HELENA — Even though the Class AA playoffs officially start next week, it felt like a playoff game between the Helena Capital football team and Missoula Sentinel at Vigilante Stadium on Friday night.
With a playoff spot hanging in the balance for the winner both teams gave it their all
But as the smoke cleared it was the Spartans who came on top with a 39-27 win.
The only problem was that they didn't get the help they needed from Great Falls and Butte.
"The message all week was we have to control what we could control and that was coming out and getting a win," Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said.
Even though the win snaps a 9-game losing streak against the Bruins, Sentinel will have to wait until next season to break its 34-year state tournament drought.
For Capital, it finishes the season 5-7 overall, but afterwards in the locker room, Bruins coach Kyle Mihelish expressed how proud he was of his team.
"I could look where we came from and I could call it a successful season," Mihelish said. "With 14 seniors who stuck it out, they were willing to punch the clock every day, go to the weight room, work hard and show up to practice. There was a lot of reflection tonight."
The Spartans didn’t waste any time jumping out to a 7-0 lead after marching 80 yards downfield that finished with senior quarterback Rylan Ortt finding tight end Brock Field from 10 yards out.
Capital answered on the ensuing possession when junior quarterback Bridger Grovom found Noah Braden on an 18-yard pass.
Even though the Spartans started the game showing off its aggressive passing attack, they quickly changed the tempo handing the ball off to senior Elias Dewaters.
Dewaters led Sentinel on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended on a 2-yard touchdown score.
Not only did the Spartans feature a solid rushing game, it had some help from its defense as Grovom was intercepted right at the start of the second quarter.
Three plays later, Sentinel added to its lead with a 37-yard field goal.
"Those momentum swings hurt," Mihelish said. "You can't turn the ball over and defensively we couldn't get out of our own way."
Capital tried to get back into the game when it scored on a 8-yard touchdown run by Kadyn Craigle right before halftime, but the momentum stopped there. The second half would belong to the Spartans.
Sentinel regained its 10-point advantage midway though the third quarter when Ortt found the end zone from 2 yards out, followed by his second touchdown pass to wide receiver Parker Stevens.
All it took was Grovom to throw another interception that led to a 10-yard touchdown run by Dewaters to seal the game.
Capital scored two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter that saw Grovom find Dawson Ziegler and Brayden Heller for touchdowns, but the comeback came with time running out.
"It was a good way to end the season," Oliver said. "It shows that we are a really good football team."