MISSOULA — In a much-anticipated Class B bout, two heavyweights squared off at Washington-Grizzly Stadium with one emerging as the victor as the top-ranked Florence Falcons edged out the Townsend Bulldogs 20-14 on Saturday afternoon.
Florence and Townsend both came into the game ranked No. 1 and 3, respectively, in the latest MTN Sports high school football power rankings.
Townsend struck first as quarterback Trey Hoveland connected with Gavin Vandenacre for a 17-yard score late in the first quarter. A missed PAT made it 6-0 Bulldogs.
Florence used a pair of second-half touchdowns to head into halftime up 14-6. Quarterback Pat Duchien found Blake Shoupe for an 11-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, then Duchien hit Luke Maki who scored from eight yards out with under a minute left to send Florence into the break with the lead.
Townsend tied the game 14-14 at the 7:34 mark of the third quarter. Duchien took the snap and appeared to attempt a play-action pass, but he bumped into his running back and the ball came out and Townsend's Klause Rauser scooped it up and took it to the house. The Bulldogs converted the two-point play to tie the game.
Florence grabbed the lead again on the first play of the fourth quarter when Duchien tossed his third score of the game, this one finding Caden Zaluski.
The Falcon defense was called upon to hold the lead late after a bad snap on a punt put Townsend on Florence's 21. The Falcons forced a turnover on downs with 3:35 to go, then Townsend got the ball again in the final minute but the Falcon defense held firm again to seal the win.
Duchien finished 14 for 23 for 165 yards and three scores and ran for 54 yards. Tristan Pyette added 101 yards on the ground for the Falcons on 17 carries. Zaluski finished with 74 yards on five catches as well. Led by recent Montana State commit Ethan Abbott and Colten Rice, the Falcons racked up three sacks and seven tackles for loss on defense.
Florence improves to 3-0 while Townsend falls to 2-1.