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Class AA football preview: Billings Senior reloaded for run at third consecutive state title

Posted at 9:22 AM, Aug 19, 2018

Billings Senior is riding a 26-game win streak that has resulted in back-to-back Class AA football state titles.

The Broncs lost a number of high-profile players from last year’s state championship team to collegiate programs – most notably Nolan Askelson, who is a freshman at Montana State, and Gabe Sulser, a freshman at the University of Montana.

But Billings Senior does return all-state defensive lineman Garrison Poetzl, who will help the younger Broncs transition into action.

“(Poetzl) was a first-team all-state kid last year. He’s had a really good camp and looks really good, so we’re excited for him,” head coach Chris Murdock said. “I don’t know that there’s pressure on these guys. They learned a lot from the guys that came before them about how to prepare and the attention to detail.”

With standouts like Askelson, Sulser and Ben LaBeau graduated, there’s a feeling that Class AA is wide open this year. However, Kalispell Flathead’s Kyle Samson still views Billings Senior as the favorite.

“They’ve had some tremendous football players the last couple of years,” Samson said. “In my opinion, they’ve got to be the favorite going in. They’re on a two-year win streak and back-to-back state champs. So until someone knocks them off, I think that they’re the team to beat this year.”

Flathead, too, is among the contenders. The Braves lost in the opening round of the playoffs last season, leaving a sour taste in their mouths.

The Braves return 11 starters and expect big contributions from Blake Counts and Anthony Jones. Counts was an all-state running back last season, while Jones is electrifying in the open field. Flathead also returns all-state safety Jaden MacNeil.

“We definitely have goals of making it back to the playoffs,” Samson said. “We have high expectations, but at the same time, we’re focused on winning our first game against Butte.”

“I think Bozeman and Billings West, Flathead’s right in there, and Helena High. Those four are tough, but I think it’s going to be pretty wide open,” Murdock said.

Billings Senior will have no shortage of challengers to their throne atop Class AA. The Broncs will put their 26-game win streak on the line Aug. 24 when they host Kalispell Glacier.