All four area high school football teams will be facing rugged tests Friday night.
In Class AA, No. 2 Helena High plays host to perennially tough Bozeman and No. 3 Capital travels to Billings to take on West at Daylis Stadium.
In Class B, seventh-ranked Jefferson will look to rebound from its first loss of the season but its foe is second-ranked and unbeaten Whitehall. Townsend will try to even its record on the road against another unbeaten, third-ranked Bigfork.
Bozeman (3-3) at Helena (4-1)
Helena High will play host to Bozeman at Vigilante Stadium on Friday, with a 7 p.m. kickoff. The No. 2 Bengals are coming off a 49-14 win over Great Falls and No. 7 Bozeman lost to Kalispell Flathead, 17-7.
Bengal running back Kyle Tabbert scored four times against and quarterback Kaleb Winterburn raced 62 yards for a touchdown. Winterburn also tossed a 41-yard touchdown strike to Zach Huth. Zach Spiroff returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score, and kicker Holden Sampson booted three PATs and tossed a 2-point conversion to Tabbert.
Connor Nash paced the defense with 29 points, including 13 total tackles (seven solos, six assists) and three hurries. Sam Shepherd (11 total tackles, two sacks) and Cueden Suero (eight total tackles, four hurries, deflected pass) posted 26 points apiece.
For the year, Winterburn has completed 50 of 91 passes for 676 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 197 yards and two TDs. His main target has been Ray Trudeau, with 16 receptions for 259 yards.
Tabbert has rushed for 480 yards and eight TDs. Zach Huth has 289 rushing yards and three scores.
Nash (66 total tackles, nine tackles for loss) and Suero (five sacks, 17 hurries, three deflected passes) have produced 133 and 130 defensive points. Max Mader owns nine sacks and 13 hurries, while Alex Johnson has pilfered three interceptions.
On special teams, Spiroff averages 17.1 yards per punt return and has three returns to the end zone – two punts and one kickoff. Tabbert has 13 kick returns for a 29-yard average.
“(They’re) a pretty good football team that has struggled a bit lately,” said HHS coach Tony Arntson, referring to Bozeman. “We’ll have to play well in all three areas on Friday night.”
Capital (5-1) at Billings West (4-2)
The No. 3 Bruins defeated Great Falls CMR 35-0 and the No. 8 Bears outgunned Butte 56-53.
Against CMR, the Bruins amassed 288 rushing yards, with Seth Schneider going for 110 yards and two touchdownsand backfield mate Alex McVey-Touchette gaining 133 yards on 12 carries (11-yards average), with one TD.
CHS quarterback Matt McGinley was 10 of 15 for 73 yards and two scoring strikes to Conor McCarvel, who finished with nine catches for 65 yards.
Defensively, Capital’s point leaders were Nick Morrison (41 points), Schneider (12 solo tackles, 39 points), Justin Jenks (35) and Connor Poppe (34).
Schneider has rushed for 968 yards and 14 TDs, and McGinley has completed 46 of 82 passes for 414 yards and four scores. McCarvel has gathered 37 catches for 296 yards. Kicker Brian Bushini has booted 22 PATs and one field goal, and he has punted 26 times for a 32-yard average.
Morrison has compiled 60 total tackles (49 solo, 11 assists), Jenks owns seven sacks, Schneider has seven TFL, and Mark Northey has pirated five interceptions.
McCarvel has averaged 19 yards on nine kick returns, and 14.3 yards on three punt returns.
“West is the most athletic team we will face up to this point of the season,” CHS coach Kyle Mihelish said. “They’re extremely fast at the receiver and running back position, and they’re big and physical on both fronts and their defense flies to the ball.
“I know the guys and coaches are looking forward to the challenge.”
Jefferson (5-1, 3-1) at Whitehall (6-0, 4-0)
Last week, the Panthers fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a cliff-hanging 14-13 loss to Big Timber. Whitehall remained undefeated after a 26-14 win over Townsend.
Against Big Timber, the Panthers scored on a Josh Eckmann to Britton Thompson pass, and Hayden Guisti’s rushing TD. Nate Brunett and Guisti rushed for 117 and 112 yards, and Guisti led the defense with an astonishing 21 tackles.
Brunett leads Class B with 921 rushing yards. Guisti sits atop the leader board at 96 tackles.
“We have to take away the big plays in their passing game and we have to capitalize on scoring opportunities,” Jeffersib coach Clint Layng said. “We also need to start fast.”
Townsend (2-3) at Bigfork (4-0)
Townsend is on the long road to Bigfork for a nonconference Class B game. The Bulldogs are coming off a 26-14 loss to Whitehall, and last week Bigfork trounced Thompson Falls 44-0.
Broadwater quarterback Tyson Racht completed 16 of 31 passes for 256 yards against the Trojans, with TDs to Kameron Rauser and Brady Saltzman. Rauser posted seven receptions for 135 yards, and grabbed a pick on defense. Hunter Harold achieved a game-high eight tackles for the Bulldogs.
“We need to handle Bigfork’s Blitz package,” Townsend coach Travis Rauh said. “Defensively, we need to control their tight end and tackle well.”