Football Playoffs Braves get another shot at Bozeman in AA semis

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It’s back to Bozeman for the Flathead football team.

The fourth-seed Braves (8-3) are in the Class AA semifinals, up against top-seed Bozeman (11-0) tonight. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

These two teams met back on Sept. 28, the sixth week of the regular season, in Bozeman with the Hawks claiming a 49-34 victory.

Bozeman led 28-7 at the half and improved to 6-0.

Flathead slipped to 4-2.

Blake Counts rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Jaden MacNeil ran for one and passed for another to spark the Braves in the second half.

So the rematch is a second chance of sorts, or a do-over if you will, for Flathead. Coach Kyle Samson and his players feel they have some unfinished business to attend to after what transpired the last time the two met.

“We’re excited,” Samson said.

“We lost down there, get another chance to play them. We have earned that right.”

Samson said Flathead can ill afford another poor first half to have a chance at pulling the upset this time.

“We didn’t start very well, had some turnovers,” he said.

“The second half we played really well against them. This week we have to start faster. We can’t get behind that quick.”

Flathead is coming off an impressive 52-35 triumph over two-time defending state champion Billings Senior last week in quarterfinal action at Legends Stadium.

Flathead rolled up 508 yards rushing, led by Counts with 294 and MacNeil with 181. Counts had four touchdowns runs and MacNeil two. MacNeil also passed for another score.

Counts, the school record holder for rushing yards in a season, now has 2,162 on 286 attempts. He averages 7.56 yards per carry.

He has 22 rushing touchdowns and five on receptions.

MacNeil has 1,196 yards on the ground on 137 carries and 10 touchdowns. He averages 8.73 yards per attempt.

MacNeil is 108 of 181 passing for 1,569 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“That was a big win,” Samson said.

It also was an improvement from a year ago when the Braves lost at home in the quarterfinals of the playoffs to Helena Capital.

“We are a better football team than we were back then,” Samson said of the earlier meeting with Bozeman.

“When you go on the road, you have to get off to a fast start and the turnover battle will be huge like it is every week.”

Bozeman took care of its business a week ago, thrashing Great Falls High in the quarterfinals 49-21.

In tonight’s other AA semifinal, third-seed Helena (9-2) faces second-seed Billings West (10-1) on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium in Billings at 7.

“It will be a great atmosphere down there,” Samson said of Bozeman. “We want to go down there and have fun playing the game we love.

“I’m super proud of our kids and coaches,” he added. “It’s been a very good year. I hope it continues, that we can keep it going.”

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