HAMILTON — Round 1 of the Battle of the Broncs between No. 3 ranked Hamilton and No. 2 ranked Frenchtown went the way of the home team Friday at the Hamilton Athletic Complex, 34-25.
Don't be surprised if there's a Round 2 in the postseason.
"We have a lot of things to clean up still this week, but Frenchtown is a good football team and I doubt that's the last time we see them," Hamilton coach Bryce Carver said after a somewhat sloppy but entertaining game. The two teams combined to turn the ball over six times.
Hamilton (4-1 overall), coming off its first regular-season loss since Sept. 1, 2017, forced a fumble on Frenchtown's opening drive and promptly scored just 1 minute, 55 seconds into the marquee Western A football matchup. Sophomore wide receiver Tyson Rostad used a stop-and-go route to get by his defender, and his older brother — and Montana's reigning Gatorade Player of the Year at quarterback — Carson Rostad hit him in the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.
"There were some mind games on that play," Tyson explained. "You gotta set them up, think they got it and just get around them."
Tyson hit the PAT and Hamilton took a 7-0 lead.
The point-after kick was a big one for Tyson, too. The standout sophomore had two extra points go awry against Dillon last week in Hamilton's 26-25 loss. Though Tyson's team picked him up, pointing to numerous instances where the Broncs could have won the contest, Tyson took it upon himself to refocus his kicking game at practice last week.
"I went to pick him after practice and he wasn't at the school and I found him down here kicking," Carson said of his younger brother, who spent hours after practice each day kicking field goals. Carson, who is Tyson's holder, gave him a pat on the back after the first PAT sailed through the uprights.
Tyson proceeded to go a perfect 4 for 4 on extra points Friday, and he'd add another touchdown catch on Hamilton's next drive.
"Tyson's a kid we've believed in all year and he has that work ethic," coach Carver said. "His mental ability to come ready to play this week is something you can't put into words. He was ready to go and he did a great job."
The younger Rostad's next score came through the air, but wasn't delivered by his big brother. Nine Hamilton plays after a Frenchtown three-and-out, Hamilton dialed up a bit of trickery. Wide receiver Jaiden Klemundt came in motion before the snap and ran behind Carson Rostad. Klemundt received a backwards pass from Carson and then it was Klemundt who found Tyson wide open to take a 14-0 lead after the point after.
But Frenchtown (4-1) was far from finished.
The out-of-town Broncs twice picked off Hamilton in the second quarter, the second setting up a Tel Arthur 4-yard touchdown run. The PAT was blocked, the first of three times Hamilton would block an extra point, and Hamilton held a 14-6 advantage at halftime.
That was cut to a 14-13 lead after junior speedster Jace Klucewich broke free for a 33-yard touchdown run on Frenchtown's first drive of the second half, and Hamilton proceeded to fumble on its ensuing possession.
Frenchtown capitalized with a Cade Baker touchdown run from 2 yards out to take its first lead of the game, 19-14, with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter.
"...I thought we did bounce back from same things pretty well," Frenchtown coach Ryne Nelson said. "Going against a team like (Hamilton) we have to play our best game.
"We just didn't do it."
From there Carson Rostad took over. The University of Montana recruit — playing in front of the UM Marching band in attendance at the homecoming game — converted two fourth downs on the following drive. The first one brought Rostad's Broncs out of their own territory with a 33-yard scamper and the other came on a gutsy 12-yard slant pass to Mason Murray in tight coverage. Rostad, who threw two touchdowns and ran for two more, scored from 2 yards out to retake the lead, 20-19, just before the third quarter's end.
A Frenchtown fumble set up another Carson Rostad touchdown run giving Hamilton a 27-19 lead, and Hamilton defensive lineman Aidan Sisson added an interception on Frenchtown's next drive to all but ice the game.
"We haven't had a D-Line pick in a while, and he just read a screen out of nowhere and that's such a huge turning point in the game," coach Carver said.
Carson took it from there, capping a 10-play drive with a touchdown pass to Brock Jones who made a nice play, coming back on the ball.
Frenchtown added a touchdown drive to pull within 34-25, on a Baker to Hank Rugg connection, but Hamilton's advantage in the kicking game on Friday sealed it. The Broncs broke through for their third blocked PAT to keep their two-score advantage — plenty with 1:37 to play.