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Home » Football News

BADLANDS BOWL PREVIEW

June 19, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference



 

Montana all-stars keep mood light ahead of Badlands Bowl

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MILES CITY -- Having been to a few of these summer all-star practices over the past few years, I'm always amazed out how quickly the teams seem to come together. This year's Montana football team for the annual Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl is no different.

There was plenty of joking and laughing at Wednesday's practice -- including from head coach Troy Purcell of Bozeman. Purcell had linemen Thomas Bear Robe of Billings Skyview and Jack Hape (I think) of Bozeman fielding punts during one drill. The players got a good laugh of the big fellas chasing down stray footballs.

That's just one example of how the coaches and players are keeping the mood light as they prepare for Saturday's game in Dickinson, N.D. against the North Dakota all-stars.

Montana has a 15-5 edge in the series, winning the last three games.

The Montana players know they're expected to win this game, and Miles City's Ben Herzog, who will play his college football at Dickinson State, said the team takes pride in the opportunity to continue the head-to-head success. Herzog will line up mostly at safety, but he's been playing some cornerback in practice and is the emergency backup quarterback to Will Weyer of Bozeman.

Herzog went as far to say that he would be surprised if North Dakota even scored in Saturday's game. I'm not willing to go that far, but Montana's defense should be very solid. Skyview's Trevor Hopf is playing on the offensive line, and he mentioned that the defense has a strong unit up front, noting the size of the defensive linemen like Bear Robe and Chris Emter of Livingston.

Herzog was also complimentary of the physical play of the secondary, as well as the instincts the linebackers are showing -- specifically Bozeman's Grant Collins.

Collins, who one could argue was the most valuable defensive player for the undefeated Hawks last season, should thrive in Saturday's game. All-star games are tailor-made for linebackers to excel, and Collins has all the physical tools. He's headed to Montana State in the fall.

Offensively, virtually everybody I talked to at practice raved about Weyer. The future Grizzly is a prototypical quarterback, and he's running his offense from Bozeman. Weyer said the team is coming together nicely, and he seemed quite pleased with his pass-catching options, though two of his receivers -- Connor Sullivan of Ennis and Peter Granger of Butte -- are a little nicked up. That does leave the depth chart a little thin, but there are still plenty of playmakers on the Montana offense.

Kalispell Glacier's Noah James and Bozeman's Hunter Gappmayer are the running backs. They'll play behind an offensive line that features a lot of future college players, including Hopf, who will line up for Montana Tech in the fall.

Overall, it looks and sounds as if Purcell and his coaching staff have a balanced team on both sides of the ball, and they'll be in good position to get win No. 16 in the series.

 

Hawks take the lead for Montana stars

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Running back Hunter Gappmayer (28) is one of eight Bozeman players on the Montana roster for the 21st Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl.

MILES CITY -- Troy Purcell called it “an honor and a privilege” to be selected as coach of the Montana football all-stars in the 21st Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl, but the perks that come with the job are just as inviting.

As the man in charge, Bozeman’s Purcell had plenty of leverage in picking the statewide roster, and he didn’t shy away from trying to nab as many players from his unbeaten Class AA championship team as he could.

“We had a great year, and a lot of those kids I felt are the best kids in the state of Montana,” Purcell said Tuesday. “I might be biased a little bit, but looking down the list I think we’ve got some great kids here.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to be around them one more time.”

A total of eight Bozeman players will suit up for the Montana team in its annual battle with the all-stars from North Dakota, which kicks off Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson N.D.

Among them are quarterback Will Weyer, running back Hunter Gappmayer, receiver John D’Agostino and linebacker Grant Collins. It’s a loaded group even without the Hawks’ best player, defensive end/tight end Will Dissly, who isn’t playing due to shoulder and foot injuries he suffered during the year.

“It’s going to be fun,” said the Montana State-bound Collins. “It’s always a great opportunity to play with some of your guys that you’ll never have a chance to play with again.”

The Montana all-stars will run Bozeman’s spread offense on Saturday. And Weyer, who will play at Montana, will pull the strings from under center. Weyer is the only quarterback officially listed on the roster, and he will handle the majority of the snaps -- if not all of them.

“It’s awesome for sure,” said the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Weyer, who led the Hawks to a 13-0 record and a 24-14 victory over Kalispell Glacier in the title game last November. “To play the whole game, if that’s what happens … it’s really cool to take charge of this offense.”

For Purcell, it amounts to having eight extra teachers on the field.

“A lot of our coaches haven’t been around this offense or defense, and these kids have been running it their whole lives,” he said. “So if any of the other kids or coaches have questions, a lot of times one of the Bozeman guys can help coach them up on what we’re trying to get done.”

A new game

The Badlands Bowl will mark Connor Sullivan’s first foray into 11-man football. Sullivan, a huge target as a wideout, prepped at Ennis, which he helped win the Class C 8-Man title last fall.

Despite tweaking his hamstring during Monday’s practice, Sullivan has taken a liking to Bozeman’s up-tempo offense.

“We were more of a slow-tempo, running, ground-and-pound-type offense,” said Sullivan, who measures 6-4 and 220 pounds. “But with this it’s fun -- you’re constantly going and moving. There’s a lot more passing.”

Sullivan will accommodate himself with Montana State’s quick-paced offense when he joins the football program there this fall. Sullivan, who averaged 18.4 yards per catch and had 16 touchdowns as a senior, said he is likely to redshirt his first season with the Bobcats. And that’s fine by him.

“It’s great. I’m more than happy to redshirt,” Sullivan said. “Transitioning from an 8-man to an 11-man, Division I school … the speed of the game, getting bigger, faster, stronger, knowing the system better, I think it will be a huge help for me.”

Quick transition

Linebacker Troy Scott and defensive back Evan Epperly are just four days removed from playing in the Montana-Wyoming All-Star basketball series. They helped the Montana team to a sweep on the hardwood last Saturday and then reported for football duty here on Sunday.

Dillon’s Scott and Glacier’s Epperly haven’t been home in over a week.

“I stayed a night in Billings and caught a ride with Evan,” Scott said. “We came over here and got down to grinding for some football.”

Scott noted his propensity for facing fast transitions. During his years in Dillon, the Beavers typically played late into the football season, which made for a quick switch over to the basketball season.

“I’m used to it. It’s a subtle change for me. It’s normal,” Scott said, grinning. Scott has signed to play basketball at Montana Western. Epperly is headed to play football at Montana.

Tidbits

 Montana owns a 15-5 series lead against North Dakota. The Treasure State has won three in a row, including a 43-29 romp last year. Montana has won six of the nine games played on North Dakota’s turf.

 The North Dakota all-stars are coached by Minot’s Barry Holmen. Purcell expects the North Dakotans to utilize Minot High’s zone fly offense and an attacking, man-coverage defense.

“You’ve just kind of got to coach on the run with these types of games,” Purcell said. “Who knows? They could come out in a Wing-T for all we know. But we’ve got a basic idea anyway of what they’re going to run offensively and defensively.”

 Montana defensive back Ben Herzog will play collegiately at Dickinson State, but he’ll get an early feel for the Biesiot Activities Center turf on Saturday. Purcell said Miles City's Herzog is Weyer’s backup at QB, but will likely only play on defense unless it’s necessary.

 There was one change to the Montana roster announced Tuesday: Colstrip defensive lineman Tucker Yates had surgery in February to repair a torn pectoral muscle and has been replaced by Bozeman’s Keavon Buckley.


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