BILLINGS — Jesse Owens picked up 32 yards on Billings West’s first offensive play from scrimmage and the Golden Bears never looked back, defeating Helena High 34-0 in Friday’s Class AA football semifinal at Daylis Stadium. West advances to next weekend’s state championship game, the first appearance for the program since 2011.
The win also snapped a five-game losing streak against Helena High, which had won seven of the past eight contests against West.
Owens took a screen pass from Josh Erbacher and danced to Helena High territory, leading to a Demarcus Carr 6-yard touchdown run moments later as West took a quick 7-0 lead. The Bears’ defense forced three Helena High three-and-outs to begin the contest, capitalizing with scores on each of their first three drives.
Owens caught a 30-yard touchdown from Erbacher nearly four minutes after the Bears scored their first touchdown, then watched as Carr scored his second touchdown of the game, an 18-yard scamper that gave the Bears a 21-0 lead after the opening quarter.
Billings West’s offense out-gained the Bengals by 180 yards in the first quarter.
Helena High settled in during the second quarter, picking up its first first down 13 minutes in, but Ty McGurran’s run on 4th-and-1 was stuffed by West’s defense, leading to a turnover-on-downs. Helena High had five turnovers in the contest, including three interceptions from McGurran.
Lucas Gibb played a fantastic game on defense for the Bears, deflecting a McGurran pass to Zack Tallman for the Bears’ first interception of the game. He also had a key pass breakup in the third quarter that forced a Helena High punt. Following a Hugh Edwards fumble recovery, Erbacher and Gibb hooked up for a 24-yard scoring strike putting West ahead 27-0 at the 3:50 mark of the third quarter.
West’s final touchdown came with 5:47 remaining in the game, a 20-yard pass from Erbacher to Alex Bruns. West forced two McGurran interceptions in the final quarter.
Billings West will play for a Class AA championship for the first time since 2011, with the Bears’ last title coming in 2005, a 21-17 victory over Helena Capital. West will host Kalispell Flathead in next Friday’s championship, after the Braves defeated previously unbeaten and top-ranked Bozeman 21-17 at Van Winkle Stadium. It will be the first state championship appearance since 2000 for Flathead, which last won a football title in 1959, its second straight championship. The Braves were crowned state champions in 1970, though no title game was held.
Helena High finished its season, the first under new head coach Scott Evans, with a 9-3 record. The Bengals, who finished runner-up in 2017, have never advanced to back-to-back state championship games. Helena High’s last football championship came in 1932.