In a game plagued by penalty calls, the Libby High School football team fell to the Butte Central Maroons 35-21 Friday.
In the fourth quarter, Libby junior quarterback Jeff Offenbecher made a heroic run to put the Loggers within striking distance of the Maroons’ lead, making 83 yards as he dodged or broke free from the Butte Central Defenders.
Yet, if not for penalties adding up to over 40 yards to go before a first down, it was a distance that Offenbecher wouldn’t have had to run.
The quarterback draw play was a new play, only introduced in the past week, said Libby Head Coach Neil Fuller, and it worked well.
In fact, it worked twice Friday night. Offenbecher alone had 8 carries for 160 yards against the Maroons.
“We had over 300 yards total offense, which, when you can get over 300 yards total offense, you’re usually going to be in the game,” Fuller said. But mistakes — and not just penalties — cost the Loggers the advantage of some of their better plays.
During Friday’s game, flags were falling on a lot of plays.
“You know, the first three games, I think we averaged three, maybe four penalties a game, and then Friday night, for whatever reason, that’s the most penalized of any team I’ve ever coached,” Fuller said.
Fuller acknowledged it might not be difficult to find something to call on almost any play in high school football, but the Loggers have to play well enough they don’t have to worry how closely the referees scrutinize them.
“We’ve got to play well enough — even if there are a lot of penalties and some calls we don’t like, we’ve got to play well enough to overcome that, and we didn’t do that Friday night,” he said. “We had our chances, and we’ve just got to clean things up and play a lot more disciplined football.”
Beyond the penalties and lost yards, Fuller noted some missed opportunities, with safeties out of position or other correctable mistakes.
“We had those breakdowns, but overall, I thought our defense had some great stands,” Fuller said.
With about five minutes left in the third quarter, the Loggers came off a touchdown and extra point to hold the Maroons around midfield. Then sophomore linebacker Dave Patterson ran into Butte Central’s punter, laying him out.
“Watching it on game film, if he would have just laid out in front of him, he would have blocked the punt,” Fuller said. “And that just killed us, because the momentum had shifted.”
The Maroons got the ball back, and before the quarter ended had added another seven points.
On the other hand, Patterson had a good game outside of that play, Fuller said. “He made some bonehead decisions and had a couple plays that I know he wished he could take back.”
“But those are things we can clean up,” he said.
And Libby has both young talent — such as sophomore quarterback Jay Beagle who, showed his running ability on several plays Friday — and players coming into their own — such as senior defensive back Colten Clemons.
“I’m just really happy for him. He’s a senior that hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time the last couple years, and he’s just stepped into that starting roll, and is playing great football for us,” Fuller said.
Fuller said he felt the offensive line also played very well, and players such as senior J.J Davis worked hard both offensively and defensively.
“The last three teams we’ve played, they’re all playoff caliber teams, and we just haven’t had a chance to catch our breath,” Fuller said. “It’s been a tough road for us.”
The players have competed well — have played hard — even when they haven’t played well, he said.
Looking toward the match-up against Columbia Falls on Friday, Fuller said that the Loggers will have to do more than just play hard if they want to win.
“We’re not going to be able to turn the ball over, we’re going to have to play a mistake-free game, so we have a lot of cleaning up to do this week,” he said.
Friday, Sept. 14
Butte Central 35, Libby 21
BC: 14 14 7 0 - 35
L: 0 7 7 7 - 21