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Class AA playoffs: Helena Capital, Bozeman march into championship showdown

Posted at 10:05 PM, Nov 11, 2022

The football teams from Helena Capital and Bozeman are headed to the promised land — the Class AA state championship game.

Capital (11-0) earned the trip with a 21-14 home victory in the semifinals over Missoula Sentinel on Friday. Bozeman (9-2) defeated crosstown foe Bozeman Gallatin 28-9 in the other semi.

The Bruins will be playing for their 12th state championship. The Hawks will be playing for their seventh. The game is scheduled for next Friday in Helena.

Sentinel ended its season with a 9-3 record and saw its two-year reign as Class AA state champs come to an end. Gallatin finished 9-3 and made the state semis in just its third season.

Helena Capital 21, Missoula Sentinel 14

HELENA — Undefeated Capital defended its icy home turf against an opponent that was no stranger to postseason success.

The Bruins took the lead on their first possession when Tom Carter slipped two tackles and ran in for a 19-yard touchdown. Later in the first, quarterback Joey Michelotti hit Nick Michelotti with an 87-yard bomb over the top of the Spartans’ defense for a 14-0 advantage.

Sentinel got on the board early in the second quarter when Riley Allen found Karsen Beitz for a 38-yard TD throw, cutting Capital’s lead to 14-7.

Nick Michelotti intercepted a pass to thwart a subsequent Spartan drive. That led to a TD pass from Hudson Grovom to Hayden Opitz, and the Bruins were up 21-7 with about 4:00 remaining before halftime.

But the Spartans got back within one score when Brady Kolendich returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a TD to make it 21-14.

In the third quarter, the Bruins missed a 21-yard field goal try, and neither team could put together any points in the second half. Capital’s Tyler Kovick came up with an interception in Sentinel territory with less than 3:00 remaining.

The Spartans’ defense held, but the Bruins’ Quinn Hansen picked off another pass on Sentinel’s next possession end the threat and send Capital to the title game.

Bozeman 28, Bozeman Gallatin 9

BOZEMAN — In a semifinal battle between budding crosstown rivals, Bozeman proved to have too much. But it didn’t start that way.

Bozeman coughed up the football on its first offensive play, which Gallatin recovered. That eventually produced a 24-yard field goal by Christian Heck and a 3-0 Raptors lead.

Bozeman gets back to their first state title game since 2019 with 28-9 win over Gallatin

The Hawks later got a takeaway of their own, then Jake Casagranda ran it in from 1-yard out to put Bozeman in the lead 7-3 early in the second quarter. After the Hawks forced a punt, Casagranda scored on the ground again, this time from 8 yards, to build a 14-3 advantage.

The defensive play of the game came early in the fourth quarter when — with Gallatin backed up deep in its own territory — the Hawks’ Quaid Ash intercepted a pass and returned it for a 5-yard touchdown. That gave Bozeman a 21-3 lead.

The Raptors scored their first touchdown with about 9:00 remaining as Bryce Mikkelson got in on a 15-yard run. The point-after kick was blocked, so the Hawks’ lead was cut to 21-9.

Bozeman cemented the victory — and a berth in the title game — with a 1-yard touchdown run by Austin Baller with less than a minute remaining.