BILLINGS — Miles City junior Aidan Cline made a long reception and had one defender to beat in the final minute of Friday’s game against Billings Central. That one defender, sophomore Kade Boyd, punched the ball out of Cline’s hands around Central’s five-yard line.
A few players had a chance to recover the loose ball, but of course it was Central senior Derek Damjanovich who jumped on it. It was his fourth takeaway of the game, a personal record.
It was a perfect end to a perfect game for the Rams, who beat the defending Class A state champion Cowboys 42-0 on a rainy night at Lockwood Stadium. Central (5-0), which is No. 3 in the 406mtsports.com Class A rankings, was celebrating Senior Night, and seniors starred in the dominant Eastern A-clinching win over the No. 2 Cowboys (5-1).
The Rams have now defeated both of the teams that appeared in last year's State A title game. They won 28-14 at Laurel on Sept. 25. Last year, Central lost 33-0 to Laurel and 41-10 at Miles City in consecutive weeks.
"This is kind of our revenge season," said Central senior wide receiver/defensive back Regan LaFontaine. "We deserve it. We've been working for this for four years."
LaFontaine and Damjanovich expected to win Friday’s game, but they didn’t foresee a six-touchdown shutout, not even in the first half.
Central went three-and-out on the opening drive, and the Cowboys immediately gained some yards. But senior quarterback Carson Hunter dropped a shotgun snap, and Damjanovich jumped on it. A few plays later, Damjanovich rushed 21 yards for the game’s first score.
Damjanovich recovered another Hunter fumble later in the half, and fellow senior Brock Ping rushed for a six-yard touchdown to make it 14-0, which was the score at the half. One play before Ping’s TD, LaFontaine made a juggling catch on fourth down.
The Rams knew a win, let alone a blowout, was not a foregone conclusion as they sat in the locker room at halftime. The Cowboys drove into the red zone toward the end of the first half, and they had possession to begin the second.
Damjanovich came through once again, intercepting a Hunter pass and returning it 17 yards for a TD less than a minute into the third quarter.
Central slammed the game shut after that. Damjanovich rushed for another touchdown, and fellow senior Marcus Wittman threw for two: a nine-yarder to Junior Brackenridge and a 76-yarder to LaFontaine.
The clock was running throughout the fourth quarter.
Central’s defense was dominant in every phase. The Rams pressured Hunter all night thanks to a strong pass rush and smothering coverage. Miles City’s running game struggled to gain any yards.
“Their defense did a good job giving us a bunch of different looks,” said Miles City coach Jeff Regan. “They controlled the line of scrimmage pretty good.”
After the game ended, Central’s players put their hands together to form what looked like the letter ‘O.’ The gesture was meant to symbolize donuts, which are their reward whenever they record a shutout.
“The end goal was to not let them score on us and get donuts,” Damjanovich said. “Last year, we didn’t play so great. This year, we came and whooped them, so I’m happy.”