BILLINGS — If winning is euphoric, the players and coaches at Missoula Hellgate feel like they’re on top of the world.
A week after snapping an arduous 57-game losing streak, the Knights used a five-touchdown performance by running back Jakob Bunch to run past Billings Skyview 41-27 in Class AA football on Friday at Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
The victory is Hellgate’s second in a row, its first two-game winning streak since Sept. 14 and Sept. 21, 2001. It is also the Knights’ first road win since Sept. 7, 2007.
Missoula Hellgate played Billings Skyview in Billings Friday afternoon. Hellgate won 41 to 27.
Hellgate finally made its way into the win column last week — for the first time since 2012 — with a home triumph over Great Falls CMR. The emotions of that victory did not affect the Knights on Friday.
“Maybe last week we were kind of on cloud nine,” Knights coach Mick Morris said. “I was proud of our kids to be able to come over on a five-hour trip after a pretty emotional week. The football gods have just kind of smiled down on us. This is uncharted territory for us, so we’re pretty excited.”
“To go into the season without any wins for six, seven years, and then to get two in a row … I don’t think that’s been done since, what, ’01 or something?” Bunch said. “That’s crazy. I’m really happy. It’s awesome.”
Each of Bunch’s touchdown runs were of the short-yardage variety. He had two 1-yard scores in the first quarter, added another 1-yarder in the second, scored from 3 yards out in the third, then tacked on the go-ahead TD from 3 yards again in the fourth.
“I just used my quickness to try to get outside,” Bunch said. “When I see a hole I just stomp my foot and lower my shoulder and try to get in.”
Trailing by 14 with time winding down in the third quarter, the Falcons crawled back to tie the game. Brenner Bushfield had a short touchdown run, and after Max Davis intercepted a screen pass on Hellgate’s ensuing drive, Josh Macy ran it in from 15 yards out to make the score 27-27.
Momentum shifted in a hurry. The key sequence, though, went Hellgate’s way, when Burke McGowan made an interception after a botched snap on a Skyview punt, which led to a short touchdown run by Knights quarterback Rollie Worster that capped the scoring with 7:02 remaining.
The punt snap sailed over Davis’ head, and while he ran back to gather the football in his own end zone, Davis did not appear to have enough room to kick it away from trouble. Instead, he made the only move he could and tried to throw it to a teammate down the field.
That’s where McGowan picked off the ball and returned it inside the 20-yard line.
“That was kind of the ball game. That was a good scramble play for us,” Morris said. “That was a helluva turn of events there.”
Prior to lining up for that punt, the Falcons were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which pushed them out of a fourth-and-manageable situation trailing by just seven points. Skyview coach Nathan Wahl said he was prepared to go for it on fourth down.
“Absolutely. That was the plan,” Wahl said. “I thought we had some good stuff rolling for us offensively. Unfortunately some of those behaviors that have led to us being 0-6 now keep cropping up, and we’ve got to fix those behaviors if we’re going to win games.”
Skyview is still seeking its first win since beating Butte at home on Oct. 20 of last year. Hellgate is now 2-4.
“At the end of the day you’ve got to stop the ball,” Wahl said. “We’ve consistently allowed teams to score 40 points, and you can’t win football games doing that.”