The turnovers helped, but Thomas Trefney helped even more.
The Glacier senior powered in four touchdowns to lead the Wolfpack to their seventh win in a row and seventh consecutive crosstown victory on Friday night, a 41-26 triumph over Flathead in a much-anticipated matchup riddled with turnovers.
With playoff implications on the line, the two teams committed a combined seven turnovers — three interceptions for both quarterbacks and a fumble recovery by Flathead. Whether it was big-game jitters or two evenly matched defenses, it inevitably tilted in Glacier’s favor as the Wolfpack capitalized on second-half mistakes and outscored the Braves 34-13 in the final two quarters.
Trefney finished with 32 carries for 112 yards. He now has a state-leading 1,184 yards. He increased his scoring total to 17 touchdowns.
Flathead’s Josh McCracken was equally impressive as his crosstown counterpart, rushing for 104 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. McCracken has 1,104 yards and 15 TDs this season.
Although it had the climactic feeling of a season finale, this year’s crosstown is far from the end for both Kalispell squads.
With one game left in the regular season, both teams are guaranteed playoff seeds. The reigning Class AA state champion Wolfpack look ready to roll into the playoffs and defend their title, and could host a first-round playoff game. It is only the second time that both of Kalispell’s school will advance to the postseason and first since 2011. Bozeman (8-1) and Billings Senior (8-1) are tied for first place in the AA standings. Glacier (7-2) is tied for third with Helena (7-2) and Helena Capital (7-2). Flathead (5-4) sits tied for seventh with next week’s opponent, Missoula Sentinel (5-4). The Braves host on Oct. 30. Billings West (6-3) is sixth. Glacier caps the season at Missoula Big Sky (2-7).
Glacier rallied in the second half after making early mistakes. A pick-6 by John Learn to start the second half sparked Glacier’s momentum and a blocked punt returned to the red zone and led to another score and added to the comeback.
“If you’re going to go deep in the playoffs and defend your title, like we’re trying to do, this is the kind of game you need,” Glacier head coach Grady Bennett said. “You don’t want that first half but you need to be able to handle that adversity and react to it and rise above it and take care of business.”
In a crosstown rivalry series that has been lopsided the last seven years, this year’s matchup promised to be competitive. And it was.
Flathead cornerback Trae Vasquez opened up the action with a pick-6 in the first quarter, returning it 68 yards for a TD. Braves receiver Keaton Krantz had a 26-yard TD catch in the second quarter and Flathead led 13-7 at half.
But it became a tale of two halves as Glacier regrouped and regained its championship swagger in the second half.
“Give Glacier credit. They’re a good football team,” Flathead head coach Kyle Samson said. “You can’t have those mistakes against good football teams. But I’m proud of our kids. They’re trying. They didn’t quit at the end. Just a little too many mistakes.”
Glacier quarterback Leif Ericksen finished 10-for-21 for 135 yards and a rushing TD. Flathead quarterback Bridger Johnson was eight-for-20 for 129 yards.
Glacier’s Noah Lindsey had four catches for 59 yards and Caleb Jones added three catches for 39 yards. Flathead’s Krantz ended with two catches for 54 yards and Seth Adolph had two catches for 36 yards.
Flathead 7 6 7 6 — 26
Glacier 0 7 28 6 — 41
F—Trae Vasquez 68 interception return (Justin Gardner kick), 5:43
G—Thomas Trefney 1 run (Cameron Anderson kick), 9:54
F—Keaton Krantz 26 pass from Bridger Johnson (kick failed), 5:42
G—John Learn 30 interception return (Anderson kick), 10:40
G—Trefney 14 run (Anderson kick), 4:43
F—Josh McCracken 1 run (Gardner kick), 4:01
G—Ericksen 9 run (Anderson kick), 2:53
G—Trefney 1 run (Anderson kick), 0:36
G—Trefney 2 run (kick failed), 5:47
F—McCracken 2 run (kick failed), 2:03
First downs 10 15
Total Yards 282 283
Rushes-yards 36-153 44-148
Passing yards 129 135
Punt Returns 1-(-4) 2-67
Kickoff Returns 6-89 5-131
Interceptions Ret. 3-78 3-72
Comp-Att-Int 8-21-3 10-21-3
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-8 3-18
Punts 7-30 3-38
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 7-51 7-45
Time of Possession 24:03 18:08
RUSHING—Flathead, Josh McCracken 19-104, Bridger Johnson 11-22, Seth Adolph 2-13, Ryan Skramovsky 3-11, Payton Boyce 1-3. Glacier, Thomas Trefney 32-112, Leif Ericksen 6-14, Caleb Jones 3-13, Noah Lindsay 1-12, Patrick O’Connell 1-0, John Learn 1-(minus 3).
PASSING—Flathead, Bridger Johnson 8-20-3-129, Josh McCracken 0-1-0-0. Glacier, Leif Ericksen 10-21-3-135.
RECEIVING—Flathead, Keaton Krantz 2-54, Seth Adolph 2-36, James Flannigan 2-30, Josh McCracken 2-9. Glacier, Noah Lindsay 4-59, Caleb Jones 3-39, Drake Dulin 2-26, Scout Willcut 1-11.
INTERCEPTIONS—Flathead, Trae Vasquez 1-68, Nate Sommers 1-10, CJ Dugan 1-0. Glacier, John Learn 1-30, Caleb Jones 1-25, Sam Barber 1-17.
SACKS—Flathead, Nate Sommers 1-6, Matt Gash-Gilder 1-2. Glacier, Gary Kenfield 2-14, Nathan Hammer 1-4.
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