The top two seeds in the Class AA football playoffs advanced to the semifinals with easy first-round wins last week. Billings Senior blitzed Missoula Big Sky and Kalispell Glacier ran away from Missoula Sentinel.
The undefeated and top-ranked Broncs now host Helena Capital, which upset Billings West in the first round, and one-loss Glacier hosts Helena High, which won at Bozeman last week. Those are Friday kickoffs in the semifinal round.
Helena Capital at Billings Senior, Friday, 7 p.m.
Quarterback Nate Dick had another big game in Senior’s 51-15 win over Big Sky in the first round, passing for three touchdowns and rushing for another. Dick, who is probably the front-runner to win the Gatorade player of the year award, is definitely the key to what the Broncs do on offense, and he gave Capital fits – especially with his legs – when the teams met earlier this season, a 35-7 win for Senior. The Broncs’ offense also gets big contributions from Gabe Sulser, Nolan Askelson, Keaton Anderson and Ben LaBeau, who caught two touchdowns last week.
Not only will Capital try to slow Senior’s high-scoring offense, the Bruins will have to solve the Broncs’ defense, which is one of the stingiest in Class AA. Capital mustered only seven points in the first meeting, but it jumped on Billings West early in last week’s win. The Bruins built a 23-0 lead in the first half behind three touchdown passes from Carter Pappas, who twice found Marcus Welnel for scores. Pappas and Capital will look to avoid mistakes and take advantage of opportunities against Senior, while trusting their defense to keep the Bruins close. The defense forced a safety last weekend and has one of the fiercest pass rushes in the class. They gave Senior some troubles in the first meeting, and they’ll need to do that – and then some – for four quarters on Friday if the Bruins are to pull the upset.
Helena High at Kalispell Glacier, Friday, 7 p.m.
Glacier seems to have righted the ship after a midseason slide that saw the Wolfpack play three consecutive close games – a three-point win over Great Falls High, a one-point win over Sentinel and a five-point loss to Great Falls CMR. Coach Grady Bennett and Glacier answered the call last week, though, defeating Sentinel 35-14. Tadan Gilman and Drew Turner, Glacier’s backfield complements, had big games again, and they’ll be the focus of the Helena High defense this week. Both players had dominant performances against the Bengals in the first week of the season when Glacier earned a 35-7 win.
Helena High is riding high after last week’s 28-21 win over Bozeman in which the defense held the Hawks’ high-flying offense in check. Bozeman scored 21 first-half points, but couldn’t get anything going in the second half, a testament to coach Tony Arntson’s defense. The Bengals will need another strong performance from the secondary, especially in run support trying to slow Gilman and Turner, while the offense will try to match Glacier’s point output. Kaleb Winterburn has progressed at quarterback, but the Bengals’ offense is still centered around Ryan Arntson, who will likely see another heavy workload at Legends Stadium.