By Bruce Sayler
The Cleverley Bowl game participants and onlookers expected a good game.
The Red Team edged the Blue Team 34-28 Saturday night in the 37th holding of the Bob Cleverley Class C 8-Man All-Star football game. Missed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the game returned to Montana Tech’s Bob Green for the series resumption.
The Red needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a clinching first down before being able to celebrate in the waning seconds. The Blue had a 22-20 edge at halftime that held up through the third quarter.
Team offensive MVP Jayce Tande quarterbacked the Red to the go-ahead touchdown when he connected with Garrett George on a 13-yard pass two minutes into the final period. It was the second TD pass between the two and sent the Red ahead 28-20. Tande is from Scobey and bound for Dickinson State to play football while George is from Fairview.
Layne Spidel of St. Ignatius rumbled 10 yards to score the final Red TD with 5:46 left to play. The score was set up by Flint Valley’s Preston Metesh, team defensive MVP, picked off a Blue pass and dashed 45 yards back with it on the return to the Blue Team’s 15-yard line. Spidel crashed in thee plays later.
The Blue came back with an 81-yard scoring strike to Hayden Diekhans of Fort Benton from Simms QB Stephen Links Jr. Links played all of the second half after William Ullery’s exit with an injury. Ullery, from Fort Benton, won the Class C sprints championships at their state track meet last weekend. Despite playing only a half on Saturday, he was picked the Blue’s MVP on offense minutes away from the final buzzer. A second-and-nine play for the Red saw Tande flip a 13-yard pass to Scobey teammate Payton Leibrand for a fresh set of downs and barely a minute left to play.
“I called a rollout,” said the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Tande, who readily admitted to trying to emulate Clemson standout Trevor Lawrence in playing and hairstyles. “I trusted my guy and went and got it.”
Tande said he enjoyed the week’s experience, culminating in the game.
“It was a great game,” he said with a wide smile and holding his MBP trophy. “It was what I think we all expected it to be. It was a fun and great week. It was good getting to know the guys.”
It was even good getting more acquainted with rivals he grew up competing against, Tande said.
“You might see a guy you hate,” he said, smiling and some more, “and walk out of here best friends.”
He, Metesh, Ullery and the Blue’s Jace Thompson, a Fort Bentonite who has signed with Montana Tech, were picked the game MVPs. The interception at the end led to Metesh’s receiving the Red defensive award.
“It was a helluva game,” said Metesh, a middle linebacker playing what he said will be his next-to-last game. He is due to compete in the Montana East-West Shrine Game in two weeks.
“It was pretty cool,” he said about winning the award. “But, it’s not just me. I wouldn’t be here or in the spot if not for my team. The award is for them, too.”
He acknowledged some concerns after the Blue blasted out to an early lead and took advantage of early surprises and breaks.
“We had a lot of mistakes,” Metesh said. “We’d have been better off without the two fumbles and the mistakes in our kicking game. But, we got it done.”
The Blue sprang a surprise when it executed two onside kicks — one intentional, one not-so-much – at the beginning of the game. Still, it recovered both. After the first recovery, Thompson carried three times, then Ullery kept and sped the last 25 yards to the end zone. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Blue had a 6-0 advantage.
It almost widened. A strong, chilly wind blew the entire game and gusts forced kickers to sometimes eschew the tee on kickoffs. So, after the initial kickoff, the Blue had a holder steady the ball for the kick, but it was still thwacked sideways, turning into an unintentional onside kick. The Blue again recovered and looked ready to capitalize on its good fortune.
However, a fumble on the first play from scrimmage was recovered by Kade Pardee of Thompson Falls for the East and launched the Red on its first touchdown drive. A 4-yard pass from Roman Sparks of Thompson Falls to Tucker Foster of Plains capped it. Sparks scored the two-point conversion on a keeper and the Red had its first lead, 8-6.
Eastern and Western C teams placed players on the Red Team this year, and Northern and Southern C conference supplied the Blue.
Both end zones became more attainable in the second quarter as the Blue built its 22-20 edge. Ullery hit Diekhans for a 58-yard pass and zipped 3 yards on a keeper for Blue touchdowns. The Red countered with Tande’s first TD strike to George, covering 32 yards, and on a 57-yard throw from Bryan Mask of Clark Fork (Alberton/Superior) to Kade Pardee.
Ian Killorn of St. Ignatius had an interception for the Red and Colton Young of Absarokee picked one off for the Blue.
Ullery was the game’s leading rusher with 57 yards, despite playing only a half. Links passed for 215 yards, and the leading receivers were Diekhans with 143 yards, and Pardee with 142. Pardee caught 11 passes. Montana Tech signee Kaimen Evans of Belt, playing for the Blue, ran for 7 yards and grabbed four passes for 25.
A smaller-than-usual crowd attended on the sunny evening chilled by the wind from the northwest.
Head coaches were Jeff Schultz of Clark Fork for the Red and Mike White of Shelby for the Blue.
Blue Team 6 16 0 6 — 28
Red Team 8 12 0 14 — 34
BLUE – William Ullery 25 run (run failed), 14:03
RED – Tucker Foster 4 pass from Roman Sparks (Sparks run), 6:14
BLUE – Hayden Diekhans 58 pass from Ullery (Jace Thompson run), 13:27
RED – Garrett George 32 pass from Jayce Tande (pass failed), 12:41
BLUE – Ullery 3 run (Kaimen Evans pass from Stephen Links Jr.), 4:38.
RED – Kade Pardee 57 pass from Bryan Mask (pass failed), 4:18.
RED – George 13 pass from Tande (Payton Leibrand pass from Tande), 13:02.
RED – Layne Spidel 10 run (pass failed), 6:46
BLUE – Diekhans 81 pass from Links (pass failed), 2:09.
First downs 20 15
Rushes-yards 49-154 44-93
Passes 20-45-2 15-23-1
Passing yards 285 220
Return yards 25 61
Punts-avg. 4-39.5 2-26.5
Fumbles-lost 4-1 4-3
Penalties-yards 9-95 5-45
RUSHING – Blue, William Ullery 6-57, Hayden Axtman 5-33, Jace Thompson 4-18, Tucker Johnstone 4-17, Stephen Links Jr. 8-12, Hartson Van Houten 3-11, Kaimen Evans 2-7, Kelly Lind 1-6, Garrett Zimdars 1-6, Tony Daley 2-6, Team 3-(-19). Red, Roman Sparks 15-40, Jayce Tande 5-19, Layne Spidel 2-17, Payton Leibrand 5-17, Preston Metesh 3-9, Bryan Mask 1-8, Hayden Lockies 2-7, Steve Rice 2-2,Ethan Parke 1-2, Lucas Andersen 1-1, Jared Pardee 1-(-6), Team 2-(-10).
PASSING – Links 14-35-2-215, Ullery 6-10-0-70. Red, Mask 8-11-1-142, Tande 5-9-0-70, J. Pardee 1-1-0-4, Sparks 1-1-0-4.
RECEIVING – Blue, Hayden Diekhans 3-143,Ian Swanson 3-34, Tabris Correa 3-32, Evans 3-25, Van Houten 2-23, Caden Smerker 2-22, Johnstone 1-16, Aidan McDaniel 1-13, Colton Young 1-12. Red, Kade Pardee 7-129, Garrett George 2-45, Andersen 5-29, Tucker Foster 1-4.