HELENA — In a state championship match that lived up to the billing expected for two undefeated teams, the Bozeman High boys soccer team edged Missoula Hellgate 2-1 for Class AA title at Siebel Fields on Saturday.
The Hawks went up 2-0 in the first half with their second goal by Will Kaiser turning out to be the deciding score.
Hellgate's Matt Baldridge shook the net with 7 minutes left on the clock, but Bozeman's vaunted defense held on, as the Hawks secured their fifth championship in program history and fourth in seven years.
Both clubs were conference titlists, with the East's Bozeman (15-0-0) completing a perfect season, while the West's Knights finish at 13-1-1. The Hawks win also halted three-time champion Hellgate's bid for a four-peat.
"First and foremost, Hellgate is a quality program in every aspect, it was a fantastic game and I couldn't ask for a better final," said coach Hunter Terry, who guided Bozeman to a three-peat of its own from 2012-14.
"Our plan was to utilize dynamic attacks and look to keep going forward often, and we did that in the first half. In the second half we used a lower pressure, disciplined defense and packed it in. We settled in, did a good job of collaborating, and hung on for the win."
The Hawks started strong and scored in the fifth minute on a goal by Brendan Ulvin, receiving a corner kick from Jack Bentson. In the 39th minute, Kaiser scored to put his team up 2-0.
"Jackson Coles took a shot and their keeper deflected it back to me at about the 5," Kaiser recounted. "I saw the ball coming and knew that I had to put it away – that I had to score that goal. I just reacted, knocked it in, and when it went in I was happy ... just really happy."
The Hawks out-shot their counterparts with some of their better attempts coming from Zach Springer, Bergen Hill, Ted Scott and Ben Taylor. A few of Hellgate's closer attempts belonged to Marcus Anderson and Baldridge.
Both keepers – Bozeman's Jovial Milich and Hellgate's Brendan Oberg – had stellar games. The Hawks finish the year outscoring their opposition 90-4, with Baldridge's score being only the fourth goal they allowed in 15 games.
"On their first goal off that corner kick, we knew they were going to come out big and strong in the air, and we just couldn't stop it," Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said. "Both teams played really well, and Bozeman was the better team today. But we have a great team too; just getting to the finals is an amazing accomplishment, and I'm very proud of all of these guys."
Billings Senior 3, Helena 0
After an evenly-played first half that was knotted at zeros, Billings Senior, sparked by Simon Rolfson's two goals, captured the third-place trophy over Helena.
The first goal for Senior (8-3-3) was posted Caleb Borgstrom, who broke the scoreless tie in the 52nd minute. Keeper Kolten Unrein was credited for the shutout in net.
"We came out well-focused, and we won a majority of the 50-50 balls," Broncs coach Zach Robbins said. "We had some great opportunities in the first half, but in the second half we finished them. And our senior leadership was phenomenal."
Helena (10-4-1) had several close attempts, including shots by Jacob Demmons, Wyatt Robertson and Aidan Morris.
"With this offense, it's crazy to think that we were shut out twice in a row at state (Helena also lost 3-0 on Friday versus Bozeman), but we just couldn't find the net. Senior did a good job of packing the box," Helena coach Carl Straub said. "But I really enjoyed this season and being able to coach these fabulous young men, they're all a very special group."
Capital 4, Missoula Sentinel 2
Sparked by Aidan Adamek's three goals, Capital (9-5-2) closed out its season with a win over Missoula Sentinel (9-7-0) to place fifth.
Connor Bartleson also scored for the Bruins on a penalty kick. Teammate Ryan Quinn had an assist.
"This win is a testimony to the hard work the boys put in all season," said Capital coach Paul Patterson, whose team lost both season games to the Spartans. "This game could've been meaningless to some, but they worked hard and accomplished what they wanted to do. It's been a privilege coaching this team."
Sentinel's goals were scored by Noah McNelis and Cole Reimer.
"Hats off the Paul, he's a good coach; we had their number during the season, and they had our number today," Sentinel coach Gary Stein said. "One big accomplishment for us, besides making it to Saturday at State, is the fact that we didn't get shutout all year."