There was no shootout this time.
Glacier ran out to a big lead and kept it in its Class AA first round football playoff win over Missoula Sentinel, topping the Spartans 35-21 behind a school-record performance from junior running back Drew Turner on Friday night at Legends Stadium.
It is the sixth straight year the Wolfpack has advanced past the first round.
The Wolfpack attack was led on the ground where Turner made play after play to keep the offense rolling, starting with the opening drive.
Glacier (10-1) received the kickoff and on the second play from scrimmage Turner busted loose down the right sideline for 53 yards to to the Sentinel 15-yard line. Two plays later, Glacier quarterback Tadan Gilman ran in an option keeper from 4 yards out to give the Wolfpack a 7-0 lead with less than two minutes elapsed on the game-clock.
“It was huge to get a fast start judging by the way we played these guys last time,” Gilman said of September’s 63-62 overtime win at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. “The minute that we got that head start it showed us what kind of a team we could really be.”
The Glacier defense picked up a pair of sacks to force a three-and-out on Sentinel’s first drive, getting the ball back for Turner to rip off a 41-yard touchdown run.
Turner amassed 94 yards on his first three carries from scrimmage on the way to a school-record 256 rushing yards on 21 carries in the contest.
“For us to come out like that and really get going (was great),” Glacier coach Grady Bennett said. “Our offensive line was incredible tonight. Obviously Drew, he’s fully healthy now. For a running back like him, that’s such a feature in our offense, it stinks to have him go through that (stretch of missed games) like he did. But now it’s a blessing because we’re going to the semis and his carry load is way down. He’s so fresh. It’s amazing. He was patient tonight. The O-line did the job at the first level, then Drew was great at the second level. That’s a pretty good tackling team and he was making people miss. It was impressive.”
The Glacier defense kept the game from turning into the shootouts that have frequented the rivalry in the past. The push was led by the defensive line, which lived in the backfield and had nine sacks in the game, including at least one on each of Sentinel’s first seven possessions.
“I knew it would be different,” Bennett said. “Our defense has improved so much, they’ve come so far. Watching us the last three weeks especially, then comparing it to that first Sentinel game, I knew tonight was going to be different.”
Glacier extended its lead to 21-0 midway through the second quarter, making a short field shorter with a pair of Turner runs for 38 yards setting up a 1-yard plunge from Gilman.
Trying to get the ball back once more, knowing it would kick after the halftime break, Glacier took a pair of timeouts with less than a minute remaining only to muff the punt after a fourth down stop. Sentinel fell on the football in Glacier territory and on its first play found Nick Germer behind the defense for a 40-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7 at the break.
Glacier forced a punt on the first possession of the second half and again turned to its running game to lead the way down the field. Six run plays later, Turner capped the drive with his second rushing touchdown, a 13-yard rush on fourth-and-1 that went untouched into the end zone.
Glacier forced another three-and-out, its first drive without a sack, then sapped five minutes off the clock on offense before Gilman connected with Andrew Durado in the back of the end zone, building the Glacier lead back to 35-7.
The Wolfpack gave Turner a rest in the fourth quarter, leaning on backup Cole Crosby instead to close out the game. Sentinel added one final score to narrow the final, Germer again getting free in the Glacier secondary for a 41-yard score to bring the final to 35-14.
Gilman added 42 rushing yards to Turner’s astounding total, also completing 10 of 19 passes for 77 yards. Patrick O’Connell had a three catches and 23 receiving yards and Scout Willcut had 22 yards on three catches.
The Glacier defense held Sentinel to 91 rushing yards, mostly in garbage time. Mitch Roberts and Brandon Morley combined for 129 yards passing.
The win puts the Wolfpack into the semifinals for the sixth time in a row. Since Class AA moved to an eight-team playoff in 2001, only Helena Capital’s seven-year streak from 2005-2011 is longer.
“It’s quite an achievement,” Bennett said. “I feel just so blessed to be in the position I’m in. The kids are playing great and it’s a lot of fun.”
Glacier finds out its opponent in next week’s game today after the final first-round game between Capital (6-4) and Billings West (8-2). Should West win, Glacier would host the Bears at Legends Stadium next Friday. Should Capital pull the upset, Glacier would host Helena High, which beat Bozeman 21-14 on Friday.
Sentinel 0 7 0 7 — 14
Glacier 14 7 14 0 — 35
G—Tadan Gilman 4 run (Cameron Anderson kick), 10:11
G—Drew Turner 41 run (Anderson kick), 7:55
G—Gilman 1 run (Anderson kick), 6:27
S—Nick Germer 40 pass from Brandon Morley (Caden Messer kick), 0:10
G—Turner 14 run (Anderson kick), 7:14
G—Andrew Durado 8 pass from Gilman (Anderson kick), 0:24
S—Germer 41 pass from Morley (Messer kick), 5:33
First Downs 14 35
Rushes-Yards 35-91 43-334
Passing Yards 150 77
Att-Comp-Int 22-12-0 19-10-1
Total Plays-Yards 57-241 62-411
Fumble Returns-Yards 1-0 0-0
Punt Returns-Yards 1-0 3-8
Kickoff Returns-Yards 2-40 3-21
Int. Returns-Yards 1-0 0-0
Punts-Avg 7-29 2-42
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-1
Penalties-Yards 4-31 5-45
Possession Time 14:35 30:11
RUSHING—Sentinel, Elias DeWaters 5-45, Conner Crawford 9-25, Mitch Roberts 16-17, Connor Rauckhorst 1-6. Glacier, Drew Turner 21-256, Tadan Gilman 11-42, Cole Crosby 7-21, Jackson Pepe 2-11.
PASSING—Sentinel, Brandon Morley 5-10-0-83, Mitch Roberts 4-9-0-46. Glacier, Tadan Gilman 10-19-1-77.
RECEIVING—Sentinel, Nick Germer 5-102, Ethan Jones 1-25, Conner Crawford 2-14, Jason Shoostari 2-6. Glacier, Patrick O’Connell 3-23, Scout Willcut 3-22, Andrew Durado 2-18, Ethan Larson 1-14.
Glacier running back Jackson Pepe cuts upfield as Andrew Durado blocks for him during a Wolfpack scoring drive in the first quarter against Missoula Sentinel. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)
Glacier quarterback Tadan Gilman lunges forward during a Wolfpack scoring drive in the first quarter against Missoula Sentinel at Legends Stadium on Friday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)