KALISPELL — Sentinel senior Soren Syvrud pointed his right arm toward the sky as he ran the final 10 yards into the end zone at Legends Stadium, where he was mobbed by teammates Friday.
His 85-yard touchdown run was as good of a coronation moment as any during Sentinel’s 44-0 throttling of Kalispell Glacier (5-2) on the gleaming white field under the lights of a driving snowstorm in northwest Montana.
The Spartans did whatever they wanted, like they’ve done most of the year, as they completed a 7-0 regular season, picked up the Western AA conference title to pair with their city title and secured a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. It was another performance worthy of their No. 1 ranking in Class AA, which they’ve held since the preseason poll.
“This is a pretty special group of young men,” Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said afterward as snow continued to pelt the people who waited outside the locker rooms in the snow globe-like conditions.
“I’m happy for them that they’re rewarded for what they do on and off the field. They really conduct themselves in a high level and play team football. There’s no more rewarding thing than when you see people come together and sacrifice their individual needs for the good of the team.”
Sentinel’s offense put up 44 points in horrid conditions, but its defense stole the show. The Spartans limited the Wolfpack to 15 yards of offense and three first downs on 40 plays and didn’t give up a first down until the second play of the third quarter. Glacier’s 12 drives ended with seven punts, two turnovers on downs, one fumble, one interception and one end of half.
Sentinel’s defense came out even more white hot in the first half with the temperature hovering around 27 degrees at kickoff. The defense, led by the punishing hits of Montana Grizzly commit Geno Leonard at linebacker, limited Glacier to minus-10 yards of offense and no first downs on 17 plays and six drives in the opening 24 minutes.
“You think about playing in a game like this, and you never know, but it was like playing backyard football with your buddies,” said Leonard, who was one of four Sentinel players who took off their shoulder pads and slid across the snow on their bare chests as a postgame celebration. “Just go out, play in the backyard and hit somebody. We had a great time.”
The Spartans, who now have a first-round bye, closed the regular season having outscored their opponents 344-33, an average of 49.1 points per game scored and 4.7 points per game allowed. They surrendered just 14 points over their final six games after giving up 19 to Kalispell Flathead in their season opener.
While there’s been mass success, Sentinel showed it could maintain its focus and not look too far ahead to the playoffs. One of those battles to keep them focused was stopping Glacier running back Jake Rendina, who has run over opposing defenses but was held to 15 yards on 12 carries.
“You find little battles like that, and that creates an edge and trickles through the rest of the team,” Oliver said. “Geno (Leonard) was a manimal out there against him.”
Leonard laid the hammer on Rendina in the first half, forcing him to drop a pass near the sideline. He was later involved in a tackle of Rendina on a fourth down run that resulted in a 3-yard loss. He also sniffed out a trick play, dropping Glacier for a 9-yard loss, and he had a 6-yard sack.
As Glacier tried to pass the ball in the second half, Sentinel’s Drew Klumph picked off a pass from JT Allen, who was 6-of-15 passing for 20 yards, and returned it 25 yards for a score. Sentinel also recovered a second-half fumble, and kick Camdin Dirnberger slotted home a 28-yard field goal.
“This week was all about finishing out that regular season and getting that conference championship,” Leonard said. “Now we can look to the playoffs.”
Glacier, which had an outside shot at winning the league title and getting the No. 1 seed, was missing head coach Grady Bennett due to an illness.
The Wolfpack’s defense might not have fared much better if he was there as Sentinel had all the time it needed thanks to the strong protection of its offensive line. Quarterback Dayton Bay competed four of eight passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns of 36 yards to Zac Crews and 25 yards to TJ Rausch.
Camden Sirmon, Sentinel’s other quarterback in its two-QB system, ran eight times for 65 yards and a 41-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Donovan South added a 9-yard touchdown run to close the first half. Fellow senior Soren Syvrud paced the Spartans with 117 yards rushing, 85 of which came on his touchdown run to kick off the scoring in the second half and close the book on Sentinel’s impeccable regular season.
“We just had a tough time getting going against them,” said Glacier assistant coach Arron Deck, who was filling in for Bennett. “We had too many negative plays and were unable to battle back from that. We just had a tough time getting in a rhythm and putting two good plays together. It was disappointing for sure. We know we didn’t play to our capability.”