BILLINGS – There’s a reason Billings Senior has 24 consecutive football wins. Actually, there are several.
Speed. Size. Depth. Coaching. Focus. Want.
The latter is what rallied top-seeded Senior past eighth-seeded Bozeman in last week’s playoff opener, 35-25.
Most didn’t think a rally would even be in order. In fact, very few thought Bozeman would lead at any point after the dominance Senior has shown for two straight seasons. The Broncs have two dozen straight wins, all by double digits, including last year’s championship victory over Kalispell Glacier.
But even the best occasionally lose focus, or underestimate the underdog.
“I don’t think we were quite ready,” admitted Broncs quarterback Nolan Askelson this week at practice. “I think we kind of walked in there like, ‘Yeah, we’re playing the eight seed, no big deal,’ and I think that was bad. But I think it was good to have a good game, it’s what we needed.”
“Yeah, it’s playoff football and that’s what you can expect from every team: to bring it,” agreed Broncs receiver Gabe Sulser.
Not that being tested was a bad thing.
“A close game always makes us better and in the playoffs you’re always going to have close games, especially once you get to the championship,” said Askelson. “I think it was good for us to finally have a close game, one we actually had to work for a little bit.”
The Broncs face another heavy underdog in Friday’s Class AA semifinal at Daylis Stadium (7 p.m. kickoff). Seventh-seeded Missoula Sentinel hasn’t played football this deep into November since 1989. But the Spartans just upset crosstown rival and second-seeded Missoula Big Sky, so it’s clear the they are not intimidated.
“I think we can expect to see lots of trickery from every team in the playoffs,” said Sulser, “and I’m sure Sentinel will have some tricks up their sleeve, too. Even us, we had to break out some tricks of our own to get things rolling a little bit (last week).”
It’s not that the Broncs are taking Friday’s game any more seriously. Chasing 25 straight wins, they’re well aware of the playoff stakes, but bet on them to enter this one a little more focused.
Combine that with the amount of ‘want’ that’s carried them this far, and there likely won’t be any need for a rally.