It was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats in their season opener Friday as Columbia Falls fell to visiting Hamilton in a state final rematch, 35-24.
The Cats seemed to be rolling in the opening half, scoring on the third play of the game on a 53-yard pass from Drew Morgan to Colton McPhee en route to a 24-14 halftime advantage. But it was all Hamilton in the second half as the Broncs reeled of 21 straight points to avenge their state championship loss from last season.
Hamilton, which improves to 2-0 with the win, finished the game with 456 yards of total offense to 388 for the Wildcats, who open the season 0-1.
Morgan and McPhee led the Wildcat offense in the loss as Morgan finished 12-21 passing for 181 yards and three touchdowns while adding 93 yards on the ground. McPhee had 105 yards rushing on 18 carries and added three catches for 100 yards two touchdowns.
Hamilton quarterback Carson Rostad finished 16-28 passing for 228 yards and four touchdowns while adding 34 yards on the ground. The Broncs’ rushing attack was led by Micheal Golden, who finished with 97 yards and a touchdown while Cameron Rothie led all receivers with seven receptions for 110 yards and four TDs.
The Cats opened the game strong with their early touchdown and then held the Broncs to just six plays on their opening offensive possession, but a holding penalty helped slow the Cats down on their next possession as they were forced to punt from deep in their own territory. After a 15-yard punt gave the ball back to the Hamilton on the Wildcat 39 yard line, the Broncs capitalized by reaching the end zone seven plays later on a 14-yard pass from Rostad to Rothie to tie the game at 7-7.
Morgan put the Cats back up on their next possession, capping a seven-play drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Lane Sapa to give the Cats back the lead heading into the second quarter.
Hamilton tied the game at 14 on its next possession via an 18-yard TD pass from Rostad to Rothie, but Auguste Emond gave the Cats back the lead with a 22-yard field goal with 6:52 to play in the opening half.
Morgan hooked up with McPhee on the left side of the field late in the half and McPhee broke a number of would-be tackles to reach the end zone from 39 yards out to put the Wildcats up 24-14 going into the half.
It was all Bronco in the second half as the Wildcats offense was unable to find the end zone in the final two quarters, only crossing mid-field on their final possession of the game.
The Wildcats will be at home again Friday as they have a rematch of the 2016 state title game as they host Dillon at 7 p.m. at Satterthwaite Field.
Dillon comes into Friday’s game 1-0 after defeating Polson 40-14 last week.
Hamilton 35, Columbia Falls 24
Hamilton; 7, 7, 7, 14 - 35
Columbia Falls; 14, 10, 0, 0 - 24
CF – Colten McPhee 53 pass from Drew Morgan (kick), 10:49
H – Camron Rothie 14 pass from Carson Rostad (kick), 4:03
CF – Lane Sapa 4 pass from Morgan (kick), 35.7
H – Rothie 18 pass from Rostad (kick), 11:06
CF – August Emond 22 field goal, 6:52
CF – McPhee 38 pass from Morgan (kick), 40.6
H – Rothie 17 pass from Rostad (kick), 8:17
H – Mikey Golden 10 run (kick), 8:14
H – Rothie 31 pass from Rostad (kick), 2:21