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Class AA football roundup: Taco Dowler, Billings West rally past Bozeman High

Posted at 10:27 PM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-24 03:26:49-04

BILLINGS -- Bozeman High nearly forced a three-way tie atop the Eastern AA football standings, but Isaiah Claunch, Taco Dowler and the Billings West Golden Bears rallied for a 23-19 win at Daylis Stadium on Friday, securing an undefeated regular season and No. 1 seed for the Class AA state football playoffs.

After Bozeman kicker Elijah Eckles booted through a 41-yard field goal to give the Hawks a 19-16 lead with less than six minutes to play, Dowler quickly flipped momentum. He returned the ensuing kickoff 50-plus yards and moments later caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Claunch that put the Bears up 23-19. West survived the final five minutes of the game and will now have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

It took both teams a while to get started on Friday, as they traded field goals in the first quarter. Claunch was the first player to find the end zone, breaking the plane on a 2-yard run in the second quarter. Bozeman answered with an explosive play to Montana State commit Kenneth Eiden IV, who had a 64-yard catch and run to put the Hawks up 13-10.

That looked like it might be the halftime score, but the West offense quickly moved down the field to get into scoring position. Michael Deleon capped the drive with a 4-yard scoring run to give West a 16-13 halftime lead.

The defenses were solid in the second half with the only third-quarter points coming on another Eckles field goal to tie the game at 16-16 going to the fourth quarter.

With the win, West finishes the regular season at 7-0 and will have a first-round bye in the playoffs. Billings Senior, which drilled Bozeman Gallatin 63-21 on Friday to close the regular season at 6-1, will be the East's second seed and also get a first-round bye.

Bozeman, at 4-2, is the East's No. 3 seed and will host Great Falls CMR in a first-round game. The Rustlers lost to Great Falls High 35-7 on Friday. The Bison are the East's fourth seed and will play fifth-seeded Billings Skyview in next week's playoffs.

Great Falls High 35, Great Falls CMR 7

Reed Harris threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Great Falls High won its third consecutive crosstown game over rival Great Falls CMR 35-7.

Harris, a sophomore, scored on a 50-yard touchdown run on Great Falls' first drive of the game. He threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Levi Torgerson in the second, and again found Torgerson in the third. Ryan Krahe scored two rushing touchdowns, the last of which made the score 35-0 in favor of the Bison in the third quarter.

Jackson Simonson scored the lone touchdown for CMR, who falls to 2-5 and will take the East's No. 6 seed. Great Falls High moves to 3-3, clinching the No. 4 seed.

Class AA football scores

Billings Skyview 14, Belgrade 6 (Thursday)
Missoula Big Sky 60, Kalispell Flathead 41 (Thursday)
Billings Senior 63, Bozeman Gallatin 21
Billings West 23, Bozeman High 19
Butte 35, Missoula Hellgate 16
Great Falls High 35, Great Falls CMR 7
Helena High 12, Helena Capital 6
Missoula Sentinel 44, Kalispell Glacier 0