by Scott Sacry
The Florence-Carlton Falcons are the 2021 Class B State Champions. When it mattered the most the Falcons played their best. They dismantled a solid Bigfork Viking team, pitched a shutout on defense, steamrolled on offense, and won 42-0. The win was the perfect end to a perfect 12-0 season.
Junior quarterback Pat Duchien had a huge game, going 18 of 23 with 271 yards and four total touchdowns. Senior Luke Maki both rushed and received touchdowns. Senior Tristan Pyette rushed for 148 yards and one score. Senior Blake Shoupe added a touchdown reception, and senior Caden Zaluski caught a touchdown pass and boomed six extra points.
The Falcons dominated the game defensively, forcing punts on the Vikings first four possessions and intercepting them twice. The Falcons contained the Vikings’ explosive rushing attack, and didn’t allow a touchdown.
Bigfork got the ball first and made a couple of first downs but were forced to punt behind big defensive plays by Pyette and junior Colten Rice. The Falcons took their first drive inside the Viking red zone but a costly penalty and a fumble gave the Vikings the ball at midfield.
The Vikings’ strong running game moved the ball to the Falcons’ 27-yard line, but crucial stops by senior Kaden Taylor and senior Jace Pederson forced another punt.
On the Falcons’ second drive, they methodically moved the ball down the field, aided by timely plays from Pederson and Pyette. Duchien then hit Zaluski on a 22-yard pass and catch to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
On the Vikings’ next possession, the Falcons again forced a punt, got the ball back, and surgically moved down the field. Maki capped off the drive with a punishing 15-yard run on a reverse to extend the Falcons’ lead to 14-0.
The Vikings’ next drive once again ended in a punt, highlighted by a big sack by Taylor and Rice. The Falcon offense wasted little time and took the ball to the 24-yard line where Duchien hit Maki in the endzone to give the Falcons a 21-0 advantage.
With two minutes left in the half, the Viking offense rushed the ball down the field and were threatening to score. Senior Levi Posey rose to the occasion and intercepted the Vikings’ pass in the endzone to keep the score 21-0 at halftime.
Behind strong running by Pyette and a great catch by Zaluski, the Falcons moved into scoring position at the start of the third quarter. Then in a play worthy of an ESPN “Play of the Day” nomination, Duchien took a keeper up the middle, made a man miss, and hurdled a Viking defender to score, increasing the Falcon lead to 28-0.
The suffocating Falcon defense once again stopped the Vikings and forced a punt. As if looking for a spark to ignite their team, the Vikings faked the punt, but Colten Rice made a great tackle to thwart the attempt. The Falcon offense took over on the 15-yard line, and Duchien threw a dart to a streaking Shoupe in the back of the endzone for a touchdown and a 35-0 lead.
With 6:37 left in the third quarter Pedersen intercepted a Viking pass to give the Falcons the ball. The Falcon offense then moved the ball down the field behind their dominating offensive line and Pyette ran it in from four yards out to score. The six-minute drive ended the third quarter and gave the Falcons a 42-0 lead.
The 4th quarter saw both teams bring in their subs, giving all the players a chance to play in the championship game. A late goal line stand by the Falcon defense sealed the shutout and, with fireworks exploding in the background, the Falcon players rushed the field as State Champions.
The Falcons controlled the game and dominated the Vikings, but the true measure of the Falcon squad came at the end of the game where gracious and humble players showed outstanding sportsmanship in congratulating the defeated Vikings. At game’s end, both teams met in the middle of the field, formed a two-team circle and shared a moment of prayer and reflection on a hard-fought game.