BUTTE — Girls flag football may still be in the process of becoming a sanctioned high school sport in Montana, but there was nothing unofficial about Kalispell Glacier's joy after defending its state championship on Thursday.
Senior Kai Johnson tossed three touchdown passes as the Wolfpack pulled past crosstown rival Kalispell Flathead 28-13 in the state title game at Naranche Stadium. It was a rematch of last season's inaugural championship.
"The experiencing of doing that in any sport is something that lives with you for a lifetime," said Glaicer coach Mark Kessler. "To be able to have that experience in a sport that's brand new to girls, everyday is something new and exciting. It's pretty awesome."
Flathead scored on its opening drive off a long screen pass catch-and-run score from Oaklie Breslin and in the second half retook the lead on a short scoring pass from Harlie Roth to sophomore Casiann Clemons.
But Johnson, the defending Class AA girls shot put champion, consistently beat Flathead's defense with deep shots to put her team back ahead and saw all three of her touchdown passes hauled in by senior Noah Fincher.
"I couldn't be more excited," said Johnson. "Proud of all my teammates."
Johnson was part of Glacier's pilot program as a junior and now hopes to see the flag football to continue to gain popularity and for more schools to field programs as it works toward earning a Montana High School Association certification.
She's glad to have been part of the sports first steps in this state.
"I think it's really important to be a role model, especially starting off this program," Johnson said. "I hope a lot of people will look up to what we're doing and be inspired and go out and do the same."
All five Montana high school girls flag football teams competed in Thursday's state championship tournament, with St. Ignatius defeating Butte 12-6 in a first-round game, Flathead topping Lockwood 33-18 in the first semifinal and Glacier running past St. Ignatius 34-12 in the other semi.