BOZEMAN — It’s what every kid dreams of: a shot at a state championship.
Bozeman High and Missoula Hellgate again got that shot in the Class AA boys state soccer championship on Wednesday, with the Knights ultimately celebrating victory with a 3-1 win.
Eleven minutes into the game, Knights junior Lars Thorne-Thomsen got loose on a breakaway and kicked it past the outstretched Bozeman goalie to put Hellgate up 1-0.
Twenty minutes later, Bozeman’s Joshua Angell had a kick near the corner, but Knights goalie Loren Deskins made the stop to preserve the advantage.
Bozeman would have another good chance to tie the game late in the first half a couple minutes later. Angell had another nice look at the net but hit it off the crossbar just past the outstretched goalie. Bozeman would get the rebound and have another look at it, but the Hawks booted it over the net. Hellgate took a 1-0 lead into the second half.
Minutes into this second, Knights senior Beckett Arthur had a free kick from about as close up as he could be, and he took advantage to put the Knights up 2-0.
Bozeman's Andrew Barckholtz would score on a goal a few minutes later to make it 2-1.
However, with only seconds remaining Thorne-Thomsen booted it off a Bozeman defender. The ball took an alternate flight path in the air and went past the goalie to put Hellgate up 3-1, and the whistle would sound seconds later.
"We're so hyped. Just to do it two years in a row, it just feels so good," said Thorne-Thomsen.
With the 2020 state championship, the Knights have won five titles in the past six years and have beaten the Hawks two years straight.
"Right now it feels amazing," said Knights head coach Jay Anderson. "I'm really excited and really proud of the boys and how they played (Wednesday)."
The 3-1 win was a lot closer than it looked. Bozeman had a few shots to tie it up before Thorne-Thomsen hit the game-clinching goal.
"I was a little relieved," said Anderson. "Finally, we got that third goal, the relief came off of me because Bozeman -- they had a little bit of the momentum in the second half and they were pressing us. Hats off to them, they played a fantastic game. I said this before, it should have been Bozeman and Hellgate in the finale, the two best teams."
As for next year, Thorne-Thomsen knows this team can win the title three years straight.
"Senior year, I mean, we're going to have a full team of seniors, it's going to be a great year and we're just super excited," he said. "We're super excited to get the win this year and build on next year -- three years in a row."