BOZEMAN — On Friday, the Bozeman hawks will travel to Vigilante stadium in the brisk cold to take on Helena Capital for a chance at their fourth ever Class AA state title. The last one was in 2019 where the now seniors watched as wide-eyed freshman and even some current players were watching from the stands dreaming of a day they would get to experience the feeling of a hoisting a trophy,
“It means a lot to me," Junior Quaid Ash said. "My brother played in the 2019 state championship team, so I've always looked up to him and that team.”
For senior Luke Smith, he was a freshman on the sidelines experiencing the thrill of winning a championship in 2019 and now has an opportunity to close out his high school career on a win.
“It's kind of weird starting my football career here and we win a state championship then in my last year in the football program here in Bozeman we're in a state championship.”
Bozeman began their 2022 season with a match-up against the undefeated bruins losing 28-21 in a game that head coach Levi Wesche thought they played well but not well enough.
“We thought we played with them," Wesche said. "We thought we played well. They obviously played better than us that day.”
That game was followed by another tall task in facing the back-to-back state champions, Missoula Sentinel. After week two, they were 0-2. Since then, the Hawks learned and improved winning nine straight. However, in order to get a different outcome on Friday against an undefeated Bruins team, the Hawks will have to do a number of things well to get the win.
“In order to get the win, we've got to be able to run the ball a little bit," Wesche listed off. "I think we have to have big plays in the passing game at some point. In general can't turn the ball over, can't give up big plays on defense and you know, we got to force a few turnovers here.”
It's easier said than done but in their semifinal game against Gallatin the running game was strong racking up 265 yards on the ground thanks to Connor Nye, Brady Casagranda and Jake Casagranda all effective on the ground. With the chilly temperatures in late November playoff football, it's imperative to have the run game operating at a high level.
“Coming into these colder months, if you can't run the ball well, it's kind of game over a little,” Smith admitted.
Defensively against Gallatin, Ash put the nail in the coffin to start the fourth quarter with an interception for a touchdown to make it 21-3 and put the game out of reach for the Raptors.
“As soon as I got to the end zone I was like 'okay, I think we got this now...I think we're going to go to the state championship.'"
The Hawks are looking for their fourth ever state title while Capital's Kyle Mihelish is looking for his first state title as head coach of the Bruins to add to the legacy of all Helena Capital head coaches having won a championship. Kickoff for the Class AA state title game at Vigilante stadium slated for 7 p.m.