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Jefferson's well-rounded football team prepares for Florence-Carlton in Class B state semifinals

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Manhattan vs. Jefferson

Jefferson players celebrate a touchdown last month during a game against Manhattan in Boulder. 

BUTTE — After defeating Whitehall last week, the Jefferson Panthers football team has advanced to the Class B state semifinals and will face undefeated Florence-Carlton on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Panthers have posted two consecutive shutouts in postseason play.

Jefferson coach Clint Layng attributed his team's success this season to their speed, effort and confidence. The Panthers defense sports impressive speed, which could cause issues for the Florence-Carlton offense.

"Our kids are playing with a lot of confidence and we're flying around on defense," Layng said. "We've been playing really well and playing aggressive. With our speed and our experience and just that we've been playing hard, I'm really proud of our team this year."

Yang expressed pride in his team's defensive, especially middle linebacker Jake Genger, who was an all-state honoree last year. Defensive lineman Wade Rykal had 6.5 sacks last week against Whitehall and has 18 sacks on the season.

But the Panthers have looked impressive on offense as well. Running back Dylan Root has been a consistent weapon in the running game and has taken weight off of the passing game, which has seen fluctuation after Braden Morris's injury.

"Genger has been a three year started at linebacker and tight end. We're pretty good all around at this point," Yang said. Dylan's been running the ball well and running the ball hard. Rykal's had a big year and with the injury to Braden Morris, we've had two quarterbacks getting playing time."

Freshman Jace Oxarart and junior Zach Zody have split quarterback duties since the injury. Oxarart had a 91-yard touchdown run last week against Whitehall, while Zody has filled gaps at both quarterback and receiver.

The Panthers' special teams has also been dominant this season, recording four blocked punts and four touchdowns so far. The well-rounded effort has been a bright spot for the team, but Lang said Florence-Carlton will be a challenge on Saturday.

"Florence is really good and I knew at the start of the season that they'd be one of the top teams," Layng said. "Most of the players from their semifinals season are back this year. They have a lot of speed and they're really aggressive."

The Falcons have not lost a game yet this season and will have home-field advantage against Jefferson on Saturday. Layng said that the Falcons have similar areas of strength that his team possesses. 

Florence-Carlton has a stream of talented lineman and have a variety of receivers, including Blake Shoupe, for quarterback Patrick Duchien to pass to. Duchien is also a talented runner, so the Panthers will have to defend against the duel-threat.

"They have an MSU commit on their line and they have lots of good receivers," Lang said. "Their quarterback is a great athlete who throws the ball well who's a big threat in the run game. He's the coach's son and is just a really good player."

The Falcons won their last game against Columbus 28-8 and have held their opponent to under 10 points seven times this season. Florence-Carlton's offense has exploded several times this season as well, when they scored 54 points on Whitehall and 63 points on Bigfork in October.

While the Falcons will be a tough test for the Panthers, Layng said he believes his team will put up a strong fight, as they have all season. Without the effort and hard work the team has put in so far, they would not be in the position they are now.

"Our kids are just really fast and the confidence drives them, we've become a really good team that always goes out to compete," Layng said. "I'm proud of the speed and effort they've shown all season, we've got a lot of returning players this year mixed in with some younger guys who've put together a great season of football."


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