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Vikings headed to state semifinals after victory over Townsend Bulldogs

by JEREMY WEBER
For the Eagle | November 10, 2021 12:00 AM

A series of big plays by the Vikings and defense unwilling to surrender the same to its opponent brought Bigfork victory in Townsend Saturday as the Vikings defeated the Bulldogs 20-15 in the Class B state quarterfinals.

All three of Bigfork’s touchdowns came on plays of 35 yards or more, including a 36-yard run from Joseph Farrier in the second quarter, a 55-yard pass from Patrick Wallen to Nick Walker in the third and a 45-yard run by George Bucklin to put the Vikings ahead for good in the fourth.

With the win, the 8-2 Vikings advance to the state semifinals, where they will face Eureka in a rematch of one of Bigfork’s closest games of the season, a 14-13 loss to the Lions Oct. 15.

“I’m trying not to get emotional,” Bigfork coach Jim Benn said after the game. “This group has been through a lot together this year. This was an absolute great team effort. They believed and just found a way to get it done.”

While the big play was the key for the Bigfork offense, the same could be said for the defense as the Vikings seemed to bend, but never quite break. The Vikings stalled the Townsend offense in the red zone four times in the win and forced four turnovers on downs, including a goal line stand at the 6-yard line in the opening quarter of play.

“That’s just how our defense is designed,” Benn said about his team’s effort. “We do our best work when our backs are against the wall.”

The Bulldogs threatened to get on the scoreboard first in the opening quarter, but Bigfork’s Levi Taylor was able to force Dawson Sweat to catch a Trey Hoveland pass out of bounds on 4th-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Vikings struck first with the 36-yard run by Farrier to go up 7-0. Bigfork looked as if it was going to take that lead into the half, but Hoveland found Gavin Vandenacre from 38 yards out to tie the game with 47 seconds left in the second quarter.

A 6-yard touchdown pass from Hoveland to Vandenacre capped a 12-play scoring drive by the Bulldogs to open the second half and a roughing-the-kicker penalty on the PAT set up a 2-point conversion to give Townsend a 15-7 lead.

Undaunted, the Vikings answered five plays later when Wallen connected with Walker from 55-yards out to cut the Townsend lead to 15-13.

“We just had to score and do our part,” Benn said about the play. “We had some big plays and some big moments, like that sucker route that we ran (to Walker). That was huge. It was something we saw on film. We liked the look and it was there for us.”

Bigfork went for two in an attempt to tie the game, but Wallen was unable to complete a pass intended for Isak Epperly and the Bulldogs continued to lead.

The Bulldogs were poised to add to their lead on their next possession, but Taylor ended the drive when he picked off a Hoveland pass near the end zone.

“In these types of games against good teams that are well-coached, like coach (Travis) Rauh has, possessions are pure gold,” Benn said. “That interception that Levi made for us was a monumental shift.”

The Vikings capitalized on the turnover six plays later as Bucklin navigated his way through the Townsend defense for a 45-yard scoring run with 11:39 remaining in the game. Tristan Herd’s PAT gave Bigfork a five-point advantage, 20-15.

After holding the Bulldog offense in check on both of Townsend’s possessions in the fourth quarter, the Vikings took possession with 5:50 to play and were able to run out the clock with the help of a roughing the kicker call as they faced a 4th-and-25 with four minutes to play.

Taylor was able to convert on a 4th-and-two play from the Bulldogs 28-yard line with 1:03 to play as Bigfork held on for the victory.

Wallen finished the contest 5-for-8 passing for 100 yards with one touchdown and was intercepted once while Bucklin led the ground attack with 165 yards on 16 carries.

Taylor added 52 rushing yards and Farrier finished with 42.

Walker’s 65 yards led the Bigfork receiving corps while Bryce Gilliard caught one pass for 27 yards and Epperly had one catch for 11.

Bucklin’s seven tackles led the Vikings defense while Gilliard added five.

Kickoff for Saturday’s state semifinal in Eureka is set for 1 p.m.

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Bigfork's Bryce Gillard brings down Townsend's Dawson Sweat for a loss in the second quarter of the Vikings 20-15 win at Townsend in the Class B state quarterfinals Saturday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Bigfork running back Levi Taylor fights for extra yards in the third quarter of the Vikings 20-15 win at Townsend in the Class B state quarterfinals Saturday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Bigfork quarterback evades Townsend defensive back Dawson Sweat while looking to make a pass in the third quarter of the Vikings 20-15 win over the Bulldogs in the Class B state quarterfinals Saturday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)

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Bigfork's Joseph Farrier (34) celebrates with teammate Levi Taylor (3) after scoring on a 36-yard touchdown run in the second quarter at Townsend Saturday. (Jeremy Weber/Bigfork Eagle)