Ellie Stiffler

Ellie Stiffler of Helena Capital dribbles the ball in her team's season-opening match against defending Western AA champ Missoula Big Sky. The two teams played to a 3-3 tie. 

While there was plenty of football going on across the state of Montana this weekend, it also served as the start for soccer, a game that’s played with the feet.

In some places, they even call it futbol.

Regardless of what you call it, both Helena High teams were in action at the Siebel Soccer Fields Saturday against Missoula Sentinel and each contest came down to the wire.

The Helena boys team took the field first time and when it was all said and done, they battled to a 0-0 draw against Missoula Sentinel. Both teams created plenty of chances but each team was held scoreless.

It was the first match of the season for the Bengals under the direction of head coach Carl Schaub. Helena High will pay a visit to Missoula Big Sky on Tuesday, before taking on Helena Capital in a crosstown rivalry game next Saturday.

In the girls game, after one half of play, it looked like Helena and Big Sky might be headed for another 0-0 draw. But soon, the action picked up.

Big Sky repeatedly had scoring chances thwarted by Bengals keeper Ashlin Slanger, who made a number of spectacular saves. One shot even hit the post before being cleared.

“She really did well didn’t she?” Helena High head coach Mike Meloy said of his senior keeper. “She was very good. She is very, very quick and she gets to the ball. What she doesn’t have in height, she makes up for with quickness and being very aggressive.”

In the latter stages of the second half, Helena High finally broke through thanks to a stellar effort from Elsa Grebenc, a sophomore midfielder that found the back of the net.

Sentinel threatened a few times and pushed forward aggressively in the closing minutes, but Slanger and the Bengals refused to yield a goal and notched a key victory.

“Sentinel is one of our toughest rivals,” Meloy said. “Whenever we play them, it always seems to be close. We kind of play a similar style. So it’s always a nice matchup. I think we learned a lot from this game and that was the most beneficial part.”

While the Helena High girls won and the boys played to a draw, the exact opposite took place at Helena Capital, where the Bruins played host to Missoula Big Sky.

The boys squad took the field first and in an impressive display of efficiency, they proceeded to score five goals right off the bat. By halftime, Capital held a 7-0 lead and then played conservatively in the final 45 minutes as it cruised to a 10-0 victory.

Seven different Bruins scored goals, highlighted by Ryan Quinn and Jace Claussen who had two each. Aidan Adamek, Marston Carpenter, Caleb Hoxie, Chris Meza, Matthew Wigton and Eli Voss also found their way onto the score sheet with a goal apiece. 

Adamek, Quinn and Meza all contributed with two assists, while Hoxie, Henry Lauerman, Wigton and Alex Thompson all had one.

“We played disciplined and I was proud of them for not giving up a goal,” Capital head boys coach Paul Patterson said. “I just want us to play the kind of soccer that we can play because this is a team that could do some things.”

The girls team from Capital followed and awaiting the Bruins was defending Western AA champs Missoula Big Sky.

Early on, Big Sky took control, scoring a goal 30 seconds into then match. However, the Bruins, who return just five varsity players from last season, kept their composure and trailed just 2-1 at the break.

In the second half, Capital took the lead, 3-2, after it got two goals from Ellie Stiffler and one from Melissa Moreni. Big Sky tied it up 3-3 and that’s how it ended.

“It was a great opening game,” Girls head coach Brandon Price said. “Big Sky came out and scored on a header. It was a bit of a wake-up call but we fought hard and I was happy with a tie in our opener.”

Helena High and Helena Capital will face off in the crosstown rivalry game next Saturday. The girls will play at 11 a.m. followed by the boys at 1 p.m.

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Chris is the sports editor and lead preps reporter for the Independent Record and 406sports.com. Follow him him on Twitter @cmpetey406

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