MISSOULA — Missoula Hellgate had lost every varsity football game it played since October of 2012, a stretch of 2,177 days. But it all came together for the Knights on Friday.
Hellgate jumped out to a quick lead on Great Falls CMR with a punt return touchdown by Brandon Coladonato on the Knights’ first touch of the game. They led 21-6 at halftime and still held an eight-point lead over the Rustlers in the final minutes.
Then with CMR going for it on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, the Knights’ defense made a huge stop and set off the celebration. Hellgate has long had to answer questions about the streak. Now, the Knights get to hear well-deserved congratulations.
“We were always a first-half team. We always came out strong, but the second half we could never finish,” said Coladonato, a junior receiver and defensive back. “But in the locker room we all stayed level and we were able to keep it through the second half.”
“I’m super proud, because start of the season we’ve been doing it for a quarter and a half,” added quarterback and defensive back Rollie Worster. “And we just brought it the whole game.”
“We knew it would come eventually. We’ve been playing a lot of good football,” said head coach Mick Morris. “I’m just happy for our kids. Our coaches didn’t do anything special. We show up, and they’re the ones showing up, and they’re the ones that have continued to show up throughout all of this. They deserve everything. All credit goes to them.”
As the student section stormed the field, the victorious Knights didn’t know how to describe the moment they had dreamed about.
“Just overwhelmed with excitement right now,” said Worster. “It’s just crazy out here.”
“I can’t even explain it,” said Coladonato. “It’s such a great feeling. I’m just shaking. It feels amazing. I don’t even know what to say.”
The Knights still have five games left on the schedule. And this week, they have a chance to start a different kind of streak. Hellgate (1-4) travels to Billings Skyview (0-5) in a game that the Knights might actually be favored to win.
But the future didn’t matter in that sweet moment on Friday night.
“I’m going to tell them to enjoy the heck out of this one all weekend,” said Morris. “We’ll go back to work on Monday and hopefully get a few more (wins). But we’re going to enjoy this one.”