Kalispell – Three turnovers, two blocked field goals, a blocked punt, fumbled snaps … and that was just the first half.
In a sloppy game marred by penalties and miscues, Helena Capital (4-1) came away with a 21-14 win over the Kalispell Flathead Braves (0-5) on Friday night.
Things got a bit hairy in the fourth quarter. With the Bruins up 21-0, Flathead’s offense woke up.
After a pair of Helena Capital personal fouls, Chance Sheldon-Allen broke free for a 36-yard touchdown run to cut the Bruins lead to 21-7.
Capital responded with an uninspiring drive – plagued by penalties – and the Bruins punted right back to Flathead with about eight minutes left.
Aided by a fourth-down conversion and a pair of third-and-long conversions, quarterback Cooper Smith willed the Braves down the field and completed a 7-yard TD to Sheldon-Allen to pull the Braves within one score.
With 4:10 left, both teams had two timeouts. The Bruins needed to string together a few first downs to put the game on ice. They moved the chains once before punting back to Flathead. A heart-stopping punt return by Sheldon-Allen put the Braves on the Bruins 42 yard line with just under two minutes to go.
On the ensuing play, Parker Johnston broke the spirit of Flathead – a regular occurrence – with his second interception of the night, a fitting end to a wild game.
Capital drew first blood on a 21-yard TD run by Kadyn Craigle with 5:31 to go in the first quarter.
After a Braves 3-and-out, the Bruins blocked a punt and appeared to have all the momentum.
Flathead answered back with a blocked field goal.
On homecoming night, the Braves offense fed off the energy of the suddenly optimistic crowd and were able to move the ball into Bruins territory. The threat ended with a fumble by Sheldon-Allen, recovered by Helena Capital.
Both squads continued to sputter as rain started to come down in the second quarter. The half mercifully drew to a close with the Bruins still up 7-0.
After a fumbled kickoff to begin the second half, the Bruins marched 98 yards for a touchdown to go up 14-0. Quarterback Bridger Grovom found Johnston for a 15-yard score. Johnston won a jump ball over Sheldon-Allen with 8:03 to play in the third quarter.
Having put up a total of 25 points this season, the Braves faced a steep climb. After the Bruins defense forced a fourth down, the Braves tried an unsuccessful fake punt. Once again, however, the Bruins were unable to capitalize on the mistake.
Following another Flathead punt, Grovom found Johnston for a second TD with 45 seconds left in the third to open up the lead to 21-0. You wouldn’t have guessed at the time, but this proved to be the difference in the game.
The Bruins travel to high-powered Butte next Friday.