Flathead bows to Billings West in playoff opener

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The Flathead Braves were within a touchdown and a conversion of Billings West in the Class AA playoff opener Friday, but in the end the Golden Bears had too much in a 51-22 win.

West took a 23-7 halftime lead, but the Braves (2-8) made it 23-15 when Chance Sheldon-Allen hit Nicolas Gustafson for a 33-yard TD pass with 4:51 left in the third quarter. Cooper Smith hit Tommy Wells for the two-point pass to make it a one-possession game, 23-15.

But the Golden Bears scored the next 28 points to put the game away.

Flathead did score late on a Tanner Russell TD run. The Braves first-half TD came when Smith threw to Sheldon-Allen for a scoring pass.

The Braves ground out 180 yards rushing on 40 carries, led by Russell’s 94 yards on 18 totes. Smith added 54 yards on 15 rushes and Sheldon-Allen had 26 yards on five runs.

Smith completed 3 of 6 passes for 58 yards while Sheldon-Allen hit 2 of 3 for 27.

Sheldon-Allen caught three passes for 44 yards.

Defensively, Noland White and Paxton Boyce each had sacks.

Billings West had big games from quarterback Josh Erbacher who hit 18 of 24 passes for 330 yards and five TDS. Connor Ryan had 10 catches for 254 yards and four TDs.

Demarcus Carr had 119 yards on 18 carries and two scores for the Golden Bears.

“We played really hard. The score didn’t reflect that. We battled. We gave ourselves a shot. I’m really proud of how we ended the season,” head coach Matt Upham said.

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