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KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Bridger Bauder and the Hamilton football team recorded some exciting firsts Friday night.

The freshman wide receiver scored three times in the first half, including an 82-yard catch and run on his very first touch in a varsity uniform, as the Hamilton Broncs trampled cross-state rival Salmon, Idaho, 42-20 under the lights at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

It marked the first time that Hamilton, a Class A school, played a game on the artificial home turf of the Division I Grizzly football team and it was also the first game of the 2014 season for either high school.

“For the kids, I know this is exciting for them,” said Hamilton head coach Travis Blome, as he watched his players race back up the stadium’s famed tunnel. “I know they were looking forward to this all offseason.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise from that offseason wait was the performance of Bauder, the younger brother of the Broncs’ starting quarterback last season. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder played like a seasoned prep star, racking up 143 yards on just six touches.

Bauder ran for two touchdowns after lining up at the quarterback position and taking a direct snap. It appeared he might get stopped short on the second one, from 10 yards out, but he just pinballed off the Salmon defender and squeezed inside the pylon to get into the end zone standing up. That put Hamilton ahead 28-6 with 1:46 to play in the first half.

“Bridger is a heck of an athlete. He’s a real talent,” Blome said. “We have to try to utilize him in some different ways. I was pretty proud of him for his first game.”

The Broncs ground game was on full display. They finished with 298 yards on 50 carries. Senior Wyatt Luedecke piled up 126 yards on 22 carries, for an average of 5.7 yards per tote. Junior Alex Draper had 13 carries for 82 yards and a 1-yard TD run. He sat out most of the second half after injuring his ankle on Hamilton’s first series of the third quarter.

“We knew we had an experienced offensive line coming into the season – we had all five starters back,” Blome said. “But our two running backs worked extremely hard tonight. They did great.”

Junior quarterback Bret Huxtable also got into the act. He scored on two runs from inside the 10-yard line and finished with 45 yards on the ground to go with the 172 he had through the air on 6-of-9 passing.

Not to be outdone, Salmon had a pretty impressive aerial display thanks to junior Brett Cole. He threw three touchdown tosses to three different receivers and ended with 178 yards, while connecting on 15 of 27 attempts.

Cole had 70 of his yards on Salmon’s last drive of the first half, an 80-yard march on eight plays to draw to 28-14. Cole’s 8-yard TD pass to Zack Miner came as time expired. That play was set up by a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Hamilton and a nifty 32-yard catch by Miner, when he outleaped his defender and went out of bounds inside the Broncs’ 10-yard line.

Unfortunately Salmon couldn’t get going in the second half as Cole was intercepted twice and Hamilton chewed up the clock with its rushing attack. The Broncs, who were runners-up in the Southwestern A last season, travel to Columbia Falls next week. The Wildcats are the preseason favorites in the Northwestern A.

Salmon 6 8 6 0 20
Hamilton 14 14 7 7 42
First quarter
H – Bridger Bauder 82 pass from Bret Huxtable (Bauder kick failed), 9:45
S – Quinton Hildreth 6 pass from Brett Cole (pass fail), 7:12
H – Bauder 9 run (Josh Tripplet pass from Huxtable), 4:55
Second quarter
H – Huxtable 9 run (Bauder kick), 11:08
H – Bauder 10 run (Bauder kick), 1:46
S – Zack Miner 8 pass from Cole (Billy Torgerson pass from Cole), :00
Third quarter
H – Huxtable 6 run (Bauder kick), 5:37
S – Torgerson 40 pass from Cole (run fail), 1:55
Fourth quarter
H – Alex Draper 1 run (Bauder kick), 10:18
Individual statistics
RUSHING – Salmon (24-42): Brett Cole 8-3, Dallas Deering 3-9, Luke Frederick 1-9, Jon Thibault 11-26. Hamilton (50-298): Bret Huxtable 8-45, Alex Draper 13-82, Bridger Bauder 4-37, Declan O’Brien 3-8, Wyatt Luedecke 22-126.
PASSING – Salmon: Cole 15-27-2 for 178 yards. Hamilton: Huxtable 6-9-2 for 172.
RECEIVING – Salmon: Quinton Hildreth 4-37, Zack Miner 7-87, Deering 1-1, Frederick 1-8, Billy Torgerson 2-54. Hamilton: Ty Burt 1-13, Bridger Bauder 2-106, Manny Rivera 1- 19, Josh Tripplet 2-34.
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