JORDAN — At long last, the moment they’ve all been waiting a year for — well, probably closer to 85 years — has arrived, and America’s loneliest county seat is amped.
The first words of this season's script were uttered loudly from the sidelines by a fan on a frigid November afternoon in Wibaux last year, after the Jordan Mustangs were trounced 70-27 by the Longhorns for the 6-Man football crown:
Now here the Mustangs (11-1) are, aiming for the first football championship in school history at 1 p.m. Saturday when they meet up with — who else? — Wibaux (10-2) at Farrand Field.
A town that celebrated the induction of Montana’s only native NFL Hall of Famer a year ago in former Green Bay Packers great Jerry Kramer is poised for an even grander moment.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” first-year coach Wyatt Colvin said of Jordan’s vibe with the team hosting its first playoff games ever this month.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
When the Mustangs avenged their only hiccup of the season, routing Big Sandy 55-25 last week nearly three months after losing their season opener to the Pioneers 44-28, the Mustang moms staged a free-for-all pregame tailgater and fed roughly 150 people — no small feat in a community barely twice that size.
Even the out-of-town hunters who fill Jordan’s two motels every autumn are galvanized.
“I’ve never seen that many people at a football game, that’s for sure,” Colvin said.
Looming in the Mustangs’ path is the longstanding Beast of the East, first as an 8-Man program and now in 6-Man.
Wibaux is seeking its eighth championship. The Longhorns have won so many the decaying sign at the Interstate 94 exit is running out of space.
After the Longhorns’ domination a year ago, many wrote them off for 2019. Sure, they returned all-everything quarterback Tel Lunde, but fellow superstars Cobe Begger, Chance Larsen and Cade Dschaak departed.
“I was a little skeptical after last season,” concedes Wibaux coach Craig Lunde, Tel’s dad. “My hopes were we could fill those shoes, but those were some pretty big shoes to fill. I didn’t think we’d fill them as completely as the kids have shown.”
Tel Lunde has thrown for more than 20 touchdowns and run for more than 20. One of his able assistants has been Wyatt Davis, who has more than 20 TDs himself.
The old rivals met during the regular season, with Jordan winning 47-41 in Wibaux on Oct. 12.
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Both teams are trying to learn from watching the film.
“We actually didn’t play too badly in that game,” Lunde said, noting the Longhorns were enduring a spate of injuries. “We played hard. When you can stay close to Jordan — they’ve got so many dang weapons — you’re doing pretty good. It’s never fun losing a game, but I was happy we were able to stick around.”
Said Colvin: “They’re very tough. They thought they were going to be unloaded after losing some of those seniors, but they’re quite a bit tougher than (many) thought they’d be. I kind of thought they’d be in there because they kept their quarterback (Lunde) and their coaches.”
The showdown figures to be one of those immovable-object vs. irresistible-force epics.
Jordan is an offensive juggernaut, scoring at least 40 points in every game and running up as many as 68 in the state’s most grueling district. The driving force has been the Murnion family — Keenan, Edward, Dawson and Cole — who combined for all nine of the Mustangs’ touchdowns against Big Sandy and have 62 for the year.
Conversely, Wibaux has pitched five shutouts and allowed only Jordan and Westby-Grenora (twice) to score more than 19 points. The Longhorns don’t have the offensive firepower they had a season ago, Lunde said, so their focus has been on ball control while relying on stout defense.
“Oh, they’re going to get their points,” Lunde said. “We know that. They’re just too explosive. We just want to keep the ball out of their hands as much as we can.”
Like Jordan, the Longhorns won in the semifinals over a team that defeated them earlier. Wibaux lost to Westby-Grenora 52-42 on Oct. 18 and edged the Thunder 36-28 a week ago.
A potential wild card Saturday: Field conditions.
Ironically in a region known as The Big Dry, last week’s win over Big Sandy was played on a soggy turf. It was raining again Tuesday and Colvin was struggling to find a dry spot to practice on a field named for the doctor who delivered Kramer (1936) and future Super Bowl participant Wayne Hawkins of the Oakland Raiders (1938).
The forecast for Saturday at least calls for dry and about 50 degrees.
“It’s going to have an effect,” Lunde said of the conditions. “But it’s going to affect both teams. It’s too bad it has to be that way, but it is what it is. Both teams have to play in it.”
Besides, after waiting for a year — probably closer to eight decades, dating to the opening of the boarding school in 1936 — nobody in Jordan is going to notice.
The Mustangs are back and they’ve got a script they're determined to finish.
“It’s everything,” Colvin said. “This is the seniors’ last shot, so it’s everything for them.”