For the third straight year, the Bulldogs will compete in the Class A State Title match, with a chance to win their second consecutive championship.
Whitefish is advancing to the state final to take on Laurel after crushing Billings Central 11-0 in Saturday’s snowy semifinal match, held at Smith Fields.
Parents and volunteers were still out sweeping the snow off the field during warm ups, but once the clock started, the Bulldogs were ready to go.
Sam Menicke kicked things off with a pair of goals in the fifth and eighth minutes to start the offensive barrage.
By the 24th minute, Menicke had a hat trick, and with his three goals and three more from William Hyatt, Joseph Houston and Gabe Menicke, the Dogs led 6-0 at the half.
The scoring didn’t stop there.
Gabe Menicke picked up where he left off, scoring again in the 60th minute to spark another Bulldogs’ run.
Aaron Dicks, Ian Lacey and Casey Schneider all scored for Whitefish in the second half, with Schneider scoring a pair of goals in the 76th and 77th minute to finish things off.
Whitefish amassed 25 shots on Billings Central’s goal, compared to just three for the Rams.
Head coach John Lacey was understandably pleased with how his boys played.
“I thought they played well. The goals looked like our goals, which is important to us. We want to be efficient and not wasteful, and that means we play a certain way,” he said. “I think we were sharp, we were hungry. At this point, we kind of line up and play how we play.”
Now it’s onto the state championship.
Whitefish will face off against Laurel on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Laurel.
The two teams met earlier in the season at Smith Fields, with Whitefish emerging victorious in a 6-0 win.
Laurel emerged as the No. 1 seed in the east with a 12-2 overall record. They defeated Polson and Frenchtown en route to the title match, the latter having been decided by penalty kicks.
“They’re a mature team, a lot of seniors. We’ve played them now several times in the playoffs,” Lacey said. “We’re going to have to match some of their physicality. One of the things we’re really looking forward to is playing on the turf. They have an artificial surface, that matches our strengths.”
“I’m not surprised in the least that we’re seeing them at this stage, that was obvious in the beginning of the year,” he added. “The state finals should be competitive, so we’re looking forward to it.”
There was already a slight wrinkle in the Bulldogs’ plans leading up to Saturday’s match, as anyone who’s been outside could have guessed.
On Monday, Lacey said his practice schedule was already changing due to the snow in Whitefish, and it will still take some time to see when and where his team will be getting their reps in.
“We had a plan for today, and then I woke up and saw the weather. We can’t play on the grass for a little while, so we’ll watch some film and train inside,” he said. “I’m not counting on getting our normal practice schedule for at least another couple days — Mother Nature wins all the time.”
For those who can’t make it to Laurel, the match will be streamed online at www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/mhsa/gam3f16aa1417.
Billings Central 0 0 — 0
Whitefish 6 5 — 11
W — Sam Menicke (Brandon Mendoza) 5:00
W — S. Menicke (Casey Schneider) 8:00
W — William Hyatt (Chase Sabin) 20:00
W — S. Menicke (Gabe Menicke) 24:00
W — Joseph Houston (Schneider) 27:00
W — G, Menicke (Marvin Kimera) 35:00
W — G. Menicke (Aaron Dicks) 60:00
W — Dicks (G. Menicke) 65:00
W — Ian Lacey 75:00
W — Schneider 76:00
W — Schneider (Darby McCarthy) 77:00
Shots on goal — Billings Central 3, Whitefish 25; Goalie saves — Billings Central 14 (Myles Ragar), Whitefish 3 (Colter Upton, Bradlee Anderson, Will Peppmeier); Corner kicks — Billings Central 0, Whitefish 10; Fouls — Billings Central 3, Whitefish 0; Cards — None.