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WESTERN 'A ' FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

August 29, 2014
Northwest Montana A Conference



 

Class A: C-Falls eyes repeat; Whitefish looks to challenge

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2014 

Hopes are high for many of the Northwestern A football teams as the 2014 season starts today.

While Libby, Columbia Falls and Whitefish wait until tomorrow to kick off their seasons, Raymond, Alberta, travels to Polson to take on the Pirates tonight at 7. 

The Columbia Falls Wildcats, a state semifinalist in 2013, return several key players and look poised to make another long run in the playoffs, but quarterback Luke May and the Whitefish Bulldogs are hoping for another return to the post season and a chance to dethrone the rival Wildcats.

Columbia Falls Wildcats

Head coach: Jaxson Schweikert

2013 record: 9-1 overall, 4-0 conference. Lost in state semifinals, 33-21 to Billings Central.

Key Losses: QB Jared Trinastich, the NW A Offensive co-MVP, all-state; Zach RB Darling, NW A Offensive co-MVP, all-state, WR/CB Alex Presnell, 1st team all-conference, all-state; S Josiah Osborne, 1st team all-conference, all-state.

Key Returners: WR Ty Morgan, 1st team all-conference, all-State; DT Spencer Ross, 1st team all-conference, all-state; LB Ike Schweikert, 1st team all-conference, all-State; C Blake Arneson, 1st team all-conference; G Garret White, 1st Team all-conference.

Key newcomers: RB Steven Lindsay, Jr.; RB Wyatt Green, So.

The skinny on the Wildcats: The 2013 Northwestern A conference champs were a win away from the Class A state title game and will look to pick up right were they left off in 2014. Although Columbia Falls lost the conference co-MVP’s in quarterback Jared Trinastich and running back Zach Darling, the Wildcats offense returns four offense lineman with all-conference accolades, including 1st-team selection center Blake Anderson. Senior WR Ty Morgan highlights the offensive returners and will look to improve his dynamic junior season where he caught 66 passes for 1,073 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Defensively, Columbia Falls welcomes back 2013 all-state selections DT Spencer Ross and LB Jake Schweikert. The duo will be joined by 2013 2nd-Team all-conference selection OLB Justice McManus. Together they will lead a stingy defensive unit that allowed just 12 points per game last season.

Coach Schweikert’s take: “We’re strong, we’re fast and we’ll be pretty solid this year. Our kids walked away pretty upset with themselves and they felt they kind of lost an opportunity last year, but a lot of those kids are back and have a chip on their shoulder. We spent a lot of time with our kids in the off season. We really still felt like our screen packages needed work so we put a lot of time at that and they’ve definitely improved so we’re excited about that.

“Our defensive line looks stout. We’ll be solid at stopping the run but it’ll be interesting to see the pass rush. We’re really trying to anchor down the other defensive end spot, but we have depth. With us, we’re two-platoon. So defensively, we run in a lot of defensive linemen.

“We have a chance to be pretty darn good this year if we stick to the process.”

First game: At Lewistown Saturday, at 1:30 p.m.

Whitefish Bulldogs

Head coach: Chad Ross.

2013 record: 8-3 overall, 3-1 conference. Lost in state quarterfinals 27-20 Belgrade.

Key Losses: WR/CB/KR Sean Foley, 1st team all-conference, all-State; CB Dave Rizzollo, NW A Defensive co-MVP, all-state; LB Calub Thilmony, 1st team all-conference, all-state; T Gage Smith, 1st team all-conference, All-State.

Key Returners: QB Luke May, 2nd-team all-conference; LB Jack Streibich, 2nd team all-conference; S Walter Holiday, 2nd team all-conference; S Brain FauntLeRoy, honorable mention all-conference; C Chaffin Ross, honorable mention all-conference; RB/LB Chris Park, honorable mention all-conference.

Key newcomers: DE/WR Jed Nangler, Jr.; LB/T Travis Catina, So.

The skinny on the Bulldogs: Whitefish lost one of its biggest play makers to graduation as Sean Foley won’t be returning kicks at Memorial Stadium this season, but the Bulldogs will welcome back the conference’s second leading passer in junior quarterback Luke May. May was 106 for 184 passing for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. He also rushed for team-high 717 yards and nine touchdowns.

