Kyle Hansen: Broncs charged, celebrated like it was 1979
My first time seeing this year’s Senior Broncs team was on Sept. 2 when they drubbed Missoula Big Sky 62-20 in Week 2. They were slowed only momentarily before racing to a 42-6 lead by half, a trend that became the norm as the season drove on.
The Broncs looked like a state championship team then. Friday night, they confirmed that reality.
Daylis Stadium was packed near-capacity in below-freezing temperatures Friday night when the Senior High Broncs defeated Kalispell Glacier 33-21 in the Class AA state championship game. The air was still, but Thursday’s snow hung around to make Billings realize it really was halfway through November for the first time this year.
Those cold elements and a stout Wolfpack defense only slowed the Broncs, but couldn’t stop them as they charged towards the school’s first title in 37 years.
The Broncs were a team that was one game away from being crowned state champions a year ago.
They played like it.
All season long, vets from last year’s runner-up team spoke about how it hurt to lose the game and send their seniors off without a state championship. Guys like quarterback Nate Dick and receiver Gabe Sulser said seeing their seniors upset after that game stuck in their minds, and their biggest goal was to rewrite that ending.
From the beginning, Senior played like a team with swagger. After losing to Senior 51-14, Great Falls coach Mark Samson, whose Bison lost a close 31-28 match with Glacier, said the Broncs played like a team that knew they were going to win. No matter what, they took the field knowing what their outcome would be.
Samson knows a thing or two about winning, as he guided Helena Capital to three state championships in seven years as the Bruins’ head coach.
Thirteen times Senior took the field, and thirteen times the Broncs walked off the victors.
With athletes like Dick, Sulser, Keaton Anderson, Jake Orvis, and Nolan Askelson, the Broncs offense couldn’t be stopped. The offensive line always won the trenches, and they allowed their quarterback to find time to make big plays. Many of those linemen played both ways, and defensively they caused pressure on plenty of the state’s best quarterbacks. The secondary got plenty of plays off thanks to the linemen blowing things up early.
It was tough to game-plan for a team like Senior, but the problem is, you couldn’t. They had too many weapons to account for, a team well-rounded and well-rested as the starters normally had fourth quarters off.
The biggest strength for Senior goes back to what Samson said. They knew they were good, and they knew they were going to win. They expected it.
There’s a fine line between cockiness and confidence, and the Broncs were confident. They treated each opponent equally, playing each game like they were determined to make that final push.
And they did. The 2016 AA championship trophy now resides with Bronc Nation. A perfect ending to a perfect season.