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GREAT FALLS – The Red Devils earned their due Friday night.
Great Falls, rallying from a 14-all halftime draw, ignited in the pivotal third period to leave no doubt about their Class A Division II state championship intentions.
The Red Devils, taking control of the game, reeled off 28 second-half points to post a 42-14 win over Ridge Spring-Monetta to earn a berth in the Division II championship game Saturday at noon.
The 11-2 Red Devils face Lower State champion Blackville-Hilda, which rolled over Class A power Lake View 27-7.
Great Falls, starting strong, bolted to a 14-0 lead only to have the comeback-minded Trojans rally to tie the game at 14-all.
“We just told our guys to go out and treat it as a new game,” GFHS coach Ken Schofield said. “When you have a 14-0 lead and a team comes back to tie, you feel you’re behind. Our players kept their composure and focused on what they had to do.”
The Devils answered quickly.
On the second snap of the half, Red Devils’ running back Jeremy Simpson weaved his way through grasping RSM would-be tacklers and dashed 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
“Jeremy does a great job of seeing the field,” Schofield said. “On his run, he made a great cut to reach the end zone.”
Simpson, who ran for 69 yards in 10 carries, later caught a yard TD pass from GFHS quarterback Gaither Bumgardner.
Kyle Heffner, who booted seven extra points and recovered an onsides kick, drilled the point-after for a 21-14 lead with 11 minutes to play in the third period.
Just over four minutes later, Great Falls struck again following a short punt at the RSM 35.
Bumgardner, 7-9 for 162 yards, delivered in a hurry as he heaved a 35-yard touchdown strike to Terrell Hutchinson. Heffner converted at the 6:53 mark for a 28-14 lead.
The GFHS defense, which has allowed 21 points in three postseason games, used a Terrence Jeter interception on a halfback pass to set up a third TD.
Jeter returned the pick 45 yards to the RSM 18 and seven plays later, Bumgardner hit Simpson on the one-yard scoring pass for a 35-14 advantage.
“That third quarter just killed us,” RMS coach Mark Rogers said. “We did things, like turnovers and allowing bid plays which you can’t do in a championship game. Great Falls has a great deal of team speed and that was the difference. They make things happen.”
The Devils wrapped up the impressive win as Bumgardner, who threw three TD passes, whipped an 18-yard scoring strike to Brandon Crawford with 3:44 to play to ignite an emotional celebration.
Early on, it appeared the Red Devils would roll as they forged a 14-0 lead.
GFHS held the Trojans on their first possession to force a punt which was blocked by the Devils’ Stevo Squirewell at the RSM 33. A.J. Squirewell capped the scoring march with a one-yard run.
After holding RSM again, the Red Devils went 68 yards, 56 on a Bumgardner to Simpson pass. Spence powered in from the one for a 14-0 lead after Heffner converted.
The Trojans, who finished 7-6, had an answer as Anthony Bettis scored on a 9-yard run.
RSM tied the game after blocking a punt which led to Terrell Outz’s short scoring run to knot the game just before halftime.
“Our players came back and did what was needed,” Schofield said. “We’re going to enjoy this one this weekend, but it will be back to work because Blackville-Hilda is an outstanding team.
“At this stage, all the teams left are tough. This will be an exciting week for our team, but we have to keep our focus and be ready to play hard come Saturday,” Schofield said.