series," Hughes said. "We made some adjustments and once the kids got a feel for it, it was pin your ears back and let it roll."
Loyola reeled off 48 unanswered points, including 21 in the first quarter. Twite hit Montana Griz recruit David Koppang on a slant pattern and he darted 32 yards for the Rams' first score. Jeffrey Twite scored three minutes later on a 73-yard pass from Scott Twite, then Loyola's defense came up big, with sophomore Basil Coutinho intercepting a pass and sprinting 40 yards for paydirt.
The Rams, who also benefited from a Ryan Tirrell interception in the first half, added two more scores in the second stanza. Koppang used a nifty spin move to score on a 13-yard reception with 4:08 left in the first half and Jeffrey Twite scored less than two minutes later on a 64-yard aerial strike.
It was hard to find fault in anything Loyola did Saturday, although the team would love to get more out of its running game and cut down on penalties. The Rams were flagged nine times.
"It's kind of like we go in spurts," Hughes said. "All of sudden we kind of let up and make some silly mistakes trying to do too much too quick. We need to shore that up."
Loyola will try to capitalize on its early-season road experiences when it plays at Colstrip. The Colts disposed of visiting Townsend 27-13 on Saturday.
"Colstrip is a lot like Malta — smash-mouth run the football," Hughes said. "We played them here a year ago and they were tough. Now we get to go over there and see if we can put one together."
The Rams beat Colstrip 50-35 last November in a quarterfinal matchup in Missoula.