BILLINGS — Billings West didn't just end a streak last Friday at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium, the Golden Bears emphatically put an end to it.
With a 45-27 victory over Butte in the quarterfinals, the Bears won their first playoff game since 2011, when they reached the State AA championship football game.
Now on a nine-game winning streak, the second-seeded Bears (10-1) host No. 3 seed Helena (9-2) at Daylis on Friday at 7 p.m. in a semifinal game. The Bengals, who beat Kalispell Glacier 21-7 last week, have won four straight.
"We are extremely excited," West coach Rob Stanton said. "We know we have a pretty special opportunity tomorrow night and having a home game on FieldTurf is a bonus for our kids. We've met and achieved some of our goals and one of them was to play Friday night in the semifinals. We are beyond excited and ready for the opportunity Friday night."
The Bears were powered in the win over the Bulldogs by Lucas Gibb and Jesse Owens, both of whom scored on long interception returns, and DeMarcus Carr, who rushed for three touchdowns and finished with 224 yards rushing on 29 carries.
"We have some good athletes, that is what we are doing well," Stanton said when asked what West has been doing well in running off nine straight wins. "They are meshing really well in the scheme we have placed in front of them. The biggest thing with these kids is they are good students.
"Being good students and the work ethic is phenomenal. We knew that coming in. Our seniors, when they came in as freshmen, they set the tone with expectations and drive and work ethic. ... It has trickled down to the rest of the classes, too."
Carr, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior running back, has run 272 times for 1,820 yards and 24 touchdowns this year. The Bears also recently have taken advantage of senior Cade Nelson's talents at running back. Nelson had been injured earlier in the year and returned to play defense but has now worked his way into the offensive attack. Last week against Butte, Nelson totaled 75 yards and scored a TD.
Stanton said the Bears' offensive line paves the way for Carr and provides time for passing plays as well. Junior quarterback Josh Erbacher has thrown for 2,102 yards with a 63-percent completion percentage. Erbacher has 24 passing touchdowns and just four interceptions. Owens is the main threat at receiver. He has hauled in 61 receptions for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns.
"They have the size, talent, physique and nastiness at times, and some of them can move pretty well," Stanton said of the O-line. "We are beyond lucky to have those five guys in front of us."
The Bears defense posted two shutouts this year, but West has not matched up with Helena. Stanton said a key will be if West's defense is able to keep Helena's offense off the field.
"If they control the ball, they can have six- to eight-minute drives," he said. "When they do that, the ball doesn't come back to our offense, where we have some explosive players. That is our worry, them taking the ball and not giving it back."