Braves knock off Bozeman 21-17

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  • Flathead senior Blake Counts dodges a tackle by Bozeman's Padraig Lang during Friday night's game, November 9, 2018, at Bozeman High in Bozeman.

  • 1

    Flathead junior Chance Sheldon-Allen celebrates a interception during Friday night's game, November 9, 2018, at Bozeman High in Bozeman.

  • Flathead senior Blake Counts dodges a tackle by Bozeman's Padraig Lang during Friday night's game, November 9, 2018, at Bozeman High in Bozeman.

  • 1

    Flathead junior Chance Sheldon-Allen celebrates a interception during Friday night's game, November 9, 2018, at Bozeman High in Bozeman.

The Daily Inter Lake

BOZEMAN — Flathead is back in the Class AA state football championship for the first time since 2000 after stunning Bozeman 21-17 in Class AA semifinal football action on Friday night.

The No. 4 seed Braves (8-3) handed the top-seeded Hawks (11-1) their only loss of the season. Flathead will travel to Billings to take on Billings West (11-1) in the title game next weekend.

Flathead coach Kyle Samson called the victory “a total team win.”

It looked dire early for Flathead, as Bozeman jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Everest Klein made a 26-yard field goal and quarterback Kris Brown connected with Ryan Simpson on a 17-yard touchdown pass.

But senior running back Blake Counts and the Flathead offense responded. Counts broke the Class AA single-season rushing record late the in the first quarter, then capped off a Flathead drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

“We just fought back ... the kids didn’t panic,” Samson said.

“It just shows the heart and character of our team.”

The Hawks threatened late in the second quarter, but Flathead made a critical fourth-down stop in its own territory to keep the score 10-7 at halftime. At that point, Samson said his team knew it had a “great opportunity” to pull the upset.

The Braves grabbed their first lead of the game when quarterback Jaden MacNeil scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the third quarter. Bozeman almost took the lead right back, but Chance Sheldon-Allen picked off Brown’s pass in the end zone.

Brian Wells stopped another Bozeman drive with an interception later in the quarter.

“Hats off to our defense,” Samson said.

“We played championship defense tonight.”

McCade O’Reilly found the end zone from two yards out to give Bozeman a 17-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Braves answered with a long drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass from MacNeil to Anthony Jones.

“Jaden put it right on the money,” Samson said, and Jones got his toes on the turf in front of the pylon for the touchdown.

The Hawks had one more chance to reclaim the lead, but Paxton Boyce tripped up Brown on fourth down in Flathead territory for the game-winning tackle.

“Big shoutout to my coaches, they did a tremendous job,” Samson said.

With a win next weekend, Flathead would earn its first football championship since 1970.

Flathead 0 7 7 7 – 21

Bozeman 10 0 0 7 – 17

First quarter

B – Everest Klein 26 kick

B – Ryan Simpson 17 pass from Kris Brown (Klein PAT good)

Second quarter

F – Blake Counts 2 run (Eric Gardner PAT good)

Third quarter

F – Jaden MacNeil 7 run (Gardner PAT good)

Fourth quarter

B – McCade O’Reilly 2 run (Klein PAT good)

F – Anthony Jones 9 pass from MacNeil (Gardner PAT good)

the Class AA single-season rushing record late the in the first quarter, then capped off a Flathead drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

“We just fought back ... the kids didn’t panic,” Samson said.

“It just shows the heart and character of our team.”

The Hawks threatened late in the second quarter, but Flathead made a critical fourth-down stop in its own territory to keep the score 10-7 at halftime. At that point, Samson said his team knew it had a “great opportunity” to pull the upset.

The Braves grabbed their first lead of the game when quarterback Jaden MacNeil scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown run on the opening possession of the third quarter. Bozeman almost took the lead right back, but Chance Sheldon-Allen picked off Brown’s pass in the end zone.

Brian Wells stopped another Bozeman drive with an interception later in the quarter.

“Hats off to our defense,” Samson said.

“We played championship defense tonight.”

McCade O’Reilly found the end zone from two yards out to give Bozeman a 17-14 lead with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Braves answered with a long drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass from MacNeil to Anthony Jones.

“Jaden put it right on the money,” Samson said, and Jones got his toes on the turf in front of the pylon for the touchdown.

The Hawks had one more chance to reclaim the lead, but Paxton Boyce tripped up Brown on fourth down in Flathead territory for the game-winning tackle.

“Big shoutout to my coaches, they did a tremendous job,” Samson said.

With a win next weekend, Flathead would earn its first football championship since 1970.

Flathead 0 7 7 7 – 21

Bozeman 10 0 0 7 – 17

First quarter

B – Everest Klein 26 kick

B – Ryan Simpson 17 pass from Kris Brown (Klein PAT good)

Second quarter

F – Blake Counts 2 run (Eric Gardner PAT good)

Third quarter

F – Jaden MacNeil 7 run (Gardner PAT good)

Fourth quarter

B – McCade O’Reilly 2 run (Klein PAT good)

F – Anthony Jones 9 pass from MacNeil (Gardner PAT good)

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