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Miles City approaching playoffs with 'state championship or bust' mentality

Posted at 6:23 PM, Oct 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-24 20:23:09-04

MILES CITY — Miles City is making waves this season, as the Cowboys are the only unbeaten team remaining in Class A.

With Miles City’s blowout win over Lewistown this past weekend, the Cowboys locked up the program’s first Eastern A regular-season title since 2015. It’s the first conference title for this group of seniors and it gives Miles City home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Cowboys have lost in the quarterfinals each of the last two seasons, but the experience they’ve gained in those games has been valuable.

“I think we’ve got a couple quarterfinal losses the last couple years," Miles City head coach Jeff Regan said. "A lot of these guys played in those games, so it kind of sticks in their craw a little bit. They’ve worked really hard to try to go a little farther this year.”

Miles City is still unbeaten and is the second-ranked team in the latest MontanaSports.com power rankings. With a conference championship in hand, the Cowboys are determined to add more to the trophy case.

“We’re all hungry. The past few years we’ve had a sour taste in our mouth at the end of the season. We’re just hungry to get it all. I mean it’s either win a state championship or bust for us," Cowboys quarterback Carson Hunter said.

“None of us want to go through that again. State championship or bust, that’s our goal this year. We’re going for it," Senior wide receiver Jess Bellows said.

As good as its defense has been, Miles City’s success will likely hinge on the play of Hunter at quarterback.

Hunter tied the Class A record with eight touchdown passes against Lewistown last week and has led the Cowboy offense to an average of nearly 40 points per game. According to Class A historian Brian Reed, during that game against Lewistown Bellows and Venable had the most combined receiving yards by any duo in Class A history with 392, surpassing the 373 yards posted by Billings Central's Doug Reid (14-290-3) and Parker Aldrich (8-83-2) against Sidney in 1995. They were also the first pair of receivers to combine for seven touchdown receptions in a single game.

Hunter has been the most prolific quarterback in Class A this season, and with the weapons at his disposal it’s no surprise.

“It takes pressure off. With a balanced attack like that, knowing I’ve got guys in all parts of the field really just helps me trust myself more, so it’s a relationship like that," Hunter said.

“It’s not just one of us, it’s all four of us. We’ve got four receivers and even more on the bench that come out and make plays," Bellows said. "Everybody works hard. They’re quick, we’ve got speed and we make plays.”

“One compliments the other real well," Regan said. "Jess and Jayden (Venable) and Dayron (Johnson) and Jack Kline, another receiver, they’re all really good players and complement each other well. It’s hard, if you take one away, someone else is going to hurt you.”

The Cowboys hope their explosive offense leads to a deep playoff run. Miles City will have a first-round bye in the Class A playoffs and will host the winner of the Western A's four and five seeds, which meet in the opening round.