The second season in high school football begins Friday night, when Helena High plays host to Billings West and Capital High travels to Kalispell Flathead for the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Here's a closer look at both games:
Helena High (7-2) hosts Billings West (6-4)
No. 3 Helena will host No. 6 Billings West at Vigilante Stadium on Friday, kickoff set for 7 p.m. In their regular-season finales, the Bengals were shaded by Kalispell Flathead 21-20, and the Bears were routed by Billings Senior 35-3.
Helena enters the contest holding a 37-20 average points scoring margin over its opponents. West has played its counterparts nearly dead even, with an average score of 26.4-26.8 points a game.
On the season, Bengal quarterback Kaleb Winterburn has completed 77 of 146 passes, for 1,022 yards. He has fired 13 touchdown strikes and has been picked off nine times. Winterburn has rushed for 356 yards (for 1,378 total yards) with six TDs (19 combined touchdowns) as well.
Running back Kyle Tabbert has gained 1,040 yards on the ground and scored 16 TDs. He also has a couple scoring catches and a kickoff return for a touchdown, making 19 total TDs. Grady Koenig has rushed for 441 yards.
Winterburn's top targets are Zach Huth, with 32 receptions for 455 yards and six touchdowns, and Ray Trudeau’s 26 catches for 371 yards and three scores.
On the other side of the ball, linebacker Connor Nash and lineman Caeden Suero lead Helena’s “Secretaries of Defense.” Nash has compiled 105 total tackles, eight QB sacks and nine hurries, and Suero owns 21 QB hurries, nine sacks and six deflected passes. They both have 14 tackles for loss.
Defensive back Alex Johnson has five interceptions and eight deflected passes. Sam Shephard owns 64 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss, and Keanan Horne has nine hurries and two fumble recoveries.
“This will be a great double-A football game,” HHS coach Tony Arntson said. “West is playing as good as anybody in the state the past five weeks.”
Capital High (6-4) at Kalispell Flathead (6-3)
No. 5 Capital travels to No. 4 Flathead. In the Bruins' latest outing – competing without two of their best players due to injury, running back/linebacker Seth Schneider and O-lineman/defensive tackle Conor Quick – they suffered a 41-6 loss to Missoula Sentinel.
Last week, Flathead edged Helena High 21-20. During the second week of the season, Capital rallied to beat the Braves – who are coached by former Bruin great Kyle Samson – 30-24 at home.
The Bruins are outscoring their opposition by an average of 23-19 points a game. The Braves hold a 31-21 scoring average over their opponents.
CHS quarterback Matt McGinley has completed 67 of 122 for 612 yards this year, with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s also rushed for 431 yards and three TDs, giving him 1,043 total offensive yards.
Schneider has rushed for 1,304 yards and 18 touchdowns, but most likely will be sidelined again. He is also one of the Bruins' best defenders. Alec McVey-Touchette has gained 406 yards with two scores. Conor McCarvel is the top receiver, with 48 catches for 352 yards and three TD grabs.
Defensively, Nick Morrison and Ryan Kimble have amassed 102 and 94 total tackles on the season.
Alaric Greil has 12 tackles for loss, and Justin Jenks owns eight sacks and 13 hurries. Mark Northey has pilfered five interceptions, and is tied with Riley Chisholm at eight passes defensed apiece. Jason Brandt has recovered three fumbles.
Bruins kicker Brian Buschini has booted 28 of 31 PATs, with two field goals.
“Conor, Seth and others are a game day decision and probably will not play,” CHS coach Kyle Mihelish said of Quick and Schneider. “This is a fun time of the year, we’re in the tournament and need to show up and compete.
“I’m excited to see how the guys will respond.”