EUREKA -- When his team needed him most, Hank Dunn put together a sensational game Saturday to help lift Eureka past Red Lodge, 39-35, and into the Class B state football championship.
Dunn passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another 154 yards and two scores, helping fill the absence of standout running back Chet McCully, who suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. McCully's status for the championship is uncertain, but Dunn made sure the Lions would have another game to play.
"Our offense kind of morphed into a single-back, throw-the-ball type of offense (after McCully's injury). Hank was incredible," Eureka coach Trevor Utter said. "He had a great game. Austin Sartori had 171 receiving with three touchdowns. The effort from the kids was just unreal, absolutely unreal. It was a hard-fought battle with two really, really good teams."
Earlier this week, Utter warned that Red Lodge was a complete team, solid in all three phases. The Rams proved that on Saturday, scoring a touchdown on a kick return and hitting some big plays in the passing game after the Lions' defense slowed Red Lodge's multi-pronged rushing attack. The Rams had just 87 yards rushing in the game, but Austin Heimer completed 13 of 19 passes for 195 yards
Dunn initially gave the Lions a 7-0 lead on a 39-yard scoring run, but Red Lodge answered on the ensuing kickoff. Jay Jetmore returned the kick 90 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
McCully put a touchdown on the board early in the second quarter before exiting the game, and then Dunn found Sartori for a 69-yard TD. That put Eureka up 21-7, but Red Lodge never wavered. Jetmore found the end zone again -- this time on a 49-yard pass from Heimer -- to get the Rams back within one score.
From there, the teams traded touchdowns the rest of the way. Dunn ran in a 2-yard TD to give the Lions a 27-14 halftime lead, but Red Lodge scored 21 third-quarter points to keep the pressure on. Braden Tomlin scored two of those touchdowns -- one on a 35-yard pass from Heimer and one on a 5-yard run -- and Rizon Berndt added the third.
But Dunn and Sartori were too much. The duo hooked up for touchdown passes of 34 and 42 yards in the second half to punch Eureka's championship ticket.
"It was pretty damn intense, let me tell you," Utter said. "It was awesome. It was a very emotional win. The kids stepped up when Chet went down with an injury."
"In the fashion that we did it, it was very emotional," Utter added. "Three out of four years for these seniors they've been in the state championship. This has been a pretty impressive career for them. Now we have major work to do. Manhattan’s tough."
The Lions (11-0) will travel to Manhattan (11-0) for the Class B state championship next weekend. The Tigers defeated Fairfield in a 25-19 thriller on Saturday.