If Belgrade is to have success in its first season as a Class AA program, a disciplined effort will be needed.
The Panthers were unable to accomplish that Friday night as they committed eight costly penalties in a 19-0 non-conference loss to Helena High. Several of those penalties halted promising drives on a rainy night at Jason Green Memorial Field.
“These kids’ effort was absolutely phenomenal. The way they’re believing in the game plans that we’re putting together is great,” Belgrade coach Eric Kinnaman said. “But the penalties tonight, they’re killing us.”
Belgrade (0-2) got off a great start defensively when Tate Bowler picked off Kaden Huot inside the Panthers’ 25 to stop Helena’s first drive. But penalties hampered Belgrade for the rest of the contest much to the frustration of the coaching staff.
“We were able to get a turnover early, but we got to be able to do something with those turnovers and it comes down to discipline,” said Kinnaman. “That goes with the offensive discipline game plan and a defensive disciplined game plan, and just discipline all the way around with penalties.”
Still, Belgrade trailed just 3-0 at the end of the first quarter after Helena’s Caven Wade booted a 32-yard field goal late in the frame. The Bengals eventually took a 10-0 lead into halftime after Hayden Ferguson (game-high 133 yards rushing on 28 attempts) scored on a 3-yard run to cap a lengthy drive that was aided by a personal foul on the Panthers.
Belgrade had a chance to cut into the lead prior to the break after driving to the Bengals’ 10. Kinnaman opted to pass on a field goal and went for it on fourth-and-one, but a fumbled center to quarterback exchange doomed the play.
“That makes it 10-7 or even 10-3,” said Kinnaman. “Maybe I should have took points there, but like I said I was comfortable with the play call and where we were at on the field, and thought we could get it.”
Wade added a 37-yard field goal late in the third quarter to extend the lead to 13-0, and then Bengals capped the scoring when Kyler Tesch hauled in a 4-yard reception from Huot with 1:29 left in the contest.
The Panthers were only able to sustain one long drive in the second half — they finished with just 102 yards in the contest — but it failed to produce points. While the offense struggled, Kinnaman was thrilled with the defensive effort as the unit held Helena to 267 yards and recorded a sack, interception and fumble recovery.
“I just kept telling our coaches our defense is doing a great job. They’re keeping us in this game,” he said. “I was telling our offensive coach, ‘Hey we need to stay on the field to keep the defense off the field for a little bit.’ We’d have a good offensive drive going, and have a couple of series where we’d do well, and then we’d either have a negative play or a penalty.”
Helena 19, Belgrade 0
Helena 3 7 3 6 - 19
Belgrade 0 0 0 0 - 0
Hel - Caven Wade 32 FG, :36
Hel - Hayden Ferguson 3 run (Wade kick), 5:46
Hel - Wade 37 FG, 2:28
Hel - Kyler Tesch 4 pass from Kaden Huot (kick failed), 1:29