In a shortened season, trimmed even more by 11 days of quarantine due to positive Covid-19 cases, victory eluded Belgrade this fall.
But the Panthers displayed progress over their final two games of the regular season, including a 14-6 Eastern AA loss in their regular season finale to Billings Skyview Thursday night. Thus, veteran coach Eric Kinnaman feels the program is headed in the right direction.
Kinnaman’s also grateful for the games the team did get to play — the Panthers finished 0-5 — considering fall sports could have been shut down at any moment during the ongoing pandemic.
“I was talking to the other coaches in the league, everybody’s just hoping they can finish the season and finish these playoffs,” said Kinnaman. “You think back in the spring when state basketball was going. Nothing was even said about it and all of a sudden we’re not playing state championship games for basketball. I think football feels the same way right now, and I’m sure volleyball feels the same way, just gosh, I hope we can finish the season.”
The postseason begins next weekend, and Skyview will be among the playoff field. The Falcons scored twice in the first half and then held on late to beat Belgrade.
“The defense played really well. Gave up some field position and then a couple touchdowns early that we should never have, but that’s part of the game I guess. You got to live with it and move forward,” said Kinnaman. “Other than that our defense played really well.”
Trey Dye hauled in a 9-yard TD reception from Jaylen Baker on a fourth down play to give Skyview a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter. In the second, Paolo Salminen scored on a 1-yard run at the 5:02 mark, and then Baker ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead.
Outside of allowing those two scores, however, the Panthers shined defensively, limiting the Falcons to 93 total yards and recovering a fumble.
“Both scores were either on either third or fourth down plays and that was rough,” said Kinnaman. “We had them where we needed them and we just couldn’t get the stops.”
Belgrade got on the scoreboard with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter when Cedric Miller Jr. hauled in a pass amongst double coverage for a 56-yard touchdown.
Late in the game the Panthers drove inside Skyview’s 30 with just over a minute remaining. But the Falcons held on fourth down to secure the victory.
“That ended the game pretty much. That was the play of the game,” said Kinnaman. “Fourth and three, and like I said, it was inside their 30. Not sure exactly where it was, but it was fourth and three, we ran it, I thought we could get it, and didn’t.”
Belgrade was limited to 124 yards of offense with a big chunk of that coming on the reception by Miller Jr. Quarterback Austin Spangler completed 4 of 11 passes for 65 yards and was picked off twice, while Tyler Gordon led the defense with 12 solo tackles (five for a loss) and a sack.
Billings Skyview 14, Belgrade 6
Belgrade 0 0 6 0 - 6
Billings Skyview 6 8 0 0 - 14
BS - Trey Dye 9 pass from Jaylen Baker (kick blocked)
BS - Paolo Salminen 1 run (Baker run)
Bel - Cedric Miller Jr. 56 pass from Austin Spangler (kick failed)