Coach: Terry Thomas (26th season, 181-63 at Dillon)
Record last year: 11-0, State A Champions
Returning starters: Ben Folsom (Jr., SB/QB), Austin Carver (Sr., WR/CB); Caleb Gillis (Sr., OT/DE), Dale Peterson (Sr., OT/DE), Carson King (Jr. ILB/TE), Donovan Hucke (Jr., C/NG).
Noteworthy: Folsom, Carver and Gillis were all all-state selections last year while Peterson, King and Hucke were selected to the all-conference team. ... Folsom replaces graduated QB J.T. Linder, the offensive MVP of the Southwestern A last season. Folsom scored 22 total touchdowns in 2011. ... The Beavers have won five state championships under Thomas. They defeated Billings Central to win the title last season.
Coach Thomas says: “We return a lot of expierence with good size and quicknes on offense. Defensively, we have good size and depth.”
Coach: Travis Blome (2nd season, 5-6 overall)
Record last season: 5-6
Returning starters: Josh Bauder (Jr., QB); Kris Cleveland (Jr., WR/DB); Tyrell Born (Sr., OL/LB); Matt Turley (Jr., RB/DB)
Noteworthy: Bauder and Born were 2nd team all-conference selections last year.
Coach Blome says: We have a very tough schedule but hope to improve each week.
Coach: Mike Flamm (2nd season, 5-3 at Hardin)
Record last year: 5-3
Returning starters: Melvin Ware (Sr., OL/DL).
Noteworthy: Despite returning just one starter, Flamm says the Bulldogs expect to get solid contributions from a handful of other players, including Fletcher Metcalf (Sr., WR/DB) and Carl Johnson (Jr., RB/LB). They, along with Ware, were All-Eastern A selections last season.
Coach Flamm says: “We have solid athletes at every position with good depth. Our kids have worked very hard throughout the summer and look forward to competing the toughest conference in Class A.”
Lewistown Golden Eagles
Coach: Gary Gebert (25th season, 110-98)
Record last season: 4-5
Returning starters: Andy Butcher (Sr., OL/DE); Jim Malone (Sr., WR/DB), Hooper Armour (Sr., OL/LB), Dylan Stenseth (Jr., FB/LB), Ethan Blythe (Jr., RB/LB), Jarrett Guyer (Jr., OL/DL).
Coach Gebert says: “We have many skill players returning on both sides of the ball. Our strength will be our offensive line.”
Coach: Bryan Beitel
Record last year: 5-5
Returning starters: Colten Garne (Jr., OL); Dan Fowlie (Sr., DE); Caleb Gable (Sr., LB); Shannon Williams (Sr., LB).
Noteworthy: Fowlie, Gable and Williams were all first-team all-conference picks a year ago. Beitel is in his first year after Ryan Buckley left to take the Glendive job. Buckley led the Rangers to their first playoff appearance since 1976.
Coach Beitel says: “Making the playoffs for the first time in over twenty years was a good accomplishment. But our players and coaches believe that we can take the next step and win the conference.”
Coach: Scott Wilson (12th season, 73-29 at Polson)
Record last year: 8-1
Returning starters: Riley Sampson (Sr., OL/DL), Eric Williamson (Sr., OL/DL), Dan LaFranier (Sr., OL/DL), Will Davey (Sr., RB/SS).
Noteworthy: Polson rolled to an 8-0 regular-season record last year and earned a first-round playoff bye, but lost 7-6 at home to Miles City in a tight second-round contest. … Sampson, Williamson, LaFranier and Davey were all named all-state in 2011.
Coach Wilson says: “Leadership will be the key to this team’s success.”
Coach: Roger Merritt (2nd season, 4-4 at Sidney)
Record last year: 4-4
Returning starters: Jim Topp (Sr., OL/DL), Justin Brown (Sr., QB/DB), Daulton King (Sr., OL/DL), Austin Kendall (Jr., FB/LB), Caleb Benson (Jr., WR/DB).
Noteworthy: Merritt posted a 4-4 record in his first season as coach. Merritt took over for longtime coach Mike Gear, who stepped down at the end of the 2010 season. … Brown assumes the quarterback role this year after the graduation of Ryan Sullivan. Brown played wide receiver last season.
Coach Merritt says: “We have had a great preseason two-a-day week. We’re glad to see our numbers increasing, and all are working hard to get better.”
Coach: Hank Prast (3rd season, 14-7 at Stevensville)
Record last year: 7-3
Returning starters: Kyle Workman (Sr., OL/DL), Zach Gavlak (Jr., TE/DE), Jesse Sims (Soph., TE/DE), Dylan Reed (Sr., DB/WR), Jared Schultz (Jr., QB/DB), Austin Lords (Sr., WR/LB), Kyle Behner (Jr., RB/LB) Rob Johnson (Jr., OL/DL), Garrett Griffin (Jr., OL/DL).
Coach Praast says: “We have the players and staff to make a deep run into the playoffs and have a great season.”