POLSON – Maybe a rematch between second-ranked Dillon and No. 1 Billings Central for the state Class A football championship was in the cards.
If it wasn’t, Ben Folsom wasn’t about to leave anything to luck.
The Dillon quarterback ran for three touchdowns and passed for another as the Beavers, who trailed at halftime, came back to down previously undefeated Polson 28-7 Saturday in the semifinals.
The third-ranked Pirates finished the year 9-1.
The Beavers (8-1) will travel to Billings next week to face undefeated Central for the title. It’s a rematch of last year’s state Class A championship game, won 44-10 by Dillon.
In fact, one or the other – and occasionally both – schools have now been involved in the state A championship game for the past decade. Dillon has been there six times since 2000 and won five; the Rams six times since 2004, winning one.
That was a 28-13 decision over the Beavers in 2007. Since then, Billings Central has advanced to, and lost, four consecutive state title games.
The Rams gained a measure of revenge for the most recent championship loss earlier this year, beating the Beavers 38-17.
But Folsom, a 6-foot-3 senior, was knocked out of that nonconference game early with an injury.
He’s a pretty handy guy to have around.
Mostly darting up the middle, Folsom scored on a pair of 5-yard runs and one of 6 yards to put the Beavers up 21-7, then tossed a 10-yard scoring pass to Austin Carver with 5:12 to play to seal the deal.
All of Dillon’s scoring came after Beau Mills had given Polson a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 1-yard score.
“I credit our offensive line with being able to create holes for our running backs and quarterback,” Dillon coach Terry Thomas said. “Our kids stayed with the game plan, and stayed plugging away.”
It gave the Beavers a chance to get into a productive rhythm after trailing at halftime, Thomas said.
Polson led 7-6 until Folsom’s 6-yard touchdown run with 10:01 left in the third quarter. The quarterback’s two-point conversion run made it 14-7.
Then, Pirates coach Scott Wilson said, came a prolonged turning point.
Buoyed by a 23-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Weltz to Brady Hislop, Polson marched inside the Dillon 5 to a first-and-goal in the third quarter – only to come away empty. Dillon’s Troy Scott chased Weltz down and turned Weltz’s fourth-down pass from the 2 into a wounded duck.
On Polson’s next series, three consecutive penalties turned a first-and-10 near midfield into a first-and-38 inside the Pirate 20. Carver proceeded to intercept Weltz near midfield and return the ball to the Polson 11 yard-line.
An illegal block during the return brought it back to the 33, but the Beavers scored six plays later on Folsom’s second 5-yard scamper.
On Dillon’s next series, Folsom hit M.J. Simkins on the day’s longest play, a 50-yard pass on third-and-5, that helped set up Folsom’s 10-yard scoring strike to Carver.
The Pirates, operating in their second straight playoff game without leading rusher Colton Lenz (illness) and their first since losing one of their top linemen, Riley Sampson, to a separated shoulder during a 9-7 quarterfinal win over Laurel, had to content themselves with slowing Dillon down.
The Beavers had scored no fewer than 56 points in their previous five games, including a 56-12 shellacking of Hardin in last week’s quarterfinals, and came in averaging almost 49.
“That’s a really good football team,” Wilson said.
“I thought Polson did a great job all day,” Thomas said. “Their kids were tough, and hit hard.”
Dillon managed 244 yards of total offense, with Folsom carrying the ball 19 times for 67 yards and going 7 for 14 passing for 110 yards and his first interception of the season. Simkins had three of the catches for 82 yards.
Polson had 209 yards of total offense. Weltz was 12 for 25 for 125 yards, but the ground game the Pirates relied on for much of the year never really got going.
The Pirates’ longest run from scrimmage was an 8-yarder by Mills, who carried 30 times for 66 yards.
“I’m so proud of the effort they put out,” Wilson said of his Pirates. “We were a little short-handed, but those we had played with a lot of emotion, and stepped up to fill the voids.”
Dillon 0 6 8 14 – 28
Polson 7 0 0 0 – 7
P – Beau Mills 1 run (Brady Hislop kick), 2:53
D – Ben Folsom 5 run (kick blocked), 9:27
D – Folsom 6 run (Folsom run), 10:01
D – Folson 5 run (Taylor Cashmore kick), 10:33
D – Austin Carver 10 pass from Folsom (Cashmore kick) 5:12
Rushing – Dillon 34-134 Folsom 19-67, Colton Riebe 6-23, Cooper Lamey 5-21, John Luke Koslosky 3-17, M.J. Simikins 1-6. Polson 39-84 Mills 30-66, Josiah Edington 2-10, Will Davey 2-8, Drew Kvam 2-3, Austin Ashby 1-1, Ian Ricketts 1-(-)2, Andrew Weltz 1-(-)6.
Passing – Dillon, Folsom 7-14-1 – 110. Polson, Weltz 12-25-1 – 125, Davey 0-1-0.
Receiving – Dillon, Simkins 3-82, Carver 3-19, Troy Scott 1-9. Polson, Hislop 2-38, Davey 4-37, Dylan Kelley 3-20, Cedrick Smith 1-15, Mills 1-8, Dylan McCrumb 1-7.
Billings Central 52, Livingston 0
At Livingston, Billings Central dominated Livingston to reach the Class A championship football game for the sixth straight year.
Connor Cerkovnik rushed for 230 yards and two touchdowns for the Rams in the semifinal game at Livingston’s McLeod Field.
Central (11-0) finished with 414 yards rushing. Austin Barthel rushed for 78 yards and three touchdowns.
The Central defense held Livingston to just 93 yards rushing and 99 yards of total offense.