The Pack is back in the state championship.
Glacier rallied from a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Helena Bengals 29-14 in a foggy Friday night football playoff game in Legends Stadium and advanced to the Class AA state championship.
Glacier (11-1) will travel across the state next week to square off against Billing Senior (12-0) on Friday night for the AA championship. Senior defeated Helena Capital 35-21 in Friday’s other semifinal game.
Kalispell went decades without a state championship. Now it has a team appearing in its third title game in four seasons and within reach of its second crown.
Glacier needed to overcome both the Bengals and Mother Nature on Friday night. Dense fog blanketed Legends Stadium, making it difficult for players to keep track of high passes and kicks on more than one occasion. Helena jumped ahead 14-0 in the first quarter after a pair of touchdowns by Ryan Arntson, who finished with 179 yards on 37 carries.
Glacier committed two fumbles and quarterback Tadan Gilman had two interceptions, but the Pack was able to overcome the odds and battle back, scoring 29 unanswered points.
Running back Drew Turner rushed 26 times for 187 yards and a touchdown and had one catch for 26 yards. For the season, the junior rusher has 1,548 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns along with 142 yards receiving and another two TDs.
Gilman finished with 70 yards rushing and two TDs along with 103 yards passing. He connected with Jaxen Hashley on a 5-yard TD strike. Hashley led a stingy defense that bottled up Arnsten and Co. in the second half, limiting Helena to only 11 first downs in the game. Jackson Pepe had three catches for 23 yards and Patrick O’Connell had two catches for 28 yards.
In its 10th year as a program, Glacier is back in the championship game for the third time. The team advanced to its first title contest in 2013, when it fell to Bozeman. The following season, in 2014, the Wolfpack capped an undefeated season with a 56-19 win over Great Falls C.M. Russell to win the program’s first state championship.
Friday night not only marked the sixth consecutive semifinal appearance for the Wolfpack. It was also most likely to last football game played on the traditional grass field inside Legends Stadium. The school district plans to replace the field, possibly with turf, in the coming year after receiving bond approval for school upgrades across town.
In other local action, Columbia Falls (9-1) travels to Belgrade (7-2) on Saturday to play in the Class A semifinals. With a victory, Columbia Falls would host the state championship for the first time since 1970.
Eureka (9-1) hosts a Class B semifinal game against Whitehall (10-1). Kickoff is at 1 p.m. This is the first time Eureka has hosted a semifinal football game since 1990. With a win, Eureka would travel to the winner of Missoula Loyola-Fairfield to play for its first Class B crown.
In the Class C 6-man semifinals, Hot Springs (11-0) is hosting Valier (9-1) on Saturday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. If Hot Springs wins and Mon-Dak loses in the other semifinal, Hot Springs would host the state championship against Bridger. If Hot Springs wins and Mon-Dak wins, Hot Springs would travel to Grenora, North Dakota to play for the state title. Hot Springs won its one and only state title in 2012.