Losing 43-10 is never good, but it could be worse.
Despite being crushed by Helena Capital in the regular season’s final game, the Flathead Braves finished the game right where they started: as the seventh seed in this weekend’s Class AA football state tournament. Capital (9-1) wrapped up the No. 1 seed.
The Braves are looking to make it to the state championship game after losing in the state semifinals the past two years. First, though, they need to get past a tough first-round opponent in No. 2 Billings Senior. The physical Senior team finished tied for the second best record in the state at 8-2. The Braves haven’t played Senior this year.
Though Flathead finished with a record of 6-4, the Braves could easily be 8-2 going into the playoffs. They came up a yard short of winning their second game of the season against Helena High. Down 27-23 with 1.5 seconds left in the game, quarterback Brock Osweiler found Travis Andrus inside the five-yard line. Andrus worked his way down to about the 1-yard line before he was stopped, giving the Braves their second straight loss. After the loss to the Bengals, Flathead won four straight games before losing 28-21 in overtime to Great Falls High.
Osweiler ended the year not only as the state’s leading passer but also the top single season quarterback in Flathead High history. Osweiler broke the school record for touchdown passes in a season with 26, breaking Clay Lindsay’s 2004 record. Senior Michael Gallagher reaped the benefits of Osweiler’s season by having a huge year of his own. Gallagher finished with 75 catches for over 1,000 yards, more than 300 yards ahead of the second-best receiver.
Billings Senior comes into the game with one of the top defenses in the state, giving up 12.8 points per game, third best in the state. Flathead will have to deal with Senior’s swarming pass defense, also the third best in the state. Senior wrapped up its season by beating Butte High 47-14.
Helena Capital is clearly the team to beat in the tournament. Capital led the state in both scoring offense and scoring defense this season, scoring almost 39 points a game while only allowing six. The Bruins out-gained their opponents on the ground 2,765-869, including 420 rushing yards against Flathead. The Bruins’ only loss was to Billings West, an uncharacteristic 47-28 drubbing. Capital takes on Missoula Big Sky in the first round after Big Sky won its final game of the regular season to snag the eighth seed. Capital will have to deal with Big Sky’s star running back, Beau Donaldson, who led AA in rushing.
Billings West (8-2) secured the third seed by beating cross-town rival Billings Skyview in the regular season finale. West is one of three 8-2 teams, but it ended up with the third seed because it lost to Senior and beat Great Falls Russell. All eyes will be on junior quarterback Jase Muri, one of top-rated passers in the state, who passed for three touchdowns and ran for three more in the Bears’ upset victory over Helena Capital. West hosts Great Falls High (7-3) in the first round’s only Saturday game on Nov. 3. In the battle of the middle seeds, No. 4 Great Falls Russell (CMR) hosts Helena High on Friday night.
Flathead plays at Billings Senior on Friday Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. If the Braves win, they will play the winner of Billings West and Great Falls High in the second round.
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