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Jefferson High School’s Sam Zody watches as Maddy Leiva and Abby Youde goes up to block against Manhattan on Oct. 22. (Photo by Rose Johnson)

Jefferson High’s volleyball team took their undefeated record to Manhattan on Thursday — and escaped with a hard-fought, five-set win to preserve its perfect regular season.

Manhattan finished in fourth place in the regular season, but they sure didn’t play like that in this match. The Panthers took an early 3-0 lead on an ace by Rachel Van Blaricom and were up 5-1  before the Tigers started inching back, eventually pulling to within 24-22 before Jefferson nailed down the first set. 

In the second, Dakota Edmisten’s kill and two tap-over points made it 3-1. Then the teams locked up for ties at 5, 6, 7 and 8. An ace by Sam Zody gave the Panthers a 12-9 lead, but the blocks started going Manhattan’s way, and they tied the score at 15, 18, and 22 before taking the final three points for a 25-22 win.

Manhattan’s momentum carried into the third set, fueling a 6-1 run. The Panthers played catch-up until they tied the game at 16, then went up 19-18 on an Edmisten kill and 21-20 on a Abbie Youde block. The lead increased to 23-21, but Manhattan put down the last 4 points to take the set, 25-23.

This was the first time all season that the Panthers had been down after three sets. The pressure was on, and Jefferson responded with a 9-4 run to start the fourth. An ace by Emma McCauley gave the Panthers a 15-8 lead, and a pair of kills by Edmisten and two aces by Grace Alexander sealed a 25-19 win. 

The fifth and deciding set did not lack for excitement. McCauley’s two aces gave the Panthers a 10-9 lead, but the Tigers bounced back with a run to take a 14-11 edge — just one point from victory.  But an ace by Van Blaricom tied the score at 14, a kill by Edmisten tied it at 15, and the Panthers pulled out an exciting 17-15 for the match.

Jefferson finished the season at 10-0 for first place; Broadwater lost only two, both to Jefferson, for second place, while Whitehall finished third, Manhattan fourth, Sweet Grass County fifth, and Three Forks sixth. 

This week’s District tournament has been reorganized because of pandemic restrictions. Rather than playing all games in one location, Whitehall was set to play Three Forks and Manhattan Sweet Grass County on Tuesday. The winner of the Manhattan-Sweet Grass County match will play Thursday at Jefferson, while the Whitehall-Three Forks winner plays at Broadwater. 

The winners of those matches meet up on Friday at the gym of the higher seed, with the winner declared the conference champion. The semifinal losers will play on Friday with the winner taking third. Either way, the Panthers will be at home on Friday night. It sounds complicated but it will work out fine — and will meet the county guidelines for limiting spectators. 

Football

Jefferson High’s football team saw its season end Friday at the hands of undefeated and top-ranked Manhattan. The Panthers made a game of it, but came away on the short end of a 24-13 final.

It was already snowing hard when the team left Boulder Friday. There was no snow when they arrived in Manhattan — but that would change.

The Panthers held the Tigers scoreless until deep into the second quarter. Manhattan finally scored with 5:17 left, but Wade Rykal stopped two-point try short of the goal line. Jefferson quickly answered with a pass from Braden Morris to Tom Meyer, and a Dylan Root PAT kick gave the Panthers an unexpected 7-6 halftime lead. 

As the snow started falling harder in the second half, Jake Genger came up with a quarterback sack to keep the Tigers out of the end zone. But Manhattan came back to score with 2:30 left in the third period, then added two more touchdowns in the fourth to go up 24-7. With 1:08 left, Morris found Joey Visser in the end zone, narrowing the final to 24-13. 

The Panthers can be very proud of how well they played the number one team in Class B. A couple of breaks could have made the final a lot closer. 

Manhattan finished first in the South division, with Broadwater second, Whitehall third, and Columbus fourth.

In the first week of the playoffs, Manhattan will host Colstrip, Broadwater will host Huntley Project, Whitehall will travel to Shepherd, and Columbus will travel to Red Lodge. In other first-round games Glasgow is at Eureka, Big Fork is at Malta, Loyola plays at Fairfield, and Conrad travels to Florence-Carlton.  

Cross Country

The Panther Cross Country teams ended their season in the snow Friday at the State meet in Kalispell. The winter storm brought wet and cold conditions, but a total of 157 boys and 137 girls competed in the Class B event. 

For the boys, Logan Hornung finished 22nd in 18:53, Logan Gillmore 37th in 19:19, Mikey Emter 81st in 21:10, Christian Davis 94th in 21:44, and Christian Gillmore 99th 21:52. The Panthers finished 11th out of 22 scoring teams; had they been at full strength, they would have placed in the top five. 

The lady Panthers were short a couple of runners so could not get a team score. Delaney Stearns finished 24th in 22:59, Becca Nelson 60th in 24:50, Austie May 99th in 27:32, and Hailee Stiles 101 in 27:40. 

Broadwater won its second state girls title in a row, while Eureka took its second boys crown in as many years. Manhattan was second in both the girls and boys races.  In Class C, Manhattan Christian won both boys and girls titles.  

Coach Karson Klass was pleased with his runners, who made great strides in the face of a difficult season. Cross Country is a sport that poses both physical and mental challenges, and Jefferson’s athletes did a fine job on both. Thank you, “Hoofers,” for a great year.

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