For the first 38 minutes of Friday night’s game at Legends Stadium, Great Falls High sliced through a complacent Glacier football team and looked on the way to a statement win, leading 20-3 just 2:06 into the fourth quarter.
Eight minutes later, Glacier led 31-20 and pulled off its second double-digit comeback of the young season, beating the Bison 31-28.
“To be down 17, I remember getting in that huddle and telling those guys we were down 18 at Bozeman,” Glacier head coach Grady Bennett said.
“The rest is a fairy tale. A dream come true. You can’t write a script like that. With all the plays that happened, the way we pulled that out.
“As bad as it was you have to give the kids credit for believing and hanging in there.”
Great Falls (1-3) never looked intimidated, attacking the Glacier (4-0) defense with short passes, dive runs and draw plays to exploit the holes in the Wolfpack defense.
The Bison scored on their second possession, pulling away a pair of jump balls to get to the Glacier 3-yard line, where senior running back Bryce Vaughn ran in his first touchdown of the game.
They pinned Glacier deep on the next drive, got the ball back on a turnover on downs, then slowly rolled 11 plays into the Glacier red zone. Bison quarterback Kevin Boes executed the drive masterfully, never completing a throw longer than 5 yards before finding Kody Torgerson in the front corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 13-0 lead after 10 minutes of play.
“I thought Boes played brilliantly at quarterback,” Bennett said.
“For what they’re trying to do he just knifed us all game.”
The methodical pace of the Bison kept Glacier out of rhythm. On the next drive, the Wolfpack found glimpses, connecting on a 26-yard pass to move deep into the Great Falls end, only to be sacked on the last play of the quarter. After converting a fourth-and-15 pass to move into the red zone, Glacier then threw an interception in the end zone to end its best scoring chance of the first half.
With the passing game not working, going 5 for 13 in the first half, and the running game spinning its wheels, Glacier finished three of its four first half possessions with a turnover or a turnover on downs. The other was a punt.
Glacier began to reverse that fortune in the third quarter, driving its first possession to the Bison 8-yard line before settling for a field goal. A long Great Falls possession before an interception on the next drive killed any momentum the Wolfpack had built, however. The Bison then put together a 14-play drive spanning 6 minutes of the third and fourth quarters to take a 20-3 lead on a 12-yard touchdown from Vaughn.
Things seemed to only get worse three plays later, when Glacier quarterback Tadan Gilman took a big hit running for a first down. After calling a timeout and switching quarterbacks to junior Brady Peiffer, the first play was a high snap over Peiffer’s head that went for a loss of 15 yards.
Sophomore running back Cole Crosby picked up the slack on the next play, making up 13 yards on a run up the gut. A quick incompletion later, Peiffer connected with Jackson Pepe for a 13-yard gain on fourth down and the Wolfpack were in Bison territory.
Three runs later, Peiffer found Scout Willcut on a post over the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown, sending life back into the crowd and the senior receiver running into the pep band to celebrate.
“When I completed that fourth down pass it definitely was huge,” Peiffer said. “Then that first touchdown definitely gave me confidence.”
“I’ve been harassing (Glacier offensive coordinator) Coach Deck about throwing me a post,” Willcut said.
“I told Brady, ‘Throw it as far as you can. I’m going to get under it.’ Sure enough that’s what happened.
“It was electric after that. Complete flip around.”
The touchdown pulled Glacier back to within 20-10 with 6:30 to play. Great Falls burned little time off the clock in a three-and-out on its next possession before Pepe sent the crowd into a frenzy, returning the ensuing punt 91 yards for a touchdown, making the score 20-17 with 5:24 on the clock.
“Then, we knew we could just put a good drive together,” Bennett said. “We’re not in scramble mode anymore.”
Glacier sacked Boes on the first play of the next possession for a loss of 9 yards. A delay of game and a near interception helped lead to a three-and-out and another punt with 3:44 to play.
The Wolfpack was penalized on the first punt attempt for having too many players on the field, which after a long discussion led to another punt, this one blocked by Glacier and recovered on the Bison 11-yard line.
On third down from the 10, Peiffer escaped two tacklers in the backfield and rolled to his right under pressure to find Patrick O’Connell in the back of the end zone, erasing the once 17-point deficit to give Glacier a 24-20 lead with 2:51 to play.
