The Wildcats are headed to the Class A state semi-final game for the third straight year after surviving a tough test at home against Lewistown in the quarterfinals Saturday, 23-22.
Up by as many as 16 in the second half, the Wildcats had to hold on late as the Golden Eagles made a strong second-half push.
“It was playoff football. Keep your heads up, we got the win,” head coach Jaxon Schweikert told his team after the win. “We showed good fight and we stayed in there when thing didn’t go right for us. We can play better and getting this kind of a challenge is a good thing. Them playing us that tough might have helped us, you never know.”
Colten McPhee led the way for the Wildcats, running for 230 yards and two touchdowns. With his performance Saturday, McPhee is now at 1,807 rushing yards this season, surpassing Nate Thompson’s school record of 1,668 set in 2010.
Quarterback Drew Morgan finished the day 8-15 passing for 65 yards while Brad Nieves, McPhee, Parker Greene and Lane Sapa all caught passes.
The Cats found the end zone first in the opening quarter on a tough 9-yard run by McPhee. Auguste Emond’s extra point missed just left, but he redeemed himself later in the quarter with a 22-yard field goal that put Columbia Falls ahead 9-0 after one quarter of play.
Green reached the end zone from 10-yards out in the second quarter to give Columbia Falls a 16-0 halftime lead.
A 50-yard run by Eagles’ quarterback Mitchell Norslien sparked a 10-play scoring drive by Lewistown to open the second half. After a 2-point conversion, the Wildcat lead was cut to 16-8.
McPhee answered for the Wildcats with a 70-yard scoring run to put C-Falls up 23-8 moments later, but it was the last points the team would score.
The Eagles cut further into the lead in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard pass from Norslien to Jacob Clinton. The pair connected again for the 2-point conversion at the Cats lead was cut to 23-16 with 10:19 to play.
Lewistown found the end zone again with 4:06 to play on a 46-yard run by Wesley Jameson and needed only a 2-point conversion to take the lead. The Wildcats were able to break up a pass in the back of the end zone and held on a slim 23-22 lead.
The Wildcat defense came through in the clutch again with 1:03 to play as Morgan knocked down an Eagle pass attempt on fourth-and-six to preserve the win.
With the win, the Wildcats advance to the Class A state semi-final where they will face Hamilton in a rematch of last year’s title game. Game time is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Satterthwaite Field in Columbia Falls.