BELGRADE — Road games are tough no matter what the conditions. Competing on a sloppy field against a team you have never played doesn’t make things easier.
Under a set of lights that were less than fully-operational, the Helena Bengals defense played lights out in a 19-0 victory over the Belgrade Panthers on Friday night in Belgrade.
“It felt amazing,” said linebacker Zachary Evans. “Our D-line played amazing. Keyshawn Newby held out the edge perfectly.”
With less-than-ideal field conditions, the name of the game was to play mistake-free football and Helena did that much better than Belgrade.
“You’ve got to take extra steps to the frame when you’re tackling. You have to do a better job of holding onto the football, of course,” said coach Scott Evans. “You have to manage your footwork more than anything and be cognizant of where your footwork is at. But we stuck to the same game plan we had going in.”
Scott Evans trusted his defense to hold strong until the offense could find a rhythm. This was apparent during the middle of the first quarter when he elected to punt instead of kick a 40-plus-yard field goal, which pinned the Panthers deep in the own territory.
“It’s great,” Scott Evans said. “You trust your guys to pin them deep and it changes the whole field. That flipped the field for us and got us into position where we could score. Defensively, it’s just nice to know that when you need a play those guys will come in and they’ll take care of some stuff.”
Belgrade, which moved up to Class AA this season, proceeded to go 3-and-out. The Bengals offense stalled on a short field, but managed to set up a manageable 32-yard field goal by Cavin Wade.
During Helena’s first drive of the second quarter, Hayden Ferguson got going out of the backfield. Aided by three Panthers penalties, he ran in the game’s first touchdown from the 3 yards out. Ferguson finished with 133 rushing yards on 28 carries.
“Belgrade is not quite as big as a lot of AA schools so they have a lot of two-way players,” explained Ferguson. “So, I think, as you get late in the game and the more physical you are, the more they’re going to get tired out. Also our offensive line and receivers blocked really well and our physicality really wore them down. And that's why we were able to keep the momentum going through the second half.”
Belgrade answered back with a productive drive before the end of the first half. They drove down to the Helena 10 yard line, but back-to-back fumbled snaps by quarterback Dyson Cheney brought up fourth and less-than-a-yard. The Helena defense held Belgrade on fourth down to end the threat.
“When we went up, I was thinking ‘they have to score or they’re not going to score the rest of the game and this is the only chance they’re going to get,’” Zachary Evans said.
Quarterback Kaden Huot completed 9-of-17 passes for 92 yards, which was all his team needed from him given the conditions. He completed a 4-yard TD pass to Kyler Tesch in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice.
“More than anything I liked our offense because they were patient at times. We didn’t rush anything,” Scott Evans said. “We kept ourselves in position. For a young quarterback and the field the way it was – it was raining and conditions were pretty bad – he did a great job stepping in there."
The Bengals travel to Butte next Friday. They will have running back Logan Brown, who sat out Friday.
“He’ll be ready to go. We’re looking forward to having him back,” Scott Evans said. “We just wanted to get him as healthy as possible.”