MISSOULA — Make it back-to-back titles for the Spartans.
Quarterback Zac Crews had a hand in five touchdowns and Missoula Sentinel throttled Billings West 35-6 in the State AA football championship on Friday at Missoula County Public Stadium. It was the second title and 21st overall win in a row for the Spartans, who beat West in the 2020 game as well.
"It’s so special, we work so hard, such a good group of guys and we just care about each other so much and it’s everything we’ve ever wanted," defensive end and fullback Charlie Kirgan said. "We’re so excited to be back here and back on top."
Crews hit Joe Weida for a 23-yard touchdown pass to begin the scoring. The duo connected again for the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0 Sentinel with 4:11 left in the first quarter. That score would hold for the rest of the quarter.
Crews later added a two-yard rushing touchdown and Sentinel led 15-0 with nine minutes left in the first half. Sentinel's defense was dominant the whole game, but West found the end zone when Isaiah Claunch hit Max Kimball through the air for a 16-yard touchdown. The PAT was blocked to make 15-6, which was the score at halftime.
"Just special and being a senior now it means a little more to me because it’s my last year especially with these dudes," Crews said. "Four years of football with them and having it come to an end with a win is awesome. We just trust each other we came in knowing that they were going to have big plays. We knew that we couldn’t live in the past and we worked for the future and loved and trusted each other.
That would prove to be all for the Bears.
After an onside kick to start the third quarter, Crews hit Easton Leadbetter for a 55-yard touchdown to put Sentinel up 22-6. Crews found Weida again and rushed for another touchdown in the fourth to seal the game.
"We knew that this class of seniors, even though we lost so much last year, was still very special and we proved that to everybody," Kirgan said. "We’re just so proud of everything that we’ve worked so hard for and all of the guys involved with the Spartans."
Sentinel held West to just 131 yards of total offense on a rainy night in Missoula. Meanwhile the Spartans mustered 276 yards of offense, 156 on the ground. Crews finished the game 8 for 12 for 120 yards and three scores while Weida had three receptions for 35 yards and Leadbetter added two catches for 58 yards. Crews also carried the ball 24 times for 61 yards while Adam Jones added 67 yards on the ground as well.
"It’s a reflection of who they are as people. These kids are amazing human beings," Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said. "They’re high character, great student-athletes and they have the highest competitive spirit of any group of people I’ve been around. It’s special and that goes to our captains and our leadership they were amazing tonight."
Defensively, Kirgan led Sentinel with 13 total tackles, 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks as well. Crews also had a sack and Chase Williams, who blocked a punt, also had half a sack.
The game was the first Class AA state championship played in Missoula since 1994.
Sentinel finishes the season 11-0 while West falls to 10-2, their two losses coming at the hands of the Spartans this year.
“We’re so proud of our guys. We had a heck of a year. Unfortunately it didn’t work out how we wanted it to in the last game of the year," West coach Rob Stanton said. "Credit to Missoula Sentinel. We’ll keep on plugging. I told the guys if this is the worst thing that ever happens to us, we’ll have a pretty good life.
“That’s tough when they can run the ball like that. The first half I thought we had a couple chances and we had the blocked punt and a couple miscues on our end. But their defensive front is so good. They just fly around, and Dane does a heck of a job with that team. Once they get rolling with Zac Crews, he’s hard to stop. And their offensive line. They just played hard. They played with a lot of confidence and they kind of took it to us tonight.”