On the upswing for several years, Kalispell Flathead is built to be a playoff team in 2017.
The Braves got their season off to a good start a week ago, beating Butte 27-19 in the opener. Now, the team will travel to Helena to take on a team most consider to be one of the early favorites to make a playoff run in Capital High.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Vigilante Stadium.
The veteran Bruins struggled early to find an offensive rhythm, but eventually a punishing ground game took hold and earned Capital a 28-20 home win over Great Falls High. Seth Schneider led the way, with 184 yards and three touchdowns.
Also coming out of that win, he said, was an early lesson in game preparedness.
“In the first half, we came out flat,” he said. “We underestimated them coming in, and I think they came out ready to play way more than we did. Second half, we knew we had to pick it up or we were going to lose.
“There was really nothing new. We just came out with a totally different mindset. We knew we had to come out and play.”
The Bruins will have to come out ready against Flathead, led by first-year starting quarterback Taylor Morton. He had success in a balanced attack against Butte a week ago, throwing for 180 yards and three touchdowns, two of those to AJ Jones.
Flathead also got 122 rushing yards out of Blake Counts, and another 85 from Jon Baker. The defense, meanwhile, held Butte to just 69 yards rushing and 264 total offensive yards.
In many ways, the Bruins and Braves are alike, though Capital did rely heavily on the run as new quarterback Matt McGinley worked to get comfortable behind center. The converted cornerback got most of his few passing yards on chest passes to Conor McCarvel on what was essentially a jet sweep. He was picked off twice.
His defense, though, held the Bison in check -- coming up huge in the fourth quarter with a pair of interceptions.
One of those INTs went to senior Mark Northey, who expects his team to be stronger from the start on Friday.
“They had a good offensive game plan. But I think it was more of the first-game jitters we had to get out of the way,” he said. “I think in the second half we kind of got them out of the way and we played well. And we’ll do better (against Flathead).”
Helena High (1-0) at Billings Senior (1-0)
Two of the top four or five teams in the state in early polling are Helena High and Billings Senior.
The two will meet on the field in an early season heavyweight bout Friday night, with the Bengals making one of their two trips this season to the Magic City.
Helena opened the season at CMR, in a game that was moved to the Rustlers’ practice field because of the new artificial turf at Memorial Stadium not getting finished in time. Returning quarterback Kaleb Winterburn threw for 221 yards and three scores for the Bengals, adding 51 rushing yards, leading his team to the win. But it was a narrow, 28-27 victory that saw CMR narrowly miss on a late two-point conversion and Helena bat down a throw to the end zone with no time remaining.
The Helena D will face a far stiffer challenge in Senior, which picked up right where it left off last season – capped with a State AA title for the Broncs. Gabe Sulser had 10 catches for 146 yards, scoring three touchdowns. And stepping in at QB was Nolan Askelson, who threw for 219 yards and four scores, adding 78 rushing yards in a relentless attack that stymied a powerful Kalispell Glacier team in a 37-21 Senior win.
Shepherd (0-1) at Jefferson (1-0)
Jefferson High will host Shepherd, as the Panthers seek their second win of the season in the Class B tilt in Boulder. JHS beat Florence-Carlton last week 13-0, while Shepherd dropped a 28-12 decision to Whitehall-Harrison.
Jefferson's offense was led by running backs Nate Brunett (two touchdowns) and Hayden Guisti, who rushed for 187 and 107 yards, respectively. Guisti paced the defense with 16 tackles, followed by 10 tackles from Bryce Harrington.
Kohl Michels scored twice for Shepherd versus Whitehall, returning a kickoff for 75 yards and also reaching the end zone on a five-yard run.
"We need to play sound and not make as many mistakes as last week," Jefferson coach Clint Layng said. "And cut down on the penalties."
Townsend (0-0) at Red Lodge (0-1)
The Bulldogs were idle last weekend, while Red Lodge lost the team's season opener to Colstrip, 40-14.
Red Lodge quarterback Austin Heimer threw for a couple of touchdowns, to Elisha Reynolds and Tucker Lane.
"Red Lodge has some talented young players; they have a pair of tall, athletic receivers," said Townsend coach Travis Rauh. "We need to communicate well on defense to handle their motion. On offense, we need consistent play from our guys up front."