HS football: Cowboys look to bounce back

Abe Winter
Star Staff Writer

Saturday is Game Day II for the Custer County District High School football team, which plays what seems to be an explosive offensive team.

That would be Laurel, which defeated Fergus in Lewistown 33-24 last week. Kick-off is at 7 p.m at Laurel.

So, Laurel coach Mike Ludwig was asked, do you have an explosive offense?

“It’s too early to tell,” Ludwig said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I was happy to score 33, but in the second half we had too many turnovers and too many penalties. We just kind of hurt ourselves.”

All the Locomotives’ points were notched in the first half, which ended 33-8 after quarterback Gage Hull threw for three touchdowns. He didn’t thrown an interception.

Then it was a matter of using the clock with a three-prong running attack of 5-8, 165-pound Noah Gunther, 5-8, 180 Cameron Younger and 5-10, 150 Ethan Renner. The latter totaled 140 yards on 16 carries against Fergus.

The Locomotives, which lost two of their three fumbles, normally play out of the shotgun and are considered a running team. They have been for a long time, Ludwig said. His team ran 38 times and passed 15 times in the opener.

The bigger players on his team were needed on the offensive line.

“We’re thin on the line,” Ludwig said.

What about the defense, which surrendered 22 points?

“It was OK,” Ludwig said. “There’s room for improvement. We missed some tackles, especially in the second half. The point of emphasis this week is to become better tacklers.”

That may be similar to the theme at the CCDHS workouts. After all, the Cowboys were unable to contain 5-7, 165-pound Ben Voss in the 21-14 loss to Billings Central in their opener at home. Voss totaled 170 yards in 29 carries.

Tristan Hirsch, a running back who had 53 yards in eight carries, hopes the first-game jitters are gone.

“It was a little rough,” he said prior to Wednesday’s practice, “but it was the first game, so we’ll definitely build from it and get better.

“It was a rough loss and Laurel is always good. They’re a tough team, but we’re going to take it to them.”

Wide receiver Keith Vanderlaan wasn’t talking so much about his brilliant 66-yard touchdown run on a jet play to the left; rather, he remembered the dropped pass that would have tied the game when it was 21-14.

“It really was a game-changer,” Vanderlaan said. “I was wide open. I should have come down with it.”

He’s hoping for better things Saturday night.

“This week it’s about Laurel,” he said.

One thing is certain for the visiting Cowboys: turnovers and penalties must be reduced. Five fumbles, two of which were lost, and two interceptions proved costly last week.

Still, they had a chance to tie in the fourth quarter.

“We killed ourselves with penalties and turnovers, but we had a chance to win at the end of the game,” quarterback Gabe Gundlach said, then turned his attention to Laurel.

“I think we have a good chance to come out and win this game. I gotta be smart and make better decisions.”

Gundlach was 4-for-8 in passing, good for 39 yards against what proved to be a surprisingly stingy Billings Central defense.

CCDHS coach Jeff Regan likes what he’s seen in practice this week.

“We’re just working on execution,” Regan said. “We can’t turn the ball over four times. You’re not going to win with that many turnovers.

“Our offense has to have the ball more than the 38 plays we ran against Central.”

With all 10 Eastern A teams playing a similar nine-game round-robin schedule, Ludwig considers every game to be of significant importance.

“I know it’s the same for everybody, but it’s kind of scary,” he said. “To get that first win was a confidence builder.

“It would have been nice to have a (non-conference) game to get rid of some of the kinks, but I’m happy to be 1-0.”

Meanwhile, the Cowboys aren’t happy to be 0-1. However, with five teams at 1-0 and five at 0-1, the standings figure to be juggled each week.

“We should have won (last week),” Vanderlaan said. “It was a pretty big game for us and (this week) we’ll come out with more intensity.”

(Contact Abe Winter at starcity@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)