BELGRADE — In his postgame speech, Belgrade head coach Carl Bridwell stressed to his players that their opponents' performance was not a fluke.

The Panthers shut out Great Falls CMR over the weekend to earn their first-ever victory as a Class AA program and then overcame an exhausting second half against Billings Senior on Friday to notch a second consecutive victory.

The Panthers blew a two-goal lead but got a late goal from Makena Morris to hold on for a 3-2 Eastern AA victory at the Belgrade Youth Sports Complex.

Morris scored on a shot from about 40 yards out in the 76th minute that just snuck under the cross bar and over the outstretched hands of keeper Cassidy French.

“In the past I’ve been afraid to shoot on teams because I’ve never felt like one of the people that deserved to shoot I guess,” said Morris, a senior forward. “But I know I can hit the back of the net from there, so I just did it because we needed a goal.”

Morris also scored the first goal of the match in the 13th minute. Dalani Brayton stretched it to 2-0 for the Panthers in the 34th minute after beating French, who had come charging out of goal, to the ball following a through ball.

But several Belgrade players are battling flu-like symptoms, and it took its toll in the second half as Senior controlled the majority of the action.

“We put two away early on,” Bridwell said, “and then I think that fatigue, that fever, sickness or whatever it is, got into them and it was a tiring second half.”

Laura Zimmer cut the deficit to 2-1 on a penalty kick in the 58th minute, and then Tatum Egan notched the equalizer in the 69th following a throw-in.

“We’ve got three to four players who are playing through the flu, and I think they weren’t used to the heat,” Bridwell said. “They knew the game plan was to try and take our chances, but it definitely looked like two halves.”

Belgrade improves to 2-1 on the season (the team also beat Bozeman’s JV in a friendly) and has embraced the underdog role after moving up from Class A.

“I love being the underdog. That’s my favorite place to be is the underdog,” Morris said. “I think people still aren’t taking us seriously, and they don’t believe that our wins are truly really good wins, and they are. I think it’s going to be really fun to play the rest of the year because this team wants to win more than any other team I’ve ever been on.”

The Panthers are back in action Saturday afternoon at Billings Skyview and then host Bozeman on Tuesday. It’s a grueling five-day stretch for the team.

“This is going to be a learning lesson for all of them about our mental toughness. But I think they saw what physical toughness is like in this AA contest,” Bridwell said. “Teams think they can come in and push us around because we’re the newcomers, and I think they’re kind of getting their heads turned more and more.”

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.