Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Connor Murdock carries the ball during Hardin’s only scoring drive of the night. Murdock ran for over 100 yards in the Bulldogs’ last game of the season. They lost to Billings Central 46-7.Jayden Covers Up and James Wilson attempt to strip the ball from a Central wide receiver in home action Friday night. While it was another tough night for the Bulldogs, Hardin scored their only first-quarter touchdown of the season.

Bulldogs' improvement shows in final season game with Central

Murdock logs his second 100-yard game
… it was a more complete game than we’ve had all year long.” — Mike Flamm, head football coach
The Bulldogs ended their 2014 season with another lopsided loss but this time the seniors, Bulldog coaches and fans could see what head coach Mike Flamm has been saying he saw all year —     improvement. 
In every game this season at the end of the first 12 minutes of play, Hardin has trailed by at least  two touchdowns and failed to score. Last Friday night, facing one of the best Class A teams in the state and the Eastern A conference champ for nine years in a row, the Bulldogs limited the Billings Central Rams to only 8 points in the first quarter. They then demonstrated their own offensive power riding the legs of senior quarterback Isaac Mendoza and junior running back Connor Murdock by marching the ball 79 and half yards to the Rams’ half-yard line. Facing fourth and inches, Murdock would not be denied.
Hit behind the line he spun off, then with a second and third effort carried several Rams with him as he scored Hardin’s only first-quarter touchdown this year.
“We kind of put some things together the last few weeks,” said Flamm. “As the season progresses, you hope what you see is advancement. I thought we had, but this is the first time we have something statistically that we can put our finger on and say we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Commenting about the first quarter, he said, “We moved the ball. We’ve been able to do things, but we just haven’t been able to finish. We finished by one inch. It took all four downs to get it in there, but we did. Connor ran well tonight and the line did a good job blocking for him. A lot of young kids stepped up tonight and good experiences were built. We were playing football that first quarter. It was a blast.”
Speaking on how his senior year ended, senior offensive/defensive linemen and team captain Oliver Wallace said, “It couldn’t have ended any better. Scoring on Central, the best team in the state the last eight years, is the best feeling in the world for me.”
Murdock logged his second 100-yard game. “I started getting a few more carries and just ran hard, I guess,” is how he explained his increased yardage. He was joined by Mendoza, who ran for 69 yards and passed for 64, going 3-for-9 on the night. Senior wide out, linebacker and return man Carlos Salazar had 88 yards in three returns before being injured on a return in the middle of the third quarter and going out for the rest of the game.
Hardin continued to run the ball well, but the old nemesis of penalties and look-out blocks returned. Several good drives and long runs were killed by holding penalties and missed blocks.
The Bulldogs’ defense was able to stop the Rams, but not consistently. The inconsistent play allowed the Rams to break off two long runs and two long passes for scores. 
Steffan Walks Over Ice led the Bulldog defense with 9 tackles, 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss. He was joined by Murdock with 7 tackles, 1 sack and 4 tackles for loss. Patrick Toyne with 6 tackles and Olive Wallace with 4 were not far behind.
Even with the breakdowns on offense and defense, Flamm still felt this was the best game the Bulldogs have played. 
“It was the best game in terms of execution,” he said. “We’ve been closer in score, but just in terms of us playing good football. Yes, we gave up some big ones, but as a complete unit, the line blocking, the backs running and the quarterback doing his job, receivers getting out there and the defense doing its job — it was a more complete game than we’ve had all year long.”
Friday night was Senior Night at Imer Field. The senior football players and senior golf team members, along with their parents, were introduced before the game. The coaches were introduced and escorted by family members. It was also the final night the senior football players would be able to play on their home field.
The Bulldogs had a difficult, winless season, but senior wide out and defensive back Jayden Covers Up summed up what appeared to be the feelings of all the seniors saying, “The people that mean the most will stick with you through the bad times. It’s fun to be part of a winning team; it’s not so much fun to be part of a losing team. These men right here love football and that’s all we can ask for. I’m glad I got to play the last year with these guys.”
After most of the Bulldog faithful fans had departed, the Bulldog team was still on the field. The seniors gathered in the north end zone. Hand-in-hand and holding the Bulldog flag they slowly proceeded to walk the length of the field to the south end zone — then turned and walked back. It was a very emotional, moving moment, especially for anyone watching who also has faced the reality of playing on their home field for the last time.
“We saw Dillon do it a couple of years ago and I thought it was one of the coolest things I had seen,” said Flamm. “[It was] when we lost to Dillon in the playoffs a couple of years ago and their seniors knew they wouldn’t have another home game. When it’s your last home game is when the seniors do their last walk on their home field. We did it last year and we’ll continue it. I think it’s the right thing to do.” 
He said, “That field means something to you if you’re a football player. I think this adds more to it, because you’re with your brothers in the same class who you’ve been playing with forever. I wish Carlos [Salazar] could have been there. I hope it sticks. It’s something I will do as long as I’m around.”
Billings Central 46, Hardin 7
Central    8   21   14    3 — 46
Hardin     7     0     0    0 —   7
BC: Holden Ryan 4-yrd run (Colin Holetz pass from Michael Stanton)
H: Connor Murdock 1-yrd run (Carlos Salazar kick)
BC: Holetz 15-yrd run (Benton Braesicke kick)
BC: Holetz 45-yrd pass from Stanton (kick failed)
BC: Jacob Hadley 60-yrd pass from Stanton (Bain Campbell run)
BC: Ryan 63-yrd run (Braesicke kick)
BC: Campbell 2-yrd run (Braesicke kick)
BC: Braesicke 37-yrd field goal