When the Bozeman Hawks arrive in Kalispell for their Class AA semifinal game with Glacier High, it’ll be the third occasion the Hawks have made the trek to Flathead County.
They’re hoping the third time will be more successful than the first time and the next trip they take will be to the site of the AA championship.
The fifth-seeded Hawks will be facing Glacier for the second time this season. Way back on September 21, Glacier ended Bozeman’s four-game winning streak with a 7-3 victory over the Hawks.
As implied by the final score, round one was dominated by defense. Bozeman quarterback Will Weyer was pressured into five interceptions — four of which came in the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack also shut down Bozeman running back Hunter Gappmayer, limiting him to 70 yards on 24 carries.
Bozeman, meanwhile, marginalized the effect of Glacier quarterback Taylor Hulslander. The Hawks defense limited Hulslander to 10 completions for 99 yards and intercepted him once.
With winter storm Brutus expected to dump 2-5 inches of snow and batter the Kalispell area with wind gusts exceeding 40mph, the scoreboard of round two could very well resemble the two team’s first meeting.
“You control the things you can control and we can’t control the weather, so you can’t worry about it,” Bozeman head coach Troy Purcell said. “You can’t change it, you can’t control it, so we’ll just move on and see how it goes.”
One thing Purcell believes he can control is how well his team operates when it gets into scoring position.
“We had that ball in there three times and came away with three points last time,” Purcell said. “We got to be able to put it in the end zone versus their defense.”
Possibly helping the case is quarterback Weyer’s return to the offense. Weyer missed the majority of the season with a broken collarbone, but played last week in Bozeman’s 24-23 win at Helena High. Weyer threw three touchdowns in the first-round win, including two in the fourth quarter that supplied the points the Hawks needed to advance.
For the offense to have any success, Purcell said it is important that Weyer and the offensive line do a better job of neutralizing top-seeded Glacier’s blitz.
“They have a zone blitz package that is just outstanding and we have to figure out where (Todd) Ogden is on the field,” Purcell said. “He’s an outstanding linebacker that they have and we need to know where he’s at.”
Purcell would also like to see Will Dissly perform the way he did in the first game. Dissly — basically the only bright spot for either team’s offense — caught eight passes for 130 yards.
The weather may help some keeping the Wolfpack passing game in check, but Purcell said the Hawks might dial back the pressure a little bit. The Hawks were caught a couple times in mismatches and Purcell would like that fixed before Friday’s kickoff.
“We had a blitzing, coverage zero package with some outside blitzing going on and they caught us in it and they got a long play out of it,” Purcell said. “So our main thing is to see who is in the backfield and keep that ball in front of us and just don’t let them have the big play and make them drive the field.
Additionally, Purcell would like to keep the ball out of Hulslander’s hands.
“He’s a big time player, he’s their offense,” Purcell said. “There’s a reason they’ve been on a winning streak and a lot of it is based on your general and when he is making plays like he does his team is definitely gonna win or contend. So we’ve gotta try to contain him in the box and figure out what he’s trying to do and control him.”
Purcell envisions retaining much of what the Hawks did defensively in September and relying on the growth of his team and the game plan his coaches have devised.
“Like I said, last time we probably blitzed a little bit more,” Purcell said. “But we’re just gonna keep them in front of us and make them drive the field. Our front four are pretty good and we’ll give them some opportunities to get in there and make some plays happen.”
Kyle Sample can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be found on Twitter at @kylesample_bdc