POLSON — Both Stevensville and Polson's head football coaches summed up Friday night's game in one word — strange.
From start to finish, odd things occurred in every facet of Stevensville's 28-18 win over Polson from near-double digit turnovers, a kick after a safety that was recovered deep, multiple interception returns for touchdowns and an early ejection.
"It was a bizarre game with turnovers going both ways," Stevi's skipper Troy Tack said. "I thought it was one of the strangest games I've ever participated in, but a win is a win. We're just excited our kids can open the season with a win and feel what it's like to win."
Stevensville senior tight end/linebacker combo Jaren Gum started his final season of high school football on a high note.
He scored 12 of the Yellowjackets' 28 points with a pair of offensive and defensive touchdowns.
"It was just an awesome game by Jaren," Tack said. "He's just so solid for us on both sides of the ball. He worked so hard in the offseason and he's really blossomed into a leader. He's someone we can count on for big plays and he came through every time we needed him tonight.
"He along with Kyler Pancake, they were really keys tonight. I'm sure Kyler was around 200 yards rushing. And our line did a great job opening holes for them."
Gum's Yellowjacket defense was deep inside Polson territory with the Pirates threatening to score in the second quarter. Gum read the offense just right, picking off Polson's sophomore quarterback Boston Goode and taking the 75-yard interception return to the house.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Gum said of his interception return. "I saw him go to throw and it just happened."
Midway through the third quarter, Gum found the end zone again, scoring on a 7-yard pass from senior quarterback Garrison Bradt.
Gum deflected the praise to his teammates.
"It was awesome, but everybody did great tonight," Gum said. "This wasn't a single person. Everybody came together as a team. Everybody did their job. That's what happened. We all came together to make it happen.
"Everyone on this team did a phenomenal job. We made our mistakes, but we clapped back and made up for it 100 percent."
The Yellowjackets are in the endzone again. Stevensville’s Jaren Gum with a 3-yard touchdown reception, pass thrown by senior Garrison Bradt.— Amie Just (@Amie_Just) August 25, 2018
This was Gum’s second touchdown of the night.
Stevi leads Polson 26-0 with 4:10 left in the third quarter. #mtscores pic.twitter.com/2d5NIAjhBw
The Pirates took the last matchup in 2008 by a narrow margin of 31-26.
Stevensville got its scoring flurry started early with senior quarterback Garrison Bradt finding senior wide receiver Payten Davids from 25 yards out.
Bradt finished the evening with two touchdown passes.
"He read the defense well. He put it right in our hands when we needed to," Gum said of Bradt. "He just made it happen for us tonight offensively."
Senior running back Kyler Pancake scored for the Yellowjackets from roughly 10 yards out in the second quarter to put Stevensville up 20-0.
That 20-0 score held to halftime.
"I thought we came out strong and executed very well to start the game — going up 20 to nothing," Tack said. "... But we revealed a lot of things we need to work on this week, so we'll have a busy week in practice to correct all of our problems."
Polson came into the game down to their third-string quarterback in Goode after first-string quarterback Bo Kelley, a junior, tore his ACL during basketball season and after second-string quarterback Colby Soderquist, a senior, suffered a season-ending leg injury during preseason practice last Saturday.
"A week ago he was the backup," Danley said of Goode. "He had to play and I thought he did a pretty decent job for his first time ever in varsity football."
Despite not getting on the board until the third quarter — a late-frame 6-yard touchdown pass from Goode to senior Parker Toth — the Pirates marched down to the redzone several times in the first half before either running out of downs of coughing up the football.
"It's too bad because we were moving the ball in the first and second quarter, but we just kept fumbling it away each time," Danley said. "That was obviously a big problem. ... Even though we created some turnovers, it's hard to win when you give up five turnovers."
In the fourth quarter, Polson's Kordell Walker picked off Bradt for a 40-yard interception return touchdown.
Stevi scored for the last time when junior defensive end Kellen Jones tackled Goode in the end zone for the two-point score.
Polson's Ryker Wenderoth scored the last touchdown of the game, breaking away for an 80-yard touchdown.
Polson's senior starting running back and linebacker Hunter Fritsch was ejected in the second series of the game after throwing a punch. After the game, Danley said it was a rightful ejection.
"That really put us in a bind," Danley said. "We had to play some kids that weren't necessarily expecting to play a whole lot of football."
Stevensville enters Week 2 with a 1-0 record for the first time since 2016. The Yellowjackets have their home opener against Browning (0-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Polson (0-1) is on the road next Friday at Dillon (0-0). That game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Beaverhead County High School.