The Wildcats’ quest for a second straight Class A football championship came to an end at home Saturday as Columbia Falls fell to the Hamilton Broncs at Satterthwaite Field in the state semi-final, 41-27.
The Cats were within a touchdown in the early stages of the third quarter but saw the came slip away down the stretch of the defense struggled to contain the Broncs passing attack.
Senior running back Colten McPhee added to his school record with 196 rushing yards in the loss, making him the first player to run for more than 2,000 yards in Columbia Falls history. McPhee was also led the Wildcats in receiving yards with 50.
Quarterback Drew Morgan finished 21-36 passing for 166 yards and also picked up a rushing touchdown, but also threw three picks in the loss.
Parker Greene caught six passed for 30 yards for the Cats while Logan Bechtel had five for 31 yards and Lane Sapa caught five for 11 yards.
The Hamilton offense was led by quarterback Carson Rostad, who threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns and running back Michael Golden, who ran for 145 yards and caught two touchdown passes. Receiver Cameron Rothie had seven receptions for 107 yards and two scores.
The Cats looked to have stopped Hamilton on the its first possession of the game, but an interference call gave the Broncs new life and they later scored on a 10-yard pass from Rostad to Golden.
The Wildcats answered quickly on their first possession of the contest as McPhee broke free on the second play of the drive for a 69-yard touchdown run.
Brayden Stone ended the next Hamilton possession when he picked off a Rostad pass deep in Wildcat territory, but the Broncs retook the lead with their next possession when Rostad capped a 13-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run after McPhee turned the ball over with a fumble.
The Cats looked as if they might tie the game again with a promising drive on their next possession, but Morgan’s pass was picked off near the 10-yard line with 7 minutes to play in the half. Hamilton struck quickly with a 76-yard scoring pass from Rostad to Rothie and the Broncs took a 21-7 lead into the break.
After a failed fourth-down try by Hamilton gave the ball to C-Falls on the Broncs’ 39-yard line early in the third quarter, a 33-yard run by McPhee cut the Hamilton lead to 21-14 with 7:06 to play in the third quarter.
Hamilton put the game away from there, though, as the Broncs scored 20 unanswered points to go up 41-14. The Cats scored twice more, on a 1-yard run by Morgan and a 6-yard run by McPhee, both in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough as Hamilton held on to get the win and advance to the state title game against Billings Central.
Columbia Falls ends the season 8-2, with their only two losses coming to the Broncs.
McPhee finishes his record-breaking rushing season with 2,003 yards on 192 carries with 31 touchdowns. He also led the Wildcats in receiving yards with 378 and seven additional scores.
Morgan threw for nearly 1,500 yards this season, finishing the year with 1,465 yards and 22 touchdown passes.