The Wolfpack defense got to Great Falls again on the next possession, backing the Bison up to their own 23-yard line on fourth-and-21 when Pepe got under a Boes Hail Mary attempt and returned the interception 49 yards for another Glacier touchdown.
Great Falls cut into the lead with a quick touchdown and two-point conversion, but couldn’t recover an onside kick attempt and Glacier escaped with the unlikely victory.
“I’ve got to give credit to Great Falls High,” Bennett said.
“They came in not intimidated, not afraid of the Wolfpack at all. Which is not unexpected, but our kids did. (They thought) it would be a walk in the park. That’s not the way we’ve gone about business for years.
“Unfortunately, tonight that’s how we acted. You can’t do that in (Class) AA. Hopefully lesson learned for us, but I honestly feel bad for Great Falls High. That’s a game they should have won.”
Peiffer finished 3 for 5 for 50 yards and two touchdowns, filling in for Gilman, who was 6 for 16 for 83 yards. Crosby had 23 rushes for 111 yards and Willcut led the team with 57 receiving yards and three catches.
“We’re glad we got the win, but, we’ve got a lot to work on,” Willcut said.
“We’ll take the win and improve next week.”
Boes was 29 for 44 for 225 yards passing for Great Falls and had 36 yards rushing. Vaughn had 46 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Torgerson led the Bison with 10 catches for 77 yards.
Glacier will have an extra week to work off this win, sitting out a forfeit victory against Hellgate next Friday before a clash with Missoula Sentinel.
Great Falls 13 0 0 15 — 28
Glacier 0 0 3 28 — 31
GFH—Bryce Vaughn 3 run (kick failed), 7:34
GFH—Kody Torgerson 15 pass from Kevin Boes (Logan Martin kick), 1:22.
GLA—Cameron Anderson 25 field goal, 9:18
GFH—Vaughn 12 run (Martin kick), 9:54
GLA—Scout Willcut 27 pass from Brady Peiffer (Anderson kick), 6:30
GLA—Jackson Pepe 36 punt return (Anderson kick), 5:26
GLA—Patrick O’Connell 10 pass from Peiffer (Anderson kick), 2:51
GLA—Pepe 49 interception return (Anderson kick), 1:15
GFH—Blake Thelen 15 pass from Boes (Kaleb Baker pass from Boes), 0:38
First downs 27 19
Rushes-yards 30-127 39-162
Passing 225 133
Comp-Att-Int 29-44-1 9-21-2
Total offense 352 295
Return Yards 57 141
Punts-Avg. 6-28 1-44
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalty-Yards 10-81 10-87
Time of Possession 35:00 19:17
RUSHING—GFH, Bryce Vaughn 11-46, Kevin Boes 11-36, Blake Thelen 3-30, Jordan Komac 1-5, Ryan Johnson 1-5, Luke Banderob 3-5. Glacier, Cole Crosby 23-111, Tadan Gilman 11-35, Jackson Pepe 2-18, Scout Willcut 1-13, Brady Peiffer 1-(-15).
PASSING—GFH, Kevin Boes 29-44-1-225. Glacier, Tadan Gilman 6-16-2-83, Brady Peiffer 3-5-0-50.
RECEIVING—GFH, Kody Torgerson 10-77, Luke Banderbob 6-58, Blake Thelen 4-49, Bryce Vaughn 5-20, Jordan Komac 3-11, Kaleb Baker 1-10. Glacier, Scout Willcut 3-57, Andrew Durado 2-28, Patrick O’Connell 2-26, Jackson Pepe 2-22.
INTERCEPTIONS—GFH, Grant Hudspeth 1-8, Kody Torgerson 1-0. Glacier, Jackson Pepe 1-49.
SACKS—GFH, Jacob Amo 1-10, Jordan Komac 1-8. Glacier, Cody Hartsoch 1-9, Bryce Grame 1-15, Seth Anderson 0.5-13, Patrick O’Connell 0.5-13, Jarrett Kessler 0.5-1, Jaxen Hashley 0.5-1.
Glacier running back Cole Crosby drags a Bison defender as he goes for a long run to start the third quarter. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)
Glacier receiver Scout Willcut can't come down with the ball after wrestling it away from Bison defender Kody Torgeson on a long pass attempt in the first quarter at Legends Stadium on Friday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)
Glacier defensive back Sam Barber breaks up a pass to Great Falls receiver Kody Torgerson during the second quarter at Legends Stadium on Friday. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)