MISSOULA — Missoula Sentinel’s defense came to play on Friday night, stonewalling Billings Senior en route to a 21-3 victory at Missoula County Stadium.
Sentinel Senior Jaxon Lee scored on a punt return in the first quarter and added a rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to lead the Spartans, who overcame their own struggles on that side of the ball.
“We worked really hard on tackling this week and we had to keep them in front of us,” Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said. “Can’t say enough about what these guys did on defense tonight.
“I thought we were patient and didn’t panic. Super proud. It’s a sign of a mature team and I’m super happy for the boys.”
Lee finished with 21 carries for 64 yards in a game that was delayed a half an hour due to lightning.
Both defenses came to play and rain early on in the contest made things difficult for both teams in the first half. The scoring opened halfway through the first quarter when Lee scored on an 85-yard punt return. Lee actually fumbled the catch attempt but scooped it up, made a couple of defenders miss and out-sprinted everyone up the left sideline for the touchdown.
Not long after, Senior responded with a 38-yard field goal from Jacksen Burckley.
But the weather made things tough on both teams. Sentinel had only 29 first-half yards on offense in 27 plays while the Broncs were also under 100 with 92 yards in 32 plays. Each team racked up one sack in the first half and grabbed an interception each, with Dylan Nordberg contributing for the Spartans while Junior Bergen grabbed the pick for the Broncs.
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Sentinel clamped down on defense even more in the second half while taking advantage of opportunities on offense.
“We had plays there, we just had to make them,” Oliver said. “That was the message at halftime. We tweaked a few things but the kids just executed.”
Junior quarterback Dayton Bay found junior receiver Haiden Crews for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 14-3. Then in the fourth quarter, Lee scored on a 4-yard scamper.
Plays like that were all the Spartans needed. They finished with just 170 yards total on offense. Senior ended up with only 179 yards of offense. Lee added an interception in the fourth quarter as well.
Bergen, a junior, caught four passes for 61 yards to help pace Senior on offense. Junior quarterback Michael Ohlin finished 14 for 26 passing for 91 yards and two picks for Senior. Bay ended the game 16 for 23 for 102 yards and one score and one interception.
“I think there’s improvements to be made on everything,” Senior coach Chris Murdock said. “Some things stand out but until you go back and look at the film, you don’t know. Lots of times you’re one or two blocks away but Sentinel is a very good football team.”
Sentinel (2-0) will hit the road to take on Flathead (0-2) next Friday while Senior (0-2) will head to Bozeman (1-1).