Leo Filardi

Leo Filardi runs after the catch during his record-breaking performance against Kalispell Glacier on Thursday.

MISSOULA — Heading into its Thursday night game against Kalispell Glacier, the Missoula Hellgate football team wasn't entirely sure what its passing offense would look like.

Knights quarterback Dante Maiuri had suffered an ankle injury in a loss to Helena High the week prior, and it wasn't until a pregame practice on Thursday that he truly started to feel better. Maiuri ended up starting the game, played every offensive snap and helped Hellgate break a state record.

Hellgate sophomore wideout Leo Filardi hauled in 12 passes for 348 yards and three touchdowns as the Knights fell in a wild shootout, 54-38. The 348 receiving yards are an 11-player state record, according to the Montana High School Association's archived records.

The previous record was 307, set by Whitehall wide receiver Andrew Simon during a 2015 game against Missoula Loyola Sacred Heart.

"I did not think I had 300 or whatever yards," Filardi said on Saturday afternoon. "I did not think I had that many."

In some ways, the way the game script played out helped Filardi toward a legendary evening. Ian Finch — an excellent wideout for the Knights who finished with 10 catches for 120 yards, a score, and four two-point conversion receptions — found himself double-teamed more often than not.

So Hellgate moved Finch around in some pre-snap motion while also having Filardi on the same side of the field as Finch. With the secondary keyed in on Finch, Filardi got some matchups the Knights liked against linebackers in the middle of the field.

The Glacier corners started biting on Finch as well, which opened up even more for Filardi, including a gorgeous flag route. Filardi has impressive speed, and that athleticism helped him pick up quite a few yards after the catch.

"He just does a great job of finding space," Hellgate head coach Mick Morris said. "And then when he's able to catch the ball, he doesn't really lose any momentum, so when he catches the ball, he's ready to go."

Several other parts of the game also contributed to the record-breaking affair. Hellgate's Jake Sweatland, a starting running back and defensive end, went out on the first series of the game with an apparent ankle injury and didn't return.

A hand injury to wide receiver Lucas James also left the Knights short at wideout, and Ryan Woldstad, who entered the game against Helena High at quarterback after Maiuri left with the ankle injury, was also in the mix after spending the entire week preparing to play quarterback.

Brayden Terzo, who normally plays more of a slotback role and is third on the team in receptions, was also thrust into a different position than what he would normally play.

Hellgate only had around 25 players suited up to play Thursday.

"I knew we didn't have too much depth at Hellgate, so I knew I'd be playing on varsity this year," said Filardi, who said both Finch and Terzo are players he looks up to. "I had no idea I'd be breaking a record sophomore year, that's like, it's just unbelievable to me."

While Hellgate got out to a 14-7 start, another incredible performance was brewing on the Glacier side. Running back Jake Rendina, a 5-foot-11, 230-pound bowling ball, began scoring touchdowns.

Seven of them, in fact, by the end of the game. That performance, which came on 34 rushing attempts for 273 yards, put him tied for third on the list of most overall individual touchdowns scored in a single game. 

It also meant Hellgate needed to keep scoring. Shootouts like this aren't nearly as common in the Class AA level as they are in Class A and B, making the performance — by both teams — all the more impressive.

"I think you look at this game and the way it went back and forth the way it did and even beyond that, like how polar opposite it was," Morris said. "We're throwing the ball every play and setting records doing that and at the same time Glacier is running the ball a lot and you've got a kid like Jake Rendina that's setting records running the football.

"I just thought it was funny how that worked out."

While Glacier did have the lead most of the game, a 23-yard score by Filardi in the third quarter made it 33-30. Another in the fourth, an 80-yarder that likely was the catch that broke the record, made it 40-38.

Both teams needed to keep scoring, and the Knights just weren't able to muster the defensive stop they needed. But while Hellgate was obviously disappointed with the result, having a state record like this for the Knights will be a point of pride for years to come.

Morris, who called Maiuri's performance a "coming-out party," was very impressed with his new quarterback's performance. The senior transferred to Hellgate from Washington prior to the season.

And despite the loss, Morris and Filardi said they both opened their phones to a flurry of texts after the game. Simon, who played for Montana Tech and then Rocky Mountain College, saw his record had been broken.

"Daily reminder that I’m washed up now," Simon said in a tweet.

While the former tight end probably still has a few snaps left in him, so too does Filardi. The possibility of having a player like Filardi for two more seasons is an exciting prospect to Morris and should be one for the Hellgate faithful as well.

"It just gives me hope for the next couple years," Filardi said. "I think we're going to have a chance to be good. Really good."

Jordan Hansen covers a bunch of stuff for the Missoulian and 406 Sports. Shout at him on Twitter @jordyhansen or shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com

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