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Bozeman posted a 36-21 win Friday evening at Great Falls to earn the team’s first win of the season and move to 1-2.

Running back Jase Applebee and wide receiver Bryson Zanto each had two touchdowns as the Hawks moved the ball better than they had in either of their first two games.

Quarterback Jake CasaGranda finished with three touchdown passes, and he was hit just twice and sacked only once. Hawks head coach Levi Wesche said the offensive line “played much, much improved football” compared to the team’s first two games.

“Jake just doesn’t get rattled. He looked really good,” Wesche added. “He had a couple balls waffle on him early in the first half and we had a couple drops in the first half, but in the second half I thought we were really clicking on all cylinders, especially in the passing game.”

Applebee had a run of about 60 yards to start the game’s scoring, and Bozeman’s defense forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety and a quick 9-0 lead.

The Bison responded later with a 99-yard scoring drive after stopping Bozeman on fourth down at the 1-yard line. Applebee returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, and Bozeman led 16-7 at halftime.

The Hawks fumbled on their opening drive of the second half, and the Bison scored shortly thereafter to make it a two-point game. Zanto caught the first of his two touchdowns to create some more separation, but the Bison responded once more to make it 23-21.

“I told them it was going to be a heavyweight fight. We knew they were going to hit us a few times, and we just had to keep swinging back,” Wesche said. “I thought our kids just kept playing. There was no quit in them. There were a lot of times I felt like we could have hung our heads a little bit, but we didn’t, and I was very, very proud of that aspect.”

From then on, Bozeman’s defense remained stout — a performance that included a couple of sacks from Jaxon Cotton and Zanto’s interceptions.

Avery Allen also caught a touchdown pass in the second half. That and Zanto’s second TD completed the scoring.

Bozeman returns home next week to face Belgrade at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We want to keep this roll going,” Wesche said. “We don’t want to just be a one-win team. This was not the culmination of our season by any means. We want to continue to get better every week and show the type of improvement I felt like we had this week.”

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Parker Cotton can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @ByParkerCotton.

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