KALISPELL — On Friday night the Kalispell Glacier Wolfpack came into their first-round game of the Class AA state football playoffs against Missoula Big Sky and swept the Eagles off their feet with a stellar performance from senior quarterback JT Allen and the Wolfpack offense.
Glacier bounced back from a 44-0 loss in their regular-season finale against Missoula Sentinel last week, and the offense was on fire from start to finish, led by Allen, who hasn’t exactly had the senior year he envisioned, but he put it all together on Friday night.
“So proud of JT, he hasn’t had the year that he wanted to have as a senior," said Glacier head coach Grady Bennett. "Teams have played us a lot differently. Obviously, we are running the ball a lot with Jake Rendina. (Allen) has been a little bit maligned, a little bit up and down, I know he’s had his frustrations. But, man, just the perseverance of him to hang in to keep believing and for his teammates to keep believing in him and for him to come out and play like he did (Friday). It was a brilliant effort and that’s what you need to be doing as an offense, passing game, running game, but have your quarterback playing this way heading into the playoffs.”
Allen finished the game going 16 of 21 with 402 yards and three touchdowns in the air.
Glacier also had a nice ground attack as Rendina rushed for 126 yards and four touchdowns.
Bennett said the ability to throw in this game opened up the offense even more, something the Wolfpack have struggled to do when teams bank on them running.
“Everybody’s been loading the box on us really all year, giving us some opportunities playing off-man, cover zero, stuff trying to stop Jake Rendina, so we’ve had some opportunities," said Bennett. "But we just haven’t been able to put it together and a part of the reason, some of it is on JT, but some of it was on our receivers. So this week we talked about making plays and attacking the football, and I thought our guys did that brilliantly (Friday). All of them, Jake Turner had some great plays, Mason Naomi, Connor Sullivan, they went and attacked the football (Friday), and that’s what we’ve really been missing all year.”
And some of those receivers who came through on Friday night weren’t used to their starting roles.
“I’m really proud of Mason Naomi and George Herne, they really haven’t played as much this year," said Allen. "Our two starting tight ends were down, so -- George is the third guy -- he came in and made a ton of plays (Friday), and same with Mason, it was his first start and he caught the diving touchdown, so really proud of those two.”
The defense was stellar, as well, holding Big Sky to just 216 yards of total offense.
It was one of the only games this year where the Wolfpack felt satisfied in all aspects of the game, from start to finish.
“After that first play we just kept rolling. That first touchdown that I had to Jake Turner, we just had all the momentum in the world, we didn’t stop," said Allen. "We put together four quarters, which was something we’ve been focusing on all week long. We wanted to get that four-quarter game, and it paid off.”
The Wolfpack head to Billings Senior, the Eastern AA's No. 2 seed, on Saturday for a quarterfinal game. The Broncs have their own lethal quarterback in Junior Bergen.
Glacier knows it'll be a tough battle, but if it can play like it did in the first round, it should be a good game.
"We're pretty confident, but we're staying humble," said Allen. "We've still got a week's worth of preparation. We'll head down to Billings, go get 'em, and just do our best."