MISSOULA — Party like it’s 1994.
Missoula Sentinel raced past Billings Senior 42-7 in the Class AA state football semifinals on Friday night at MCPS Stadium. The Spartans became the first Missoula AA school to make the state title game since the ‘94 season.
For Sentinel, it’s the school’s first appearance in the Class AA state championship since 1984, with the Spartans searching for their first title since 1972.
"These kids have been on a mission since their freshman year," Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said. "I think just as an observer on the sideline, I know I am involved with it, it's just exciting to see kids put their heart and soul into something and then be rewarded for it."
Sentinel raced to a 35-7 lead by halftime and never looked back. Camden Sirmon scored on a 52-yard dash to open the scoring, but Senior responded with a long drive capped by a touchdown connection between Junior Bergen and Jacksen Burckley to tie it 7-7.
However, two plays later Sirmon found Donovan South on a short pass and South did the rest for a 61-yard touchdown.
"Coach drew up a great play call, Cam put it on me," South said. "Blocking was there, I didn't have to do much. Shout out to my (offensive) line and receivers down field."
From there, Sentinel rolled.
Jace Klucewich scored on a 6-yard shovel pass from Dayton Bay right after a Drew Klumph interception. Klumph got his second pick on the ensuing drive, and Sentinel cashed in again with South scoring on a 5-yard run.
"I think we settled in," Oliver said. "They got that first drive right and they came out throwing the ball a little bit more. It was a team defensive approach and this whole year has been about team. So for them to show that and see our values come through on a semifinal game is pretty special."
Bay found Charlie Kirgan on a screen for a 15-yard touchdown to send the Spartans into half with the big lead, and South added one more touchdown late to put the finishing touches on for Sentinel.
Sentinel held Senior to just 170 yards on offense while the Spartans racked up 409 yards. Sirmon ran for 151 yards on 17 attempts while South finished with 49 yards rushing and Soren Syvrud tallied 61. Sentinel attempted just eight passes, with Sirmon and Bay going 3 for 3 and 4 for 4, respectively. Sirmon finished with 92 yards through the air.
Bergen finished the game 15 for 27 for 104 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, the third by TJ Rausch. Burckley had 48 receiving yards while Malikye Simpson finished with five catches for 22 yards for the Broncs.
"It's huge," South said. "All of our seniors and everyone else, but our seniors especially, we've been working for four years. We knew we were a talented class but you can't stop as freshmen and we've got one more. Job's not done yet."
That one more will be against Billings West as the Golden Bears topped Bozeman 24-17 on Friday night in Billings. The state championship game between the two undefeated teams will be next Friday in Billings.