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In different ways, Roberts and Geraldine could both be considered surprises to be playing in the quarterfinal round of the 6-Man football playoffs.

Roberts has overcome injuries to running back Taylor Sidwell and fullback Keith Thomas to put together an 8-1 record, while Geraldine has gone unbeaten (9-0) despite the fact that many of its opponents have had the edge in size and speed.

One of the two will march on to the semifinal round, as the Rockets and Tigers will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. in Geraldine.

In other quarterfinal action, defending 6-Man champion Hysham (9-0) hosts Reed Point-Rapelje (4-5) at 7 p.m. tonight. The other two quarterfinals are also at 1 p.m. Saturday, with Bridger (9-0) hosting Highwood (7-2) and West Yellowstone (8-1) hosting Augusta (6-3).

Roberts opened the season with convincing wins over North Star and Grass Range-Winnett Roy. But in the third game, a win over Custer-Melstone, Sidwell and Thomas both went down with injuries.

The Rockets were defeated by Bridger the following week, but quickly regrouped and have not lost since.

Sidwell has not returned, and had surgery two weeks ago to repair ligament damage in his knee.

Thomas, however, was able to return for the final two games of the regular season. He has rushed for 439 yards and eight touchdowns in six games while sharing the running back duties with fellow senior C.J. Graveley.

"Our kids have done a great job of overcoming these injuries," said second-year Roberts coach Jeff Bermes. "We've had several kids go down this season … we're not quite back at full strength yet, but we're close.

"Keith and C.J. have really carried the load for us in the running game, and our guys up front along with (fullback) Alex Hidalgo have done a great job of giving them room to run."

Quarterback Seth Baldwin, another of the Rockets' nine seniors, has been outstanding. The 6-foot, 190-pounder has completed 65 percent of his passes (57 of 88) for 1,207 yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

"Seth has played very well, especially lately," said Bermes, whose team thumped Dubois, Idaho, 58-6 in the first round last week. "In our last three games he's completed 80 percent of his passes and thrown nine touchdowns.

"When Taylor and Keith went down early in the season, we really had to open up our passing game. Seth and our two ends, Dusty Dykstra and Patrick Smiley, have done a real good job."

Dykstra has caught 22 passes for 671 yards and six touchdowns, while Smiley has 15 catches for 300 yards and seven TDs. Both are seniors.

Seniors have also led the way for Geraldine. Tailback Stephen Rios has rushed for 1,016 yards and 17 touchdowns, while quarterback Lane Finlayson has thrown for 491 yards and 10 TDs and rushed for 350 yards and five TDs.

Tigers coach Rod Tweet said hard work has been the key to his team's unbeaten season.

"We're not the fastest team or the biggest team, but we've got kids who work hard," said Tweet. "We could easily have a couple of losses … we've had a handful of games go right down to the last minute.

"But our kids work hard and they play smart. If somebody is going to beat us, they'll have to play well for four quarters and earn it."

Of those four quarters, the first is clearly the key. Geraldine has outscored its opponents 129-0 in the first quarter this season.

Bermes agreed with Tweet's assessment of the Tigers.

"Geraldine is disciplined. They're well-coached and they don't make many mistakes," he said. "They're a lot like us, actually. Neither one of us does anything too fancy … for the most part we just line up and come straight at you.

"It's going to come down to who can execute their offense and not make mistakes. Our kids understand that. They're excited for the chance to take on a very good Geraldine team and play 'em tough."

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