HAMILTON — It was a 23-yard Rostad pass on fourth down that sparked Hamilton's first score of the second half and paved the way to the Broncs' 34-17 Class A quarterfinal win against Billings Central.
But the throw didn't come from Montana football's reigning Gatorade Player of the Year at quarterback, Carson Rostad. It came from Carson's younger brother, sophomore wide receiver Tyson Rostad.
Facing a fourth-and-5 on the Rams' 25-yard line, Hamilton dialed up a double pass, as Carson threw backwards to Tyson in the flat. From there, Tyson — the heir apparent under center after Carson graduates this spring — found senior wide receiver Mason Murray down the visitors' sidelines.
"It was very big for us, it kind of turned it all around for us and gave us a bit of a boost," said Murray. "I'm happy (Tyson) made the throw, and he's going to be the quarterback next year, so it was cool to see.
"The defender flew up (on Tyson) and I just thought, oh boy, here we go."
Murray was taken down at the 2-yard line. One play later, Carson punched a QB keeper into the end zone to give Hamilton a 27-17 lead with 8:17 remaining in the third quarter. Tyson was first on the scene to congratulate his big brother.
"We've had that play in the back pocket for a while. I don't know if fourth-and-5 was the best time to call it, but it worked so it looks good," Hamilton coach Bryce Carver said. "We practice it and they were able to come out and do stuff we practiced in big situations."
From there, the defending Class A champion Rams — who topped Hamilton in last season's State A title game on the same field — wouldn't draw any closer.
HAMILTON — In 2017, it was Hamilton that dealt Billings Central heartache in the Class A playoffs.
Hamilton's defense pitched a second-half shutout and the Broncs' running game took over. Carson Rostad shook off a 6-for-11, 59-yard passing performance by running the ball for a game-high 129 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Landon Duce added 115 yards and two more scores on the ground.
Hamilton readies for Class A football quarterfinal game with Billings Central, a rematch of the 2018 Class A title game, which Billings Central won. Hamilton hosts the Rams at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Billings Central, though, had the momentum early.
The Rams' Derek Damjanovich intercepted a Carson Rostad pass on Hamilton's first play from scrimmage after a Billings Central defensive lineman tipped a quick-hitting pass to the flat. Two plays later, Michael Hayden gave Central a 7-0 lead with a 10-yard touchdown run.
"When you come out in a game like that, that's definitely a positive. We knew we could match up, we like the schemes we put on these spread teams and we're not afraid to challenge receivers and quarterbacks, no matter how great they are," Billings Central coach Jim Stanton said. "We did that today, but we just came up a little bit short."
The Broncs responded with a long 16-play drive that droned on as the two teams combined for seven penalties in the series.
Hamilton won the drive of attrition, though, as Rostad ran for a 3-yard touchdown. The point after was blocked, but the Broncs cut into Central's lead, 7-6.
Hamilton forced Billings to punt after another slew of penalty flags flew on the ensuing series — the two teams combined for 18 penalties in the game (Central 10; Hamilton 8) — and the Broncs captured a 13-7 lead after another sustained drive.
This time it was Carson Rostad who hit Tyson Rostad for a 19-yard scoring pitch-and-catch 1 second before the first quarter's end.
Central answered, though, chewing through 5 minutes and 30 seconds of the second quarter to regain the lead, 14-13, on a Marcus Wittman scoring sneak.
Hamilton came back with a 28-yard rushing touchdown from Duce, though, with 3:16 to play in the first half to retake the lead, 20-14. Central's junior kicker Camden Capser followed with an impressive 42-yard field goal to close the first half and the long-range kick made the Rams' deficit just three headed into the locker rooms, 20-17.
But that was as close as Class A's defending champs (7-3 overall) would get.
With the win, Hamilton (9-1) advanced to the Class A semifinals for the third straight season. The Broncs, who have finished in second place the last two years, will have to win on the road at No. 1-ranked Miles City (9-0) to get back to the state title game. The Cowboys, who fell to Hamilton last season in the quarterfinals, won big against Frenchtown on Saturday, 40-3.
In the other Class A quarterfinals, Dillon topped Havre, 47-7, and Laurel shut out Libby, 50-0. The Locomotives and Beavers will also meet next Saturday.