Glacier dominated on offense but struggled to make key stops on Great Falls until late, holding on to beat the Bison 37-34 in a Class AA football game on Friday night at Legends Stadium.
The Wolfpack (2-4) piled on the points, rolling up 512 yards of offense in the win, scoring touchdowns on all but three possessions before kneeling out the clock. Homecoming king Drew Turner finished with 215 yards on the ground and Evan Todd, in his third start at quarterback, was slinging the ball around the yard, completing 72 percent of his passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
While the offense was humming, the defense had trouble closing the Bison (1-6) out, starting with short fields and struggling to get off the field on third and fourth downs. Great Falls converted five third downs and three fourth downs in the win, turning those drives into 27 points.
The contrast turned the second half into a shootout, with each team trading touchdowns.
Glacier seemed to put the game away with a 2-yard touchdown from Turner with 4:39 to play, stretching its lead to 37-28. Great Falls answered quickly, however, returning the ensuing kick to the Glacier 15-yard line and plugging in a short score less than two minutes later. Then, the Bison recovered an onside kick and seemed to have gathered the momentum to at least tie the game, if not take the lead.
Glacier ended that on the next play when junior Garrett Frost intercepted Bison quarterback Blake Thelen. Glacier handed the ball to Turner to run out the clock and seal its second straight win.
“We found a way to win. Those are the types of games we weren’t winning early (in the season),” Glacier coach Grady Bennett said.
“There’s some adversity and some things we didn’t do well to put ourselves in a situation maybe we shouldn’t have been in. Yet, we found a way tonight.
“We don’t get the onside kick but we come up with the interception. Our defense was on their heels at the time, so obviously for them to come up with the stop was huge.”
Glacier’s offense moved the ball well all night, advancing all but one drive into Bison territory.
The Wolfpack opened the night with a squib kick, recovering the opening boot to start the game with the ball. Three plays later Turner had scored the first touchdown.
Great Falls answered on its next drive, converting two fourth downs before a play-action pass found Kyle Torgerson in the end zone. A similar play found Lucas Banderob on the next drive to give the Bison a 13-6 lead.
Glacier responded to that quickly, with Todd finding senior Mark Estes up the seam for an easy 25-yard score. After forcing Great Falls to punt, Glacier scored again on its next drive, retaking the lead with a 35-yard pitch and catch from Todd to Brec Rademacher on the post to pull ahead 18-13.
Great Falls came back again on the next drive, converting on third and fourth downs to drive from its own 18 deep into Glacier territory. On second-and-17, Thelen reeled off a 27-yard draw that looked to get into the end zone but the play was called back for a hold. Two plays later, Glacier’s Hunter Rauthe got in front of a throw into the end zone to end the drive with an interception, allowing the ’Pack to get out of the half with a lead.
“It’s trying to focus on the next play. We preach that so much,” Bennett said.
“I thought our defense did that a couple of times. After giving up some big plays or a series of big plays, they would get that big stop. There were two interceptions that were huge today.”
On the first offensive play out of the break, Todd found Rademacher on the sideline and the senior receiver found space, running 62 yards for a touchdown to give Glacier a 25-13 lead.
Glacier’s next drive stalled in the Bison red zone, and Thelen was able to quickly get points back, rolling on a bootleg and drawing the defense before finding Banderob alone in the back of the end zone.
“Thelen is a great athlete,” Bennett said.
“He was tough to stop, all of the things he can do. We weren’t able to keep him contained with our pass rush, we weren’t able to get to him with the blitz. Then, running those bootlegs, he got on the perimeter and really made some nice throws.”
Turner answered with a 44-yard touchdown run on the next drive, only for Great Falls to reel off 76 yards for a touchdown a few minutes later. Turner’s short touchdown with 4:39 to play gave the Wolfpack just enough to hold on for the win.
“We just kept telling the offense on the sidelines, that’s what good teams do. If one side of the ball is struggling a little bit, the other side has to pick them up,” Bennett said. “That’s been our M.O. over the years. That’s how good teams find a way to win.”
Rademacher finished with 151 yards receiving and Estes had 88 yards on five catches.
The win keeps Glacier’s slim playoff hopes alive, heading into tough road games at Helena Capital (6-1) and Missoula Big Sky (5-2) the next two weeks.
“I’m glad it was such a great test because that’s what we need moving forward, going on the road,” Bennett said. “We’re going on the road now to play two playoff teams in a row. We’re going to find out really soon if we’re real contenders or just pretenders.”
Great Falls 13 0 7 14 — 34
Glacier 6 12 7 12 — 37
G — Drew Turner 8 run (kick miss), 11:17
GF — Kyle Torgerson 24 pass from Blake Thelen (kick blocked), 6:36
GF — Lucas Banderon 19 pass from Thelen (Teagan Olson kick), 1:39
G — Mark Estes 25 pass from Evan Todd (run failed), 11:06
G — Brec Rademacher 35 pass from Todd (run failed), 8:01
G — Rademacher 63 pass from Todd (Carter Purdy kick), 11:44
GF — Banderob 27 pass from Thelen (Olson kick), 1:21
G — Turner 44 run (kick failed), 10:45
GF — Winkler 6 pass from Thelen (Torgerson pass from Thelen), 7:02
G — Turner 2 run (run failed), 4:39
GF — Jordan Komac 3 run (kick blocked), 2:32
First Downs 21 25
Rushes-Yards 32-108 36-241
Passing Yards 251 271
Comp-Att-Int 19-28-2 13-18-0
Total Plays-Yards 60-359 54-512
Punts-Avg. 2-35 1-25
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties 8-71 9-85
RUSHING — Great Falls, Blake Thelen 11-40, Jordan Komac 15-38, Kyle Torgerson 2-17, Lucas Banderob 2-17. Glacier, Drew Turner 30-215, Evan Todd 3-17, Cole Crosby 1-5, Mark Estes 1-5.
PASSING — Great Falls, Blake Thelen 19-28-2-251. Glacier, Evan Todd 13-18-0-271.
RECEIVING — Great Falls, Kyle Toregerson 5-88, Lucas Banderob 5-78, Kyle Winkler 5-61, Jordan Komac 2-10. Glacier, Brec Rademacher 5-151, Mark Estes 5-88, Drew Turner 1-12, Drew Deck 1-11.