In his postgame speech Friday afternoon, Carl Bridwell stressed to his players that their victory in Great Falls was not a fluke.
Belgrade shut out Great Falls CMR last week to earn its first-ever victory as a AA program, and then overcame an exhausting second half Friday against Billings Senior 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,” Morris, a senior forward, said. “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,” noted Bridwell, who is Belgrade’s first-year coach, “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,” said Bridwell. “They knew the game plan was to try and take our chances, but it definitely looked like two halves.”
Belgrade improves to 2-1-0 on the season (the team also beat Bozeman’s JV in a friendly), and has embraced the underdog role after moving up from the single A division.
“I love being the underdog. That’s my favorite place to be is the underdog,” said Morris. “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 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 to in this double A contests,” said Bridwell. “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.”
Senior's boys shut out Panthers
Searching for its first Class AA win, Belgrade kept its match scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
Then Billings Senior scored 21 minutes into the contest. Then Senior established a rhythm the Panthers couldn’t stop.
Then Senior rolled to a 5-0 win at Belgrade on Friday. Panthers head coach Jeff DeBuse said the Broncs was too big, physical and creative as they received each of their goals from a different player.
Belgrade just couldn’t handle it, DeBuse added.
“Just a tough night against a tough team,” he said. “We weren’t able to ever really get in a rhythm to create some good chances throughout the game, but that’s just how it goes in soccer sometimes.”
The Broncs entered intermission up 3-0. DeBuse said by that point it was too tough to come back from.
DeBuse noted the Panthers (0-3, 0-3 Eastern AA) had a handful of opportunities to score. But they couldn’t convert on those chances.
“It’s frustrating because we work on it at practice quite a bit. We just have to do a better job creating opportunities we can capitalize on,” DeBuse said. “That’s something we can work on moving forward.”
— Colton Pool, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Sports Editor
Belgrade 3, Billings Senior 2
Senior 0 2 - 2
Belgrade 2 1 - 3
Bel - Makena Morris (Sarah Marshall), 13th
Bel - Dalani Brayton (unassisted), 34th
BS - Laura Zimmer, PK, 58th
BS - Tatum Egan (unassited), 69th
Bel - Morris (Marshall), 76th
Shots: BS 22, Bel 8. CK: BS 9, Bel 1. Fouls: BS 9, Bel 10. Saves: BS 5 (Cassidy French), Bel 13 (MacKenzie Turner).
Billings Senior 5, Belgrade 0
Senior 3 2 - 5
Belgrade 0 0 - 0
BS - Rendan Klein (unassisted), 21st
BS - Seth D’Ambrosia (unassisted), 26th
BS - Dax Wilson (unassisted), 38th
BS - Own goal, 47th
BS - Jakcel Juica (unassisted), 68th
Shots: BS 21, Bel 2. CK: 10, Bel 0. Fouls: 8, Bel 7. Saves: BS 2, Bel 12.