BILLINGS — Great Falls High might have come into the season a little under the radar, but the Class AA has now been put on notice.
The Bison are very much in the thick of things among the state's best.
Quarterback Blake Thelen completed 14 of his 21 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for two more as the Bison topped Billings Skyview 42-3 on Friday night at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium to improve to 2-0 on the season.
Great Falls looked legit a week ago when it defeated Helena Capital 32-0 for the school's first win over the Bruins since 1990, according to the Great Falls Tribune. The Bison then rode that momentum to their first road victory of the season.
"Our energy right now is insane," Thelen said. "We're all going crazy every time somebody makes a big play. The thing about us is we're just a big tight-knit group and we all love each other and it's a great thing."
The only play that seemed to go wrong for Great Falls in the game was the opening kickoff when junior Gabe Longin fumbled and Skyview recovered. The Falcons could not turn it into points, and Great Falls quickly drove down the field the other way before Kyle Torgerson scored on a 17-yard run to make it 7-0. About six minutes later, Thelen scored his rushing touchdown, a six-yard keeper on a play action that fooled most in attendance.
In the second quarter, the Bison's offense remained fluid and Thelen found Lucas Banderob on a 20-yard touchdown followed by his second rushing touchdown of the game to give Great Falls a 28-3 lead heading into halftime. Banderob finished with five catches for 115 yards and a score. Great Falls as a team accounted for 490 total yards offensively.
"For us (the early success) is not much of a surprise. We've gone out there and just executed our stuff," Thelen said. "We know that we have a good chance to win every game we go out there.
"Everybody around the community has been so supportive of us. Beating Capital gave us a pretty good igniter for this game and we executed what we needed to and came out and got a win."
Longin found redemption in the third quarter with a 10-yard score. Longin would finish with 16 rushes for 133 yards and a score. Three minutes later, Thelen hit Keegan Bistadeau for a 31-yard touchdown to pad the lead and send the game into a running clock for the fourth quarter.
"That fumble came and I was kind of upset really. I know the coaches and my teammates came up to me and said, 'You're good, you're good,'" Longin said. "After that first fumble it was pretty easy (to forget) because we were running the ball well. We knew we had total control on offense so it was pretty nice."
Skyview's lone score came on a 29-yard field goal from Zack Hammler. Skyview moved the ball well on offense in the first half but came up short once it was within striking distance of the end zone. Defensively the Falcons struggled to finish tackles as Great Falls earned a lot of yards after contact. The Falcons finished with 271 total yards on offense.
"Great Falls is a great team, hats off to them. We knew they had excellent skill guys that weren't going to go down on the first hit," Skyview coach Nathan Wahl said. "We just consistently missed assignments and our goal is to clean that up. I really do believe that we cleaned it up from last week. It's just not where we want it.
"We have guys in the right spot, just have to make the play. There's really not much else beside that."
Skyview (0-2) will take on crosstown rival Billings Senior (1-1) next Friday while Great Falls will complete against No. 3 Missoula Sentinel (2-0) in Great Falls.
"We kind of proved ourselves that we could play with anyone in the AA in that first week and we just had to come out and prove that we could put up that many points again," Longin added.