HELENA — The opening day of the Class AA state boys soccer tournament Thursday at Siebel Fields saw the two No. 1 seeds stay undefeated and wins by both second seeds.
Western Conference runners-up Helena defeated Billings West 3-2. The Bengals built leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before Billings West scored another goal late in the game, to close to within one.
Scoring for Helena (10-2-1) were Aidan Morris and Caven Wade in the first half, and then after the intermission, Wyatt Johnson shook the net for what turned out to be the deciding marker. Kelson Demmons and Dylan Maharg shared the goal keeping.
The victory moves Bengals into the semifinals at 1:30 p.m. Friday, when they'll face off against Bozeman. The East's No. 3 Bears will play Capital at 11 a.m. in an elimination contest.
"It was a good start for us, the guys came ready to play; they were intense and were connecting on their passes right from the start," Helena coach Carl Straub said. "Aidan's score was a beautiful goal, Cam Wilcox and Josh Wilcox were solid in the mid back, and Wyatt and Ben Ries-Roncalli controlled the midfield."
Freshman Angel Garcia and Riley Krueger-Harding scored the goals for West (8-6-0).
"We made a few mistakes, and their early goals hurt us," Bears coach Dylan Barnard said. "There were parts of the game that we were the better team, but credit a fast, physical, talented Helena team."
Missoula Hellgate 4, Billings Skyview 0
Three-time state champion Hellgate (12-0-1) moved one step closer in its quest for a four-peat after shutting out the East's No. 4 Skyview (6-5-3).
Matt Baldrige of the Knights, the conference's top scorer, raised his season points total to 46 with a goal and two assists.
Also scoring for the Knights were Beckett Arthur, Marcus Anderson and Dane Becker. Cole Hage had two assists, while goalkeeper Brendan Oberg posted the shutout in net.
"I thought it was a good game, we played composed and possessed well," Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said. "We were dynamically better in the second half, more dangerous. After a two-week layoff it was a good start to the tourney to get under our belt."
Hellgate advances to Friday's semifinals, versus Billings Senior at 1:30 p.m. The Falcons will play Missoula Sentinel in an elimination game at 11 a.m.
"We had a decent first half, I thought we were unfortunate on their second goal," Skyview coach Josh Seader said. "In the second half, Hellgate showed why they're the three-time champions. We're a young team, even though we have seven seniors we played four freshman 75 percent of the game, so we can take some positives away from this game."
Bozeman 6, Capital 0
Powered by Zach Springer's hat-trick, Bozeman (13-0-0) shutout the West's No. 4 Capital (7-5-2) to reach Friday's semis. The Hawks led 2-0 early on, and then scored four times in last part of the second half.
Also scoring for the Hawks were Jack Bentson, Bergen Hill and Jackson Coles. Teammate Ted Scott had three assists, and keeper Jovial Milich helped post the Hawks 10th shutout of the year.
Bozeman will face Helena at 1:30 p.m. for a berth in the finals, while Capital meets West at 11 a.m. in an elimination game.
"Holy cow, even though we got the early goals, Capital had us on our heels for about 30-35 minutes in the middle part of the game," said coach Hunter Terry, whose team has out-scored opponents 84-3 on the season. "It didn't feel like we were up by two, and they had the run of play there for a couple of long stretches. But then Zach's first goal (his second of three) in the second half sparked our momentum, and it was 'Thar she blew!'"
Bruins coach Paul Patterson said it was the "closest 6-0 game" he'd ever been involved with.
"You know that old saying, 'Things didn't bounce our way,'" Patterson said. "Well, things didn't bounce our way. And that's just the way it goes sometimes. But I'm very proud of the boys' effort, there was no quit in them and they kept working hard the whole time. And Bozeman is a very disciplined and organized team."
Billings Senior 4, Missoula Sentinel 3 (SO)
The most dramatic match of the tourney's first round was Senior's (7-2-3) come from behind win over Sentinel in a shootout.
The No. 3 Spartans (8-6-0) led 2-0 on goals by Jake Larson and Quinn Winger, before tallies by the Broncs' Justen Unrein and Belina Nuefeld (in the 79th minute) knotted the score at 2 and forced the overtime.
The two clubs traded scores in overtime by Senior's Caleb Borgstrom and Sentinel's Cole Reimer, which led to the shootout. Then Billings' Nuefeld, Sam George, Borgstrom and Dax Wilson all planted their penalty kicks.
Larson was the lone successful Spartans to make his PK as Broncs' senior keeper Kolten Unrein blocked two of Missoula's three attempts.
"The first one, I stepped off the line, the way he stood on the ball made it look like he was going to the left, so I guessed that way and dove and got it," said Unrein, who was also in goal as a sophomore when Senior beat Glacier in a shootout at state. "On the second one, I guessed right, he went down the middle, and I stuck out my foot and it deflected back into the box."
Sentinel's Seth Thayer also had a great game in goal.
"I thought we had won the game (in regulation), I saw an off-sides ... we lost due to forces beyond our control," Sentinel coach Gary Stein said. "Our guys played fantastically. They're a good team, but we know we're better."
Sentinel plays Skyview in elimination game at 11 a.m., while the Broncs meet Hellgate to go to the title game at 1:30.