Prep football: Cowboys eliminated in first round

Custer County fizzled and Billings Central Catholic sizzled in a steady drizzle on Friday, as the Rams knocked the Cowboys out of state championship contention in the opening round of the Class A High School football playoffs at Rocky Mountain College.

Custer kept it close, pulling to within 24-19 in the third quarter when Cowboy sophomore linebacker Tristan Hirsch returned an interception 10 yards for a touchdown.

It was one of four touchdowns the teams scored in the first four minutes  of the second half.

But Billings Central answered on its next play from scrimmage with a 65-yard touchdown run by Noah Smelser, who rushed for 181 stripes on 13 totes.

The Rams would go on to punch their ticket to the quarterfinal round by scoring 18 unanswered points down the stretch.

Central Catholic set the tone early, driving 45 yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead on their opening drive.

But Custer County answered with a six-play, 65-yard jaunt of its own. Senior running back Jacob Morris scored from five yards out.

A 27-yard pass from junior  quarterback Gabe Gundlach to senior running back Jacob Swope was the big play on the drive.

Billings led 17-6 at the half and increased the margin to 23-6 after a 43-yard Smelser touchdown touchdown run. But the Cowboys battled back, closing the gap to 23-12 on a 56-yard Caleb Petross catch and run.

Custer County couldn’t stop the Ram’s running game, as Billings Central rushed for more than 300 yards and six touchdowns.

The Cowboys finished the season with a 4-6 record. Central Catholic improved to 7-2 overall, and will meet Polson (7-1) on Friday in the quarterfinals.