Running through a rainstorm into the halftime locker room, it was hard to tell which team was up two scores in the 10th annual crosstown game at Legends Stadium on Friday evening.
Flathead’s defense was frothing with excitement after a terrific goal-line stand and the Glacier Wolfpack, leading on the scoreboard 15-0, looked more the sluggish bunch from the early part of the season and less the machine that eviscerated Butte a week ago.
Then, in a flash, it was over.
Glacier (8-1) scored 21 points in just over three minutes early in the third quarter and forced a running clock in the final period, clobbering its crosstown rival 43-7 for its eight straight win in the series and knocking the Braves out of the race for a spot in the Class AA state playoffs.
“It’s so much fun to coach any team when they respond so well to your coaching,” Glacier coach Grady Bennett said.
“I just challenged them (at halftime) to compete at the level that I believe they can compete at and clean up some things we weren’t doing very well and man did they come out in that third quarter and play.”
Quarterback Tadan Gilman ran for three third quarter touchdowns and threw for another as the Glacier offense found its footing — as much as was possible — on a slick Legends Field turf from the very start of the second half.
Gilman ran for 46 yards on the Wolfpack’s second play of the third quarter and scurried in for his first touchdown, a seven-yard score, later in the drive.
After forcing a Flathead three-and-out, Gilman and the ’Pack went 48 yards in five plays — highlighted by a 38-yard pass from Gilman to Patrick O’Connell — and the Glacier quarterback capped that drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone.
Flathead fumbled the ensuing kickoff and two plays later Gilman hit O’Connell for a 21-yard score.
Just like that, less than halfway through the third quarter, Glacier’s lead was 36-0 and the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“Talk about a kid responding,” Bennett said of Gilman.
“I thought in the first half he was rushing a little bit, not staying with his progressions and kind of getting out of himself.
“I challenged him at halftime and I thought he did a very good job of making good decisions with the football in the zone read and his run plays, and really got his run game going, but then he also made some pretty great throws, starting to get the ball out on time, seeing the blitz.
“He’s learning, but when he does that he’s pretty darn good.”
Gilman finished with 83 yards rushing on 12 carries and went 9 for 16 through the air for 144 yards.
Just as impressively, on a night where both teams struggled to hang on to a wet football, Gilman and the Wolfpack did not turn the ball over.
While the Glacier offense took until the second half to hit its stride, the Wolfpack defense was ferocious from the start. Flathead managed only 41 yards of offense in the first half and just 155 in the game, including only 22 rushing yards on 30 attempts.
“Tons of credit to our defensive line because I thought for the most part we controlled the line of scrimmage,” Bennett said.
“We were able to get pressure with our front four so we were able to play coverage.”
Since a stretch of five straight close games that culminated with a 28-23 loss to Great Falls C.M. Russell on Oct. 7, Glacier has throttled its last two opponents — Butte and Flathead — by a combined 98-28. The Wolfpack outgained Flathead 323-155.
“You never want to say a loss is good, but for us it was,” senior lineman Jaxen Hashley said of the CMR game.
“To realize we’re not some prodigy team that everyone’s going to go ‘oh, it’s Glacier’ and that was kind of the mindset we had.
“What we’ve really been focused on the last two weeks is if you’re not giving your full effort you’re letting your brother down right next to you.”
Flathead (3-6), meanwhile, will enter next week’s game at Missoula Sentinel knowing its quest to make a second straight playoff appearance will fall short. The Braves were officially eliminated from the race on Friday, and was done in against the Wolfpack by both an ineffective offense and three costly turnovers, two of which set up Glacier inside the five-yard line.
“I thought our guys played very hard,” Flathead coach Kyle Samson said.
“We just had some things that happened, but I’m still proud of my team.
“Glacier’s a good football team so give a lot of credit to them. They did a nice job.”
Flathead lost its first fumble on the game’s third play, a snap that went over quarterback Bridger Johnson’s head. Three plays later, Drew Turner scored Glacier’s first touchdown, slashing through a hole and into the end zone from two yards out.
Turner scored again later in the first quarter.
The Braves touchdown came late in the third quarter when Johnson hit Trae Vasquez with a 14-yard pass.
Johnson finished 8 for 25 passing for 133 yards.
Glacier leads the all-time series against Flathead 8-2, winning every game since 2008.
Glacier 15 0 28 0 — 43
Flathead 0 0 7 0 — 7
GLA — Drew Turner 2 run (Kyle Mulcahy pass from Brady Peiffer), 9:51
GLA — Turner 7 run (Cameron Anderson kick), 5:21
GLA — Tadan Gilman 7 run (Anderson kick), 9:24
GLA — Gilman 1 run (Anderson kick), 6:20
GLA — Patrick O’Connell 16 pass from Gilman (Anderson kick), 6:07
FLT — Trae Vasquez 14 pass from Bridger Johnson (Cody Cusker kick), 2:26
GLA — Gilman 3 run (Anderson kick), 0:25
First downs 16 14
Rushes-yards 37-179 30-22
Passing yards 144 133
Comp-Att-Int 9-16-0 8-25-0
Total offense 323 155
Fumbles-lost 2-0 7-3
Punts-avg 2-47 5-32
Penalties-yards 8-93 8-81
RUSHING — GLA: Tadan Gilman 12-83, Drew Turner 17-70, Cole Crosby 3-11, Andrew Durado 1-8. FLT: Ryan Skramovsky 13-43, Seth Adolph 5-17, Bridger Johnson 12-minus 38.
PASSING — GLA: Gilman 9-16-0-144. FLT: Johnson 8-25-0-133.
RECEIVING — GLA: Patrick O’Connell 4-82, Scout Willcut 3-25, Durado 1-31, Turner 1-6. FLT: Skramovsky 3-41, James Flannigan 2-52, Austin Demars 2-26, Trae Vasquez 1-14.
Glacier quarterback Taden Gilman breaks the tackle of a couple of Flathead defenders as he goes on a long run to set up a Wolfpack touchdown to open the third quarter at Legends Stadium on Friday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)