The stakes continue to get higher for Helena and Helena Capital, who face key Class AA football showdowns Saturday night.
Meanwhile, Townsend faces a daunting challenge in its Class B playoff opener as the Bulldogs make the trip East to face fourth-ranked Colstrip.
Helena (7-1) hosts Kalispell Flathead (5-3)
Helena High, ranked No. 2, will host Flathead, which is sitting sixth in the AA standings. The game at Vigilante Stadium will kickoff at 7 p.m..
The Bengals are outscoring their opposition by an average of 39-19 points a game, while the Braves hold a 27-20 scoring advantage over their opponents.
In last week’s 40-17 win over Missoula Sentinel, HHS racked up 347 yards of total offense and the defense produced seven turnovers – four interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
Kyle Tabbert rushed for 148 yards and four touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 957 yards and 17 TDs (15 rushing, two receptions).
Quarterback Kaleb Winterburn passed for 107 yards and gained 49 on the ground against the Spartans, while Grady Koening ran for 88 yards, and Zach Huth posted five catches for 94 yards with a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Keanan Horne paced the defense with 37 points (12 total tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack, fumble recovery and a safety), followed by Alex Johnson’s 35 (two deflected passes, two interceptions and a pick six), and Sam Shephard at 27 (11 total tackles, two TFL, a sack, a hurry and an interception).
For the year, Connor Nash has compiled 112 total tackles, including 50 solos, 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks. Caeden Suero leads the team with 20 quarterback hurries and 12 TFL (tie); Johnson is high with five interceptions.
“It will be a great football game,” HHS coach Tony Arntson said. “We will have to be physical on both sides of the ball, and special teams will play a huge part in the game.”
Capital (6-3) at Missoula Sentinel (4-4)
Regarding No. 4 Capital’s road game in Missoula against unranked Sentinel, CHS coach Kyle Mihelish said, simply, “We’ve got a lot on the line Friday night. If) We win, we go 7-3 and get a home playoff game.”
The Bruins hold a 27-17 scoring average over their counterparts. The Spartans have an average edge of 24-22 versus their opposition.
In last week’s 28-0 loss to No. 1 Senior in Billings, running back Seth Schneider gained 102 yards on 19 carries while upping his season total to 1,304 rushing yards with 18 touchdowns. He also has 173 receiving yards with two TD catches.
Bruin quarterbacks Matt McGinley and Bridger Grovom combined on five completions for 58 yards against the Broncs. Brady Martin grabbed two receptions for 34 yards. Punter Brian Buschini averaged 40.8 yards for nine punts.
Defensively against Senior, linebacker Nick Morrison compiled 48 points, with 15 tackles and a caused fumble. Ryan Kimball (11 tackels, two tipped passes) and Mark Northey (eight tackles, three tipped passes, blocked punt) posted 39 and 38 defensive points, respectively.
For the season, Morrison has amassed 111 total tackles, while Justin Jenks owns eight sacks and 13 hurries, and Alaric Greil has 12 tackles for loss. Northey has five interceptions.
Townsend (4-4) at Colstrip (8-1)
Townsend will travel to No. 4 Colstrip on Saturday for the first round of the Class B playoffs.
Colstrip holds an average scoring advantage of 28-9 points a game over its adversaries. Townsend edges its opposition by an average of 19-17 points.
Bulldog quarterback Tyson Racht has passed for 1,198 yards with 10 touchdown passes. His favorite targets are Easton Hatfield with 32 catches for 512 yards and four TDs, and Kameron Rauser at 24 receptions for 277 yards.
Running back Kyle Spritzer has rushed for 603 yards on 107 carries, for five touchdowns. Rauser has gained 316 yards on the ground and reached the end zone four times.
Defensively, Hunter Harold is the ‘Dawgs’ leading tackler, with 66 stops, followed by Kameron Rauser’s 47 tackles. Justin Denton owns four sacks, while Jaden Lamb has five tackles for loss, and Alonzo Chatman has pilfered three interceptions.
Jace Reddick has four TFL and two sacks, and Brady Saltzman has two picks. Spritzer also has four tackles for loss.
"Colstrip is a really good football team with a great rushing attack and a tremendous defense,” Townsend coach Travis Rauh said. “On offense we are starting to do some good things, but we have to eliminate the turnovers this week.
“On defense the key will be remaining gap sound versus their running game and tackling well.”