It doesn’t take long for the Class AA football field to begin shaping up, and two weeks into the season the group is down to four of the 14 teams with perfect 2-0 records – Kalispell Glacier, Helena High, Billings Skyview and Billings Senior.
Butte High bounced back after a first-week loss at Billings Senior with a 14-7 victory over Helena Capital last Friday at Naranche Stadium. The Bulldog defense came to play, holding the powerful – although mistake-ridden – Bruins scoreless until a 27-yard pass from Gus Chancy to Will Hunthausen tallied a touchdown with 16 seconds left in the contest.
Butte’s offense moved the ball well, but suffered from a pair of interceptions and three lost fumbles. Bulldog quarterback Dylan Cook threw two touchdown passes, including a 12-yarder in the second quarter to Connor Lane, along with a 30-yard gem to Mason Ruppel in the third quarter. Cook led the passing attack with 23 completions to five receivers for 244 yards.
Ruppel led the ground game for Butte with 11 carries for 42 yards, though Cook had a couple of nice runs where he carried a good bit of the Capital defense with him. There was one play where a Bruin defender attempted to tackle Cook from behind, but the visitors obviously needed more than one player to bring him down, as the would-be tackler bounced off and fell to the turf.
While Butte’s defense stood fast time and again following the turnovers, the Bulldogs went about forcing five turnovers of their own. Paul Campbell snagged a pair of interceptions, while Quinn Dennehy grabbed his own while knocking down a number of passes in the defensive backfield. Tyler Wonnacott had six tackles and a pair of sacks, while Cian Randall was all over the field stopping Bruin runners and receivers.
Two of the more highly regarded teams in the league met last Friday when Great Falls Russell battled in Kalispell against the Glacier Wolfpack. CMR came out swinging and led 10-0 early in the second quarter. Bryce Cuchine returned a kickoff 95 yards to give the Rustlers a 31-20 cushion in the third quarter, but the Wolfpack had plenty left in the tank. Logan Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards, leading Glacier’s 29-0 run to the final gun and the 49-31 final.
In Missoula, Nathan Dick threw for a touchdown and ran for a second as Billings Senior escaped Big Sky, 14-7. The Eagles scored midway through the fourth quarter when Luke Entzel connected with Michael Banna on a 7-yard pass, but couldn’t close the gap. Kaelen Shay had 55 yards rushing on a dozen carries for Senior, while Banna had 66 yards on 17 totes.
Billings Skyview scored the first three touchdowns in a 30-13 win over Kalispell Flathead, as Justin Keeling punched in a couple of short touchdown runs for the homestanding Falcons. Riley Barta added 83 yards on nine carries for Skyview and teammate Rashawn Kroll had eight handles for 48 yards. Josh McCracken scored both of the Braves’ touchdowns, one via a 15-yard run and the other a 23-yard pass from Easton Johnson.
Helena High held off Billings West for a 31-20 win at Vigilante Stadium, handing the Bears their 16th consecutive loss. For the second straight week the Bengals fell behind early, as Cody McCombs scored on a pair of 1-yard carries for West. Helena got 10 back before McCombs punched in from 3 yards out, but the Bengals notched the last three trips into the endzone for the 11-point margin of victory. Lane Kokoruda had 11 carries for 153 yards, including a 53-yard scoring gallop, while Bengal quarterback Jackson Thennis threw for 156 yards and ran for scores from 7 and 3 yards out.
Bozeman narrowly got its first win of the season with a last-second come-from-behind 33-32 win at Missoula Sentinel. Payton O’Reilly caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from D.J. Perdaems to lift the Hawks just minutes after Sentinel’s Cy Steele scored on a 3-yard run that put the Spartans ahead.
All the scoring came in the first half of Great Falls’ home 17-14 win over Missoula Hellgate, as a 25-yard field goal from Kevin Watson made the difference. Hellgate had two fumbles and four interceptions lost, while the Bison gave away an interception and two of five fumbles. Each team was penalized eight times, and each team punted six times. Jordan Wilkins had two TD passes for Great Falls, while Dylan Botsford threw a pair of scores for the Knights.
The first Class AA football power poll is slated to be released next Wednesday.
Butte High (1-1) celebrates Silver B night Friday at Naranche Stadium when the Bulldogs play host to Great Falls Russell (1-1). It will be the first time the teams have met in Butte since the 2012 semifinals, where the Bulldog defense held fast on a last-second 2-point conversion attempt to advance to the title game.
Kalispell Glacier (2-0) travels to Bozeman (1-1) for a rematch of last November’s state championship game. The Hawks won that contest, but graduated the bulk of the team and seem to be in a rebuilding year.
One of the three Class AA Missoula schools will have a football win this weekend, as Sentinel (0-2) is at Big Sky (0-2) Friday at 7 p.m. The other Missoula school, Hellgate (0-2), gets a shot at Helena High (2-0) at Vigilante Stadium in the Capital City.
Helena Capital (1-1) looks to rebound on a road trip to Legends Field in Kalispell where the Bruins will test the Braves (1-1), while Billings West (0-2) will face crosstown rival Senior (2-0) at Daylis Stadium. Billings Skyview (2-0) is on the road at Great Falls (1-1).