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Gallatin left nothing to chance.

On an evening that featured the school’s first ever senior night, the Raptors scored in every which way knowing all they had to do was win.

In just the school’s second year as a program, Gallatin is in the playoffs following a decisive 49-0 victory Friday against Billings Skyview at Van Winkle Stadium.

“This means everything, especially since last year we didn’t get that opportunity,” said tight end Rylan Schlepp, who caught a pair of touchdowns. “For us seniors, it means the world.”

A four-pack of touchdown passes from Garrett Dahlke in the first half staked the Raptors to a 35-0 halftime lead, setting the tone early in the lopsided win.

Gallatin tied its school record for most points and set a school record for margin of victory.

Before kickoff, Gallatin honored its 19 seniors, many of whom helped open the school last year and suffered through a 1-6 opening season. A year later, the Raptors finished the regular season at 4-5 overall with a 2-5 Eastern AA mark, just good enough to squeak into next week’s playoffs as the sixth and final seed.

“That’s the thing I’m most excited about, the seniors, we get another week with them and give ourselves a chance in the playoffs,” Gallatin head coach Hunter Chandler said. “We’ve come a long way, and it’s because of those guys.”

Gallatin will go on the road next week to face Helena High, the West’s third seed.

“The first playoff game as a new program, it’s going to be huge,” Dahlke said. “We’re going to have tons of energy. We’re going to have a crisp week of practice. We should be good to go.”

Dahlke said during the week he hoped the team’s underclassmen would play hard for the seniors. He did his part, finding seniors on each of his touchdown passes.

In the first quarter, the Raptors built a 14-0 lead on Dahlke’s scoring passes of 7 and 15 yards to Tyler Nansel and his brother Noah Dahlke, respectively. Nansel’s touchdown capped a 93-yard drive that took four minutes, two seconds off the clock.

Bryce Mikkelson rushed for a 34-yard score in the second quarter to build the lead to 21-0. Garrett Dahlke later found Schlepp for 11 yards and Michael Armstrong for 13 to create the 35-point cushion at the break.

Braeden Mikkelson, who injured his throwing hand against Great Falls CMR on Oct. 1, has played safety since then while Garrett Dahlke handles the quarterbacking duties. He intercepted Skyview quarterback Dylan Goodell in the second quarter, helping to set up Schlepp’s touchdown.

“He’s a little ball hawk back there,” Chandler said.

Garrett Dahlke found Schlepp again in the third quarter for a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Raptors a 42-0 advantage. Friday marked his third week in a row with five touchdown passes.

“He’s doing a great job distributing the ball,” Chandler said. “We have a lot of guys we can throw the ball to, and he does a good job of getting it to them.”

Garrett Dahlke said he was happy to help some of the team’s senior weapons make it into the end zone.

“I was looking for seniors every time,” he said, smiling. “I just wanted to make sure everyone had at least one. It was a good feeling to see my brother get one, for sure.”

Bryce Mikkelson added a 47-yard scoring run in the final minute of the third quarter to complete the scoring.

Skyview had to wait until the third quarter for its best scoring opportunity. The Falcons recovered a fumble, and Goodell found receiver Payton Sanders for a 34-yard gain on the next play. That got Skyview to Gallatin’s 3-yard line, but Goodell later committed a pair of dead-ball 15-yard penalties that pushed the Falcons back to third-and-goal from the 33. They ended up turning the ball over on downs and never threatened again.

Gallatin’s seniors and starters slowly came out of the game in the second half. The backups kept the shutout intact as the running clock was put into effect.

“I think the guys flew around. They had each other’s backs. There were some good hits out there,” Chandler said of the defense. “They played solid as a unit.”

From one year to the next, all involved in the Raptors program expected to see growth. How much wasn’t certain, but they knew growth was coming. In Year 2, they are proud to make the playoffs but are hungry for more.

“Going into this season we definitely hoped to win some more games and get to the playoffs,” Garrett Dahlke said. “Now that we’ve done that, a playoff win is next on the agenda.”

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

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