HAMILTON – Only 10 teams remain in the hunt for a high school football state championship. Hamilton has spent years watching others celebrate in November. Now the Broncs are experiencing it for themselves.

Hamilton once was a Class A power, making it to four consecutive state championships from 1997 to 2000, winning in ’97 and ’98. Lately, the Broncs couldn’t break through the quarterfinals.

But this high-scoring squad entertained the home crowd to wins in the quarterfinals (47-0 over Glendive) and semifinals, taking down powerhouse Billings Central in a 35-28 thriller last week.

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The Broncs knew for years this group could do something special. Running back Bridger Bauder said assistant coach Steve Weston, Hamilton’s longtime former head coach, started telling the current senior class they could win a state title back in seventh grade. Now they’re bringing the town along for the ride.

“You know, it’s crazy,” said Bauder. “After the game last Saturday, after the big win, I had a bunch of people I didn’t know coming up saying good job to me, knowing who I was. It just felt really cool.”

“It’s exciting,” added first-year head coach Bryce Carver, a former Dillon star that admitted he is way more nervous for this state championship than the titles he played for with the Beavers. “Last week we had a ton of people down at the field. We got a lot of guys from that ’97 team, (they) came back. Just the excitement the kids fed off of, I think too.”

“I’m really excited,” echoed wide receiver and safety Tyler Chouinard. “After the win last Saturday it’s kind of unreal, that all of our hard work has kind of payed off. And now we’re here. So just got to go out and get the win now.”

Hamilton won’t only be aiming for its first state title in nearly 20 years. The Broncs will also be trying to avenge their only loss of the season. Columbia Falls won in Hamilton 23-20 back on Sept. 1.

The Wildcats get to host the rematch and also their second straight Class A state championship game at 1 p.m. Saturday.