On defense, Whitefish intercepted 28 passes last season, returning two for touchdowns. Although 2013 Northwestern A defensive co-MVP Dave Rizzollo, who picked off seven passes last season, has graduated, the Bulldogs return four starters who earned all-conference accolades. Safeties Walter Holiday and Brian FauntLeRoy join linebackers Jack Streibich and Chris Park to lead a defense that gave up just 149 points last year and back to the playoffs to avenge their 27-20 quarterfinal defeat to Belgrade.

Coach Ross’ take: “We’re confident, we’re deeper than we’ve ever been and our numbers are really good. We’re just unproven. We have high expectations and we want to compete for four quarters. We’re coming in ready We’re further along (at this point) than last year because we put in the time over the summer. We just want to give ourselves a chance. We think we have the athleticism to compete with everybody so we’re just hoping to put ourselves in a good position to win some ball games.

“Last year we were good at producing turnovers. We hope to keep that up while cutting down on our penalties.”

First game: At Havre, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Polson Pirates

Head coach: Scott Wilson

2013 record: 5-4 overall, 2-2 conference. Lost in first round 27-20 to Hamilton.

Key losses: RB/LB Brady Hislop, 1st team all-conference, All-State; WR/S Cedrick Smith, 1st team all-conference, all-state; G Wyatt Jenson 1st team all-conference, all-state; QB Andrew Weltz, 2nd team all-conference.

Key returners: C Nick Marquardt, 2nd-team all-conference; LB Joe Gallatin, honorable mention all-conference; LB Matthew Rensvold, honorable mention all-conference; CB Hudson Smith, honorable mention all-conference; RB Jacob Clairmont.

Key newcomer: QB Tanner Wilson, So.

The skinny on the Pirates: Polson graduates it’s top two rushers in Andrew Weltz and Brady Hislop, but junior RB Jacob Clairmont should use his sophomore experience to fill in nicely. He carried the ball 82 times in 2013 for 267 yards and two touchdowns and his workload is expected to increase. As a freshman, Tanner Wilson caught 19 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns, but the Pirates will utilize his athleticism under center at quarterback.

The Pirates’ defense intercepted 13 passes last season, something they’ll look to build off of in order to improve on the 323-yard average of total offense they allowed in 2013.

Coach Wilson’s take: “I was pleased with how we did during two-a-days. We’re young so that we’ll be a true test for us — to see how they react.

“Our offensive line will be able to utilize their size and experience until we get the experience we need at some of our other positions

“Defensively, I like the intensity they bring in terms of rallying to the football. It’ll be a matter of trying to get through their reads and learning their keys. The whole goal here is to get through a couple games.

“We just want to play competitively — that’s just one of our goals every year. We want to make the playoffs and we want to get out there and compete.

First game: Home versus Raymond tonight at 7.

Libby Loggers

Head Coach: Neil Fuller.

2013 record: 1-8 overall, 0-4 conference.

Key Losses: QB/S Jared Winslow, honorable mention all-conference(QB) 1st-team all-conference (S); TE Josh Bowers, honorable mention all-conference; DT Tarasick Krisanov, honorable mention all-conference.

Key returners: DE Dalton Brown, RB/LB Zach Crace, C/DE Cooper Brown, G/DT Michael Curtiss, T/DT Austin Marshall.

Key newcomers: FB/LB David Winters.

The skinny on the Loggers: The 2014 season will be Libby’s final year of competition in Class A before it move down to Class B due to declining enrollment. The Loggers won’t go quietly. With one of the smallest rosters in the state, the hard-hitting Loggers are looking to make some noise in their final Northwestern A season.

All-state safety and star quarterback Jared Winslow has graduated, but the Loggers return 20 roster spots from the 2013 squad, highlighted by Honorable mention all-conference defensive end Dalton Brown.

Coach Fuller’s take: “We’re excited. We have about 40 kids out this year and they’re working hard every day. With our numbers, we don’t have the depth to overcome significant losses. Fortunately this year we have some depth at some spots where we have good athleticism.

“You’re always going to miss quality athletes like Jared (Winslow), but we’ve got a junior in Dominic Voorhies and he has been running the offense very well. We also have a great athlete in Brayden Thom starting on the defensive side of the ball.

“Cooper Brown, Micheal Curtiss and Austin Marshall are going be key for us this year. It’s easier to transition to a new quarterback when you have those three guys in the trenches.

“Defensively, we’ve changed our scheme up a little but and I think it fits our athleticism on that side of the ball.”

First game: Home versus Bonners Ferry (Idaho), Saturday, 7 p.m.

