Beavers hold off Whitefish Bulldogs, 39-33

By 
J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Slippery when wet

Dillon senior quarterback Jace Fitzgerald looks for running room against the Whitefish Bulldog defense Friday night at Whitefish. Fitzgerald carried Dillon to victory with 173 rushing yards and two running touchdowns and 186 passing yards and 4 touchdowns through the air in the 39-33 win. Whitney England/Whitefish Pilot photo

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The Dillon Beavers concluded the regular season of Western A football on a cold, snowy, windy night in Whitefish, dealing the Bulldogs a 39-33 defeat. The Beavers built a 33-14 third quarter lead and used a four minute offense to run the clock out after Whitefish had pulled within one score.

“I have certainly played and coached in games where the snow had been cleared off the field, but never when they had people wiping the lines behind the offense as the game was going on,” said Dillon coach Zach McRae. “With the falling snow beaming from the lights, it was a real surreal atmosphere.”

Dillon senior quarterback Jace Fitzgerald carried the water for Dillon, running 22 times for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns and throwing for 186 yards and four more scores. Fitzgerald completed an efficient 22 of 26 throws.

“They were fighting for their playoff lives,” said McRae of Whitefish, a team that coming off a COVID bye and an extra week to prepare for Dillon. “They had to win just to fall into any part of that crazy tiebreaker that they had. They slung the

ball around on us.”

Whitefish sophomore quarterback Fynn Ridgeway gained all 47 of his team’s rushing yards and threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns.

The Beavers came out of halftime tied at 14-14, and put up three unanswered scores to lead, 33-14 with 3:26 left in the third quarter.

Ridgeway warmed up with three touchdown passes to narrow Dillon’s lead to 39-33. Fitzgerald and the Dillon offense took control and pounded the ball for the final 4:15 of the fourth quarter to deny Whitefish a chance at another score.

Playoff

Dillon hosts defending State A champion Miles City on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the first round of the playoff bracket. Miles City enjoyed an undefeated season in 2019, and extended that streak by five more wins to start the 2020 COVID season. Back-toback shutout losses to Billings Central (0-42) and Laurel (0-21) has the Cowboys on the road to Dillon as they seek to defend their title.

Against Billings Central, the Cowboys were down 14-0 at half, but a slew of turnovers contributed to the second half route. Versus Laurel Friday night, Cowboy quarterback Carson Hunter, a four-year starter, left the game early in the second quarter with an injury.

“They have a quarterback and a receiver as good and as fast as we’ve seen and they are solid up front,” said McRae of Miles City. “When they shortened this to 8 teams, these are all high-quality teams and you’re certainly going to have to earn it.”

If seeds hold, Dillon would travel to Billings Central for the semifinal round. Dillon could host the semifinal with a win over Miles City and a Columbia Falls first round upset of Billings Central.

Hamilton, as the Western A champion, is slated to host throughout, including the title game, as long as they win. Should Dillon advance to the championship, they would host only if the West’s third seed Frenchtown came through the other side of the bracket due to the playoff rule that if two teams from the same conference meet, the higher-seeded team would host the game.

Unique in this COVID year is the Western A’s earlier start and additional games played over the Eastern A. Also unique is that there are no longer crossover games so there is no way to gauge the strength of the other league.

DILLON 39, WHITEFISH 33

First Quarter

WF – Fynn Ridgeway 1 run (kick good), 2:03.

Second Quarter

DIL – Reiser 7 pass from Jace Fitzgerald (kick failed), 7:34.

DIL – Kale Konen 6 pass from Fitzgerald (Daxon Graham pass from Fitzgerald), 3:38.

WF – Jaxsen Schlauch 2 pass from Ridgeway (kick good), 00:41.>

Third Quarter

DIL – Fitzgerald 1 run (kick failed), 10:13.

DIL – Cole Truman 20 pass from Fitzgerald (kick failed), 8:36.

DIL – Fitzgerald 44 run (John Bramlet kick), 3:26.

WF – Max Shestak 18 pass from Ridgeway (kick good), 2:18.

Fourth Quarter

DIL – Conner Vezina 7 pass from Fitzgerald (kick failed), 11:03.

WF – Jaxsen Schlauch 20 pass from Ridgeway (pass failed), 8:34.

WF – Jaxsen Schlauch 15 pass from Ridgeway (kick good), 4:15.

Team Stats

Dillon Individual Stats

Rushing (att.–yds) – Michael Hupp 2-1, Jace Fitzgerald 22-173, Jon Kirkley 1-1, Kale Konen 4-5.

Passing (comp.-att.-int-yds-TD) Fitzgerald 21-26-0-186-4.

Receiving – Daxon Graham 3-65, Jonathan Kirkley 5-44, Jonny Reiser 2-9, Cole Truman 2-23, Mike Hupp 6-25, Caden Hansen 1-47, Kale Konen 2-13, Conner Vezina 1-7.

Class A standings

Western A Conference

Hamilton 9-0

Dillon 7-1

Frenchtown 7-2

Columbia Falls 6-3

Libby 5-4

Polson 4-4

Whitefish. 4-4

Ronan 3-6

Corvallis 1-6

Butte Central 0-5

Stevensville 0-5

Browning 0-5

Eastern A Conference

Billings Central 5-0

Laurel 5-1

Miles City 5-2

Sidney 4-3

Glendive 2-2

Lewistown 1-4

Havre 1-5

Hardin 0-5

Class A Playoff series

4E Sidney (4-3) at 1W Hamilton (9-0), Saturday, noon.

3W Frenchtown (7-2) at 2E Laurel (5-1), Friday, 6 p.m.

3E Miles City (5-2) at 2W Dillon (7-1), Saturday, 1 p.m.

4W Columbia Falls (6-3) at 1E Billings Central (5-0), Saturday, 1 p.m.

Semifinal Round – Nov. 6-7.

Championship – Nov. 13 or 14.

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