HAMILTON — In a matchup of contrasting offensive styles, the Billings Central Rams held off the Hamilton Broncs 28-21 Saturday to win their first Class A state championship since 2012.
“It feels so good. These are my brothers,” said Central senior quarterback Joe Byorth. “We knew this was going to happen. We had no doubt the entire way. We had one common goal between the entire team, and we knew we would achieve it.”
The Broncs actually opened the scoring in the first quarter on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Carson Rostad to Tucker Jones, but the PAT was blocked. Jones was Rostad’s favorite receiver on the afternoon, with seven targets in the first half alone.
Central responded with a 12-play, 82-yard drive that looked like it was going to end with a Jack Studer touchdown run, but while reaching the ball toward the goal line, Studer fumbled and Hamilton recovered to keep a 6-0 lead.
Central’s defense bailed out the offense by forcing an ensuing three-and-out, and the Rams offense drove right back to the 1-yard line. On fourth down, they went back to Studer who went in untouched over the left side, and Camden Capser’s PAT gave Central their first lead, 7-6.
Duncan Kraft made it 14-6 with a 75-yard touchdown run late in the first half, then he put the Rams up 15 with a 2-yard touchdown on the opening possession of the third.
Hamilton answered in four plays, taking just 27 seconds. Rostad scored on a 2-yard quarterback run, and then found Tyler Barnes on the 2-point conversion attempt to pull within 21-14.
Central responded with another long drive, but had to settle for a Capser 24-yard field goal attempt, which was blocked. But once again, the Rams defense forced a quick three-and-out on the ensuing possession and cashed in early in the fourth when Byorth scored on a 17-yard QB keeper, Central’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day.
“The best (offensive) line in the state, easy,” Byorth said after the game. “It doesn’t matter size, because we don’t always have the biggest guys, but our guys have the biggest heart and they’re just so good.”
“I love my O-line,” added Kraft. “They took great care of us, and it all started up front. A hard-working group of guys and they got it done.”
Central’s defense forced Hamilton into two turnover-on-downs later in the fourth. Hamilton finally broke through with 1:14 to play, as Rostad found Michael Golden with a 3-yard touchdown to pull within 28-21. But with only one timeout remaining, the Broncs were forced to attempt an onside kick, which Central lineman Sam Gray recovered to ice the game.
“I still haven’t really comprehended what we’ve done, but I’m just proud of my teammates and coaches,” Gray said. “These guys are my best friends for life. It’s just so surreal.”
The title is Central’s fourth in program history and first for an Eastern A team since the Rams won in 2012.