MISSOULA, Mont. - After upsetting their cross-town rival Missoula Big Sky last week, the 7-seed Sentinel Spartans are playing in the football state semifinals for the first time in 33 years.
"We wanted to play our best ball at the end of the year and I think that is where we are at," said Sentinel head coach Dane Oliver. "Weeks nine and ten when our backs were against the wall... we challenged them to make plays and guys have done that and accepted that challenge."
"We have kind of been the underdog all along," said Spartans senior wide receiver Jake Peterson. "So we just have that mentality that nobody can beat us right now. We are on a roll, nothing better."
The Spartans have been facing the possibility of elimination for two weeks in a row. First Sentinel secured a spot in the playoffs with a win over Helena Capital to end the regular season. Then last week in the snow the Spartans took out their rivals from Big Sky with a 26-6 win in the quarterfinals.
"We just wanted a rematch," said Sentinel senior defensive back Cameron Hegel, alluding to Sentinel's last second loss to Big Sky during the regular season. "We wanted revenge and we just wanted to go out there and dominate and that is what happened."
Over their their last two games Sentinel has outscored their opponents 67-12. However in this weekend's semifinal round the new opponent will be the defending state champion and No. 1 seed Billings Senior Broncs, who have won their last 24 games in a row.
"You are facing a team that is extremely athletic," explained coach Oliver. "A team that hasn't lost in two years. They are winners. Really it is about us just using that formula that has allowed us to be successful in the past two games."
That formula has already pulled off one upset and the game plan has the Spartans believing they can do it again.
"Rally to the ball, just keep playing tough," said Sentinel senior defensive lineman Tanner Stack. "Doing your assignments... Don't go rogue, just do what you are supposed to do and I think we will win."
"It could be our last game ever, so why not just go out like it is your last game to ever do it," added Hegel.
Sentinel will kick off against Senior at 7 p.m. Friday night at Daylis Stadium in Billings.