BOZEMAN — After a division championship win over Billings West to end the regular season, the Bozeman Hawks went into the State AA playoffs with a first-round bye as the No. 1 seed from the East.
Now, they prepare for their biggest test of the year: a quarterfinal matchup with Kalispell Glacier on Friday.
“Moving into the 1 seed was huge for us and getting to play at home was huge,” Hawks coach Levi Wesche said. “I think everyone that gets the bye, you worry about losing momentum a little bit, but you also enjoy resting your kids legs a little bit. So trying to weigh that out and knock a little bit of the rust off and make sure we come out strong against a really good Glacier team.”
To prepare for Glacier is no small task, especially when preparing for one of the best quarterback’s in the state in the Wolfpack’s Gage Sliter, who has thrown for almost 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns.
“I'm just kind of treating him like any other quarterback,” senior tight end and defensive lineman Luke Smith explained. “I know he's a good player, great quarterback, but you've just got to treat him like any other guy.”
Smith has also been one of the state’s best in the passing game, where he and quarterback and longtime friend Jake Casagranda have found a rhythm, making him the fifth-ranked pass-catcher through the regular season in Class AA with 728 receiving yards and second in touchdowns with 10.
“I think with the second half of the season we just got more comfortable,” Smith mentioned. “This is my first year starting at tight end, but I've played with Jake for since first grade basketball, so we've had a great connection for a long time.”
For Wesche, not only does Smith bring talent and versatility to the tight end position but also to the defensive side of the ball.
After accumulating eight sacks on the season, Smith is one of the best in the state in hurries and tackles for loss, which will all be needed against a well-balanced Glacier attack.
“He's a special, special player and then defensively, you know, I do think he gets overlooked a little bit,” Wesche said.
Kickoff slated for 7 p.m. on Friday night while in Helena, Gallatin football takes on the Helena High Bengals at 3:30 p.m.