BILLINGS – Quick trivia question: When was the only time Billings Senior and Helena met in a state football championship game?
“I’m gonna say, like, 1953,” guessed Broncs head coach Chris Murdock at practice Tuesday.
“Fifty-nine?” wondered Senior defensive back Micah Ans.
Further back, fellas.
The year was 1932. F.D.R. had just been elected president, and Helena beat Senior 12-6 for, what was then, the Class A title.
So does this feel like an 85-year revenge game in the making?
“Yes, definitely,” laughed Ans.
“Yeah, we’ve been talking about that all year,” joked Murdock. “Definitely, it’s time to get back at them for that.”
Turns out, the Bengals should have celebrated that one a little more. It’s the last championship Helena won.
The Bengals have lost four times in the State AA title game, 2010 being the most recent, while Senior is famously playing in its third straight championship game.
“We’ve got the experience on our side, and I think that we have the best coaching staff in the state,” Ans said. “Being through it three straight years I think definitely gives us a little bit of an edge.”
“The past three years, we’ve made it to state,” agreed Broncs quarterback Nolan Askelson. “I mean, that’s nine extra games – that’s a whole football season. And you really look at it, that’s a lot of extra practices and that’s a lot of extra football you get to play. I think it actually helps a lot.”
The Broncs have won 25 games in a row, including a 43-19 triumph over Helena back on Sept. 1. But both teams know those aren’t the Bengals arriving Friday in Billings.
“We were so young and inexperienced at that time,” recalled Helena head coach Tony Arntson. “We didn’t know who the heck we were. Now we’ve played 10 AA football game since, and we hope we’re a lot better.”
“Special teams, defense, offense, I mean, we’re clicking on all cylinders right now,” said Bengals quarterback Kaleb Winterburn.
Murdock had the chance to scout Helena a few weeks after their first meeting.
“I came and watched them in person against Skyview, and was like, ‘Wow, that’s definitely a different team,’” Murdock said.
There also might be one huge difference for the Broncs. Gabe Sulser isn’t 100 percent after suffering a groin injury in practice last week. Of course, the Broncs looked just fine without him in a 49-7 semifinal drubbing over Missoula Sentinel.
“You saw last week,” reaffirmed Askelson of Senior’s other weapons, “Ben LaBeau, just another stud. If he was on another team, he’d look like a Gabe Susler. You’ve got Colton Eliason, Connor Denham, Carter Garsjo, those guys step up and make plays like it’s their job. So I’m not worried about it – we don’t like to game plan around one player and it works well.”
It takes a team to win 25 in a row. And it’s a team that expects No. 26 Friday night.