The Glacier Wolfpack knew this part of its football schedule was going to be tough, but this is getting ridiculous.
Because while Glacier’s 35-27 loss at Helena Capital was winding down, the public address guy at Vigilante Stadium announced that Helena had stopped Missoula Sentinel’s 25-game win streak.
“Not only did they end the streak, but emphatically,” Wolfpack coach Grady Bennett said of the Bengals’ 35-7 win. “So, whoa. Helena comes in very confident, and full of momentum.”
Helena and Glacier kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Legends Stadium. Flathead kicks off with Sentinel the same time, at MCPS Stadium.
The Pack is 3-2 overall and 1-2 in Western AA games, and Bennett identified one major issue in back-to-back losses to Sentinel and Capital.
“We’ve had six turnovers and we have created zero the last two games,” he said. “And we were knocking on the door of tying both those games (Glacier lost to Sentinel, 38-31). Clearly that’s got to be our focus. We have to key on getting some of those on defense.”
Glacier matches Class AA’s most prolific quarterback — Gage Sliter and his 1,557 yards and 18 touchdowns — against a more balanced Helena offense.
Helena has the Western AA’s top rusher in Cade Holland, and Carter Kraft is thrown for 1,008 yards and 10 scores under first-year head coach Dane Broadhead.
“Dane took over for Scott Evans, but really their coaching staff is really intact,” Bennett said. “And Helena always has, year after year, top-level athletes. They want to run the ball, but they also sprint out with the quarterback.”
Bennett watched the Bengals’ Sentinel tape. Receiver Manu Melo, who has a league-best eight receiving touchdowns, was a handful in the passing and return game. And there was something else.
“They played hard and earned it,” Bennett said. “We showed our kids a lot of clips of a team that just played really hard.”
Glacier also has had issues after halftime this season, after starting most of its games red-hot on offense. The Pack led Capital 27-14 at the half. That and getting a consistent run game going would help greatly.
“We are really trying to find the hot hand,” Bennett said of the backfield, which has seen Kobe Dorcheus and Jackson Hensley take turns having big nights. Kash Goicoechea is another option who played most of last week on defense.
“It’s a good situation to have, but it’s also hard on all these guys who want to be one getting it done,” Bennett said. “Number 2, gosh, we have to play better in the third quarter. We’ve been a tremendous starting team. Me as a head coach I’m searching, because I feel we’re saying the right things. Clearly we have to change things up.”
Flathead (1-4, 0-3 in league) had everything going right in the second half last Friday until the end, with the Braves fumbling the ball back to MIssoula Hellgate ahead of a late field goal that gave the Knights a 29-28 win.
Down 26-12, Flathead got on the kind of roll first-year coach Caleb Aland has been looking for.
“I was just proud of the way we fought,” Aland said. “Every opportunity we had for points in the first half got taken away by penalty, or we shot ourselves in the foot.
“After that first drive of the second, we weren’t stopped: I think we scored four straight possessions, and then we had the fumble.”
Aland has another major regret: After Jackson Walker scored on a 2-yard run to put the Braves up 27-26 with 5:38 left in the game, he elected to kick the PAT.
“That mistake, not going for two, hurts me more than anything,” he said. “I told them, ‘That loss was on me. I should have gone for two to put us up three points.’ I talked myself out of it.
“I told them I’m not perfect, either, and I made a very big mistake.”
Now the Braves get the two-time State AA champions. Sentinel has another capable quarterback in Riley Brown, but running back Adam Jones really pops out on film (and live).
“Number 6 (Jones) is a difference-maker,” Aland said. “Just a really, really good player. Does really a lot of defense, too.
“Offensively, we have to control the ball. They’re going to make us fight for yards and room. We can’t play like we did at Butte, with penalties every play.”
Walker ran for 109 yards last week and threw for 111. Brody Thornsberry is a major weapon on the outside. Joe Jones and Gabe Lake combined for another 97 rushing yards against Hellgate.
Aland had plenty to be pleased about, including the effort and the post-game locker room.
“You could tell the mood was different from when we lost to Capital, different from when we lost to Butte,” he said. “I think it was different because they saw what we’d been talking about.”
Meanwhile two unbeaten Western A teams with very prolific offenses are battling Friday in Columbia Falls.
Polson, 5-0, has left-handed quarterback Jarrett Wilson continuing to sling touchdown passes in his senior campaign. But Columbia Falls (4-0 after a bye last week) has Cody Schweikert, a junior whose passing numbers —1,242 yards, 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions — are not far off Wilson’s.
The Wildcats also have Reggie Sapa, who when he isn’t running for two scores or catching passes for four more, has also thrown for one.
Jace Hill of Columbia Falls has 20 catches for 426 yards and four TDs; Polson’s Trent Wilson has 26 for 416 yards and six touchdowns. The list goes on and on. Columbia Falls won its 2020 matchup with the Pirates 48-28; Polson won last year’s battle by a surprising 37-0 score.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.