BILLINGS — It’s a long bus ride from Billings to Helena, which would give Parker Johnston plenty of time to loop his Friday afternoon highlights through his head. One big play after another.
But Johnston insisted, while standing on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium after he helped Capital defeat Billings Senior 35-30 in the teams’ Class AA football opener, he wasn’t going to do that.
“I’ll probably be sleeping,” Johnston said. “I’m tired. It’s hot.”
The heat will take it out of anyone who had 218 yards on scoring plays. Johnston, a 6-foot senior, caught touchdown passes of 73 and 70 yards (from quarterback Bridger Grovom and fellow receiver Cy Miller, respectively) and returned two interceptions for scores.
The pick-6s covered 45 and 30 yards. Johnston victimized Christian Emineth and Michael Ohlin, both of whom played quarterback for the Broncs.
And to think, two weeks ago Johnston wasn’t going to play defense. He joined the defensive backfield after starter Clint Inman suffered an injury.
“Our secondary coach gets a little extra pay this week,” Capital coach Kyle Mihelish said jokingly. “But, no, two pick-6s … I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, and I’ve been coaching for 24 years.”
The teams traded scores for three quarters before Johnston’s final two touchdowns — the double pass from Miller and Johnston’s second INT — in a span of 45 seconds put the Bruins up 35-24 with 8:04 to play.
Jacksen Burckley made a one-handed 33-yard touchdown grab from Ohlin to get the Broncs within 35-30 with 55 seconds left, but Senior’s onside kick attempt failed and the Bruins ran out the clock.
“We have 24 hours to own it because it’s a loss and it’s always hard,” Senior coach Chris Murdock said. “There were definitely some bright spots. We’re going to fix the things we need to fix and continue to get better at the things we did well.”
Johnston caught five passes for 171 yards and Kadyn Craigle rushed 16 times for 100 yards for Capital.
Senior’s Ohlin completed 37 of 49 passes for 463 yards, with scoring strikes to Junior Bergen and two to Burckley, who also kicked a 30-yard field goal. Oran Nash-Bergen had 13 catches for 126 yards and Junior Bergen had 104 yards on seven catches.
“You had everything in this game,” Mihelish said. “You had big plays on returns, you had big plays out of their receivers, the quarterback play on both sides was pretty solid. I thought we ran the ball well, so, yeah, it was a pretty interesting football game.”