It’s been a very long time since the Bozeman Hawks received a true challenge on the football field. Their closest game in almost two months was a 27-point victory.
So can anybody beat Bozeman now that we’re on the eve of Montana’s Class AA football postseason?
That much is still unknown, but it doesn’t mean the rest of the field won’t be ready to try to knock off the 10-0 titans. It all starts with the Spartans of Missoula Sentinel this Friday.
“We respect them,” Sentinel senior lineman Ryan Nagel said, “but we don’t fear them.”
“They’re definitely beatable,” fellow Spartan senior Jeremy Eisenmann said. “Just like any other team, they have their weaknesses.”
It’s just that so far, those weakness have been very, very well masked. Bozeman, the preseason pick as conference champs and the steady No. 1 in the weekly media polls all year, is the heavy favorite for a state championship after coming up just short in 2012. Those Hawks lost 38-36 to Butte High.
These Hawks haven’t lost a thing.
Undefeated Bozeman leads AA in scoring offense (51 points per game) and scoring defense (12.6 points per game). Only once have the Hawks been held to fewer than five touchdowns scored in a game – their most narrow victory coming 27-12 over Kalispell Glacier back on Sept. 13.
“Their average margin of victory is …” Sentinel coach Dane Oliver started, “well, a number I don’t even want to disclose. Several touchdowns.”
The Hawks have the state’s leading rusher Hunter Gappmayer (179.4 yards per game), who’s out right now with an injury but could be back for a potential Round 2 match, and third-leading passer Will Weyer. The quarterback has thrown 25 touchdowns this season to just three interceptions.
Because Bozeman doesn’t turn the ball over. The Hawks have just seven giveaways on the year, about half as many as any other team, and are plus-21 in the takeaway category. That’s 10 more than any other school.
But it’s too early to crown the Hawks, the remaining seven playoff teams shout in unison. Should the 6-4 Spartans come up short, Bozeman will reach the semifinals and another challenger. Should the brackets continue to play out the way they’ve been built and No. 1 clash with No. 2 for the state title later this November, the Hawks will find a rematch of their greatest challenge from the regular season.
The 9-1 Glacier Wolfpack hung with the Hawks back in September like no one else has. Now the Pack is just hoping for another shot.
“They’re definitely ahead (of everyone else),” said Glacier coach Grady Bennett, whose 2012 squad lost in the state semis to Bozeman. “We like to think we’re one of the teams that, if we get a chance to play them again, we think we could be the ones to take them out.”
Class AA First Round Pairings
7 p.m. – No. 8 Missoula Sentinel (6-4) at No. 1Bozeman (10-0)
7 p.m. – No. 6 Billings Skyview (6-4) at No. 3 Helena High (9-1)
7 p.m. – No. 7 Butte (6-4) at No. 2 Kalispell Glacier (9-1)
1 p.m. – No. 5 Great Falls Russell (6-4) at No. 4 Helena Capital (7-3)