MISSOULA — Last week was a rough one for the Missoula Hellgate Knights.
A week after the Knights had to cancel their crosstown game against Missoula Sentinel due to a COVID-19 issue, the Knights had another top-five team on tap with No. 5 Helena High in town.
On homecoming, at Washington-Grizzly Stadium, against a team coming off a surprising loss to Butte the week prior, things went south fast for the Knights. Hellgate gave up a touchdown on the opening drive and, on its first offensive possession, gave the ball right back to set up a less-than-ideal start.
"We kinda licked our wounds over the weekend," Hellgate head coach Mick Morris said Wednesday.
The Bengals routed Hellgate at Washington-Grizzly Stadium last week, 63-6, behind future UM quarterback Kaden Huot's record-breaking performance. He tossed six TDs and ran for another to break an 86-year-old Helena High record at his future home field while going 16-of-21 passing for 320 yards — all in the first half.
Now, after that thumping, Morris said his team, from players to coaches, was pretty angry over the weekend. The loss didn't sit well, especially given the lopsided outcome.
"Coaches were kinda pissed; the kids were kinda pissed," Morris said. "We got embarrassed on homecoming and that is something you never want. I think we showed up on Monday with a chip on our shoulders. ... A lot of it was on the coaches. We really put our defense backs in a tough spot and Huot made every play. Even the few times we were able to get pressure on him, he kinda baited it and was able to throw the ball down the field."
Hellgate doesn't have as much time to wait as normal, getting a Thursday game this week as the Knights are slated to host winless Kalispell Flathead (0-4). It gives Hellgate a real chance to right the wrongs from last week and potentially spark a run.
The visiting Braves have yet to score more than once in a game this season, losing games by 27, 42, 57 and 41 points.
The Knights are set to take on crosstown foe Missoula Big Sky (1-4) next week and, if things go right for the 1-2 Knights against Flathead, the game would set up a chance at a return to a .500 record and more against Big Sky. Then will come a chance against Helena Capital (3-1), giving the Knights a solid shot over the next three games to right the ship and get back into a competitive spot record wise.
"I think they are hungry to get things back on track," Morris said. "As bas as that game was we are still sitting in pretty decent shape. ... Hopefully we can have a good little two-week run here."
A week after escaping a tough test against No. 4 Kalispell Glacier (3-1) in the closest Class AA game of the week by far in a 29-21 win — all other games were decided by 57, 49, 42, 42, 41 and 31 points — the still-No. 1 Sentinel Spartans (3-0) get the AA game of the week in a battle at No. 5 Helena High (3-1).
Huot and company will go against a Sentinel defense that has given up north of 20 points just once, which happened to be last week's game against Glacier. Spartans head coach Dane Oliver called the Western AA a gauntlet after his team gutted out their second close game in three tries, and this week's game against Helena is more of the same given Huot's firepower.
On the flip side, Sentinel is the highest-ranked team the Bengals have faced so far this season. Plus, it is at home giving the Bengals some confidence when they host the top team in the AA.
Big Sky, meanwhile, is set to host the upstart No. 3 Butte Bulldogs (3-1) at MCPS. The hosting Eagles fell last week, 49-0, at Helena Capital and have lost two in a row. Butte has won three straight, including an eye-catching 34-20 win over Helena at home, since a one-point loss against Billings Senior to open the season.
Elsewhere in town, Class B No. 10 Missoula Loyola (3-1) will head up to No. 6 Eureka (3-1) for a clash that could make some noise in the Western B standings. Down in 6-Man, No. 3 Hot Springs (3-0) will take on Missoula Valley Christian (2-2) at MCPS on Saturday.
Around the area
Unlike last week, where there were some top-five or top-10 matchups across all conferences, this week is a bit more tame. Top-ranked Class A team Hamilton (4-0) hits the road to take on Stevensville (1-3), while top-ranked Class B squad Florence (3-0) gets winless Anaconda also on the road.