One week into the 2014 high school football season, and the bar is already set impossibly high. There were a handful of games that came down to the wire or featured teams completing big comebacks to secure a win.
Billings Senior, behind sophomore quarterback Nathan Dick, rallied for a wild win over Butte. Jefferson battled back from a 42-14 deficit to top Deer Lodge 49-48. And Simms overcame a second-half deficit to beat Belt and Great Falls Central survived against Chinook in important Northern C games.
Class A went 5-1 against teams from outside the state, including one from outside the country in Polson’s win over a team from Raymond, Alberta.
Miles City also notched a 43-7 win over Powell, Wyo.
Player of the Week: Alec Haughian, Miles City
Haughian totaled 197 yards of offense and four touchdowns to help the Cowboys earn their season-opening win. Miles City figures to battle with Billings Central and Laurel for the top spot in the Eastern A, and Haughian is a big reason why. The Cowboys have an interesting matchup this Friday when they host Havre. The teams tied in a weather-shortened game in the regular season last year, and the Blue Ponies beat the Cowboys 21-20 in a first-round playoff game.
Game of the Week: Belgrade at Billings Central, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Belgrade, the Central A favorite, recorded a solid 34-20 win over Butte Central last week, thanks in large part to Brayden Konkol’s offensive prowess. Konkol had a hand in all five Panther touchdowns, rushing for two and throwing for three.
“He’s a great leader on the team, very competitive kid,” Central coach Jim Stanton said. “He’s a real hard-nosed, tough kid that really does whatever needs to be done to get the job done. He’s just a good high school football player. He really carries and leads that team.”
Stanton said teams often make their biggest improvements from the first game to the second, so he’s expecting Konkol and the Panthers to be even better Thursday night when the teams meet up on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
It will be Central’s first game of the season, kicking off a three-week stretch of games that also includes contests against Butte Central and Dillon, the defending state champion.
“The kids are definitely ready for a game,” Stanton said. “No matter what you try to do or how hard you try to push, ultimately they just need to go out and be tested.
“I think it’s always important (to start well). They’ve worked in the offseason; we had a good three weeks here. It’s just a game that we want to obviously see where we’re at.”
The Rams, who have appeared in seven consecutive state championship games, return a strong core of players from last season, notably skill-position players Holden Ryan, Colin Holetz, Jacob Hadley and Jesse Byorth. But, like all teams this time of year, the Central coaching staff is working in new starters.
“I think defensively, we have some new faces in our front seven,” Stanton said. “That’s an area we really emphasize, and we move some kids around. I’ll be looking forward to see how our kids respond.”
Around Class A: Glasgow at Glendive, Friday
Friday marks the opening of Glendive’s rebuilt football facility. In a multimillion-dollar makeover, the Red Devils had artificial turf installed, as well as the other expected upgrades to the scoreboard and video screen. Glendive begins the season with a cross-class game against Glasgow, a Class B playoff semifinal team from a year ago that started its season with a 14-7 win at Colstrip last week.
Around the state:
n After a dominant win over Billings West last week, Kalispell Glacier, the Class AA preseason favorite, hosts Great Falls CMR on Friday. The Rustlers also have high preseason expectations and probably are searching for a little redemption after losing to Glacier 52-7 in last year’s semifinal round.
n Class B is going to have an intriguing slate of games virtually every weekend. This week, it’s three nonconference games highlighting the schedule: Red Lodge at Forsyth, Huntley Project at Malta and Fairfield at Missoula Loyola.
n Teams have taken an interesting approach in Class C in recent years, scheduling neutral-site games early in the season in both the 6- and 8-Man divisions. Absarokee and Wibaux are meeting up in Rosebud for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, which provides central Montana fans a good opportunity to see the perennial Eastern C power in action.