The Columbia Falls High School boys soccer team should be greatly improved this year, with a solid core of returning players and five freshmen who have good ball skills.
Six of the Wildcats are seniors, including keeper Mason Gedlaman and striker Caleb Baumann.
“We’ve got great leadership and a good junior class,” coach Peter Browne said. “We should be competitive.”
It’s been a rough few years for the program. In the mid-2000s, the Cats went either deep into the playoffs or won state championships outright. But then the youth programs faltered and the program took a slide.
The teams in the past few years just didn’t have the soccer experience needed to be consistently competitive.
Last year, the squad showed some improvement, playing better toward the end of the year.
They ended up 3-6-2 overall and 2-6-2 in conference play.
This year, the Cats look much sharper in practice. The ball movement and handling is much improved, and the freshmen also look to have good skills.
“We’re climbing back,” Browne said. “They’re working hard. It’s a good group as whole.”
The boys will get tested early and often. They open the season at home Friday, Sept. 6, against Park County High School in Livingston and then face three more non-conference foes in a row — Belgrade at home on Sept. 7 and Laurel and Billings Central away the following weekend.
Billings Central promises to be very tough. They lost to Whitefish in the state championship last year 4-1.
Non conference games aside, Browne likes the odds of the squad advancing to the playoffs.
“Conference wise, we should be pretty good,” he said.
The Park County game has a 5:30 p.m. start time.