BUTTE — Dylan Parks just happened to be in the right place at the right time when he caught the longest pass play of the 2019 Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Game.
Sitting with the ball on their own 15-yard line of Bob Green Field, Blue team quarterback Grady Taylor launched a deep ball in the direction of Calder Fleming. Taylor overthrew Fleming, but Parks saw the play develop and wanted to be behind to catch the ball, or at the very least knock down the ball to prevent an interception.
Parks proceeded to haul the ball in, turned upfield and was not touched as he turned the play into an 85-yard touchdown. The Blue team would go on to beat the Red team 32-7.
“It happened to come in my hand,” Parks said. “I saw my blocker on the right, so I went around him, he blocked, did a good block and I kept going.”
The talented athlete out of Circle also had a 55-yard touchdown reception early in the game and ended up being named the Blue team offensive MVP. Arlee’s Darshan Bolen was named the Blue team defensive MVP, while the Red team offensive MVP was Montana Griz commit and Great Falls Central alum Noah Ambuehl.
Joliet’s Grant O’Rourke was the Red team defensive MVP.
As for the post-game award, it was not something Parks — who will also play in the East-West Shrine game — was expecting.
“We’ve got all-stars on our team,” Parks said. “Landers (Smith), he’s going here to play at (Montana) Tech, everyone’s going to Minot and it was fun to play with them. I just happened to have a good game.”
Smith was close in the MVP voting race and scored two touchdowns on the ground, while adding another through the air. His one-yard touchdown in the first quarter helped the Blue team out to a 14-0 lead and they never looked back after that point.
The Blue squad led 26-0 at halftime and seemed to be in good offensive rhythm throughout the contest. They were able to set the tone early and looked comfortable with what they were running throughout the game. Smith credited a lot of that to their coaching, which included Drummond-Phillipsburg’s Mike Cutler. The Flint Creek coach is the winner of two-straight Class C 8-Man state titles.
“We come out on the field and (Cutler’s) like, ‘alright boys, it’s game time,’” Smith said. “And when you got Cutler … when he’s talking to you, you get pretty excited and that spiked all the boys up. We came out on fire and ready to go.”
The Blue team was perhaps even more impressive on defense than on offense, in large part to the play of its defensive backs. Bolen was the catalyst and the 5-foot-11 Arlee product had two standout interceptions on his way to MVP honors.
Play his preferred cornerback/safety hybrid position, Bolen showcased impressive ball skills throughout the contest and was constantly in the correct position. His head snaps were near perfection and he was able to track the ball in the air extremely well.
“You target it in the air, then you know where it’s at, where your man’s at,” Bolen said. “Then you turn around and you know it’s going to come right there and I got it and turned it up.”
The Red’s lone touchdown of the day came in the fourth quarter, on a five-yard touchdown run by Ambuehl. Struggling to string drives together throughout the contest, the Red teams defense was able to keep them in the game, but scoring points was difficult.
Turnovers and miscues plagued the Red team, who were down 32-0 before finally getting the ball in the end zone.
For Parks, Smith, Bolen and the rest Blue team, however, the 36th annual Cleverley game was a successful end to an enjoyable week in the Mining City.
“It’s really special to not know many of these guys and you turn around in a few days and you’re brothers, you know,” Smith said. “It’s pretty cool, we all hang out with each other every day, I mean we have two practices a day for two hours, so we’re really getting to know each other.
“We eat together, we sleep together and we grind together so it’s just a huge bond and pretty cool to have.”