Columbia Falls looks to strike again

2014-08-26T19:30:00Z Class A football preview: Columbia Falls looks to strike againBy FRITZ NEIGHBOR of the Missoulian missoulian.com
August 26, 2014 7:30 pm  • 

Class A data

Northwestern A

2013 standings

League Overall

y-Columbia Falls 4-0 9-1

y-Whitefish 3-1 8-3

y-Polson 2-2 5-4

Frenchtown 1-3 2-6

Libby 0-4 1-8

y-made Class A playoffs

2014 forecast

Columbia Falls (4) 16

Whitefish (1) 12

Polson 11

Frenchtown 7

Libby 4

First-place votes in parentheses

Southwestern A

2013 standings

League Overall

y-Dillon 5-0 11-0

y-Hamilton 3-2 7-4

y-Butte Central 3-2 5-5

Anaconda 2-3 4-4

Stevensville 1-4 3-5

Corvallis 1-4 1-7

y-made Class A playoffs

2014 forecast

1. Dillon (5) 25

2. Butte Central (1) 21

3. (tie) Hamilton 15

3. (tie) Corvallis 15

5. Anaconda 8

6. Stevensville 6

The Columbia Falls Wildcats had a great football season last year, even if the ending wasn’t all glass slippers instead of muddy cleats.

“Our kids were pretty despondent,” Columbia Falls coach Jaxon Schweikert said of the Wildcats’ 33-21 Class A semifinal loss at Billings Central. “We didn’t feel like we played very well that game, and the injury bug had hit us pretty good going in. But that’s part of it, you know?”

Seven starters were dinged up for the Wildcats, who came back from a 21-7 deficit to tie that semifinal at 21-all. But what might have been a Cinderella season still ended up pretty decent — Columbia Falls went 9-1.

And that’s not even the good news.

“All of those kids are back and we have pretty good depth at a lot of positions,” said Schweikert, who’s entering his third season as coach. “The team really dedicated themselves to the weight room this offseason.”

Whether the Wildcats can move even deeper in the playoffs is a big question: Conference foes Whitefish and Polson have potent teams, and the league champion will probably have the Southwestern A’s best – most likely, defending state champion Dillon – in the way of a state title berth.

Northwestern A

Columbia Falls is the pick, though the Wildcats have to replace their all-state quarterback, Jared Trinastich (2,886 yards, 34 touchdowns) as well as top running back Zach Darling.

As of Monday Schweikert still hadn’t made a pick for his new starting QB. It was between his son Ike Schweikert, a 6-foot-3 middle linebacker who “has run this offense for about 10 years,” and Dakota Bridwell.

“He’s just a sophomore,” Jaxon Schweikert said of Bridwell. “But he has a good arm. He understands the concepts, gets through his progressions. I feel he’s going to be a college quarterback.”

Whoever handles snaps will have plenty of targets to throw to. Ty Morgan caught 66 passes last year, for 1,073 yards and 16 TDs. Tyler Houston caught another 27 balls.

The carries at running back will go to Stephen Lindsey, a 188-pound junior, and Connor Bowman, a senior who filled in when Darling was hurt last year.

Still, what Schweikert likes the best is the depth. He has an overabundance of capable linebackers; he says he has four very capable running backs. Most of the linemen, led by 285-pounder Spencer Ross, are back.

Whitefish is the pick for second, though head coach Chad Ross notes that 10 players will go both ways for the Bulldogs, who had 48 kids come out.

The key returnee is Luke May, a junior who will be starting for the third year at quarterback. May ran for 717 yards and threw for 1,562 last season. Receivers Sean Foley (33 catches for 571 yards last year), Jed Nagler and Jake Streibich also return.

The carries might go to Chris Park, a powder-keg junior who stands 5-foot-6, weighs 175 and plays a mean linebacker.

“Strongest kid we have on the team, pound for pound,” Ross said of Park. “And Luke May is second.”

Polson lost as much as anyone in the league, though the Pirates are a solid bet to make the playoffs for a seventh straight year.

Linebackers Joe Gallatin and Matthew Rensvold should lead the defense; on offense Tanner Wilson moves from receiver to QB as a sophomore. He’ll take snaps from all-conference center Nick Marquardt, and hand off to either fullback Joe Gallatin or tailback Jacob Clairmont.

Frenchtown could jump back into the playoff picture after a two-win season. Gus Butler, who averaged 9.2 yards a carry last season (he gained 991 yards overall), is a big reason for that. The Broncs also have junior Zack Palmer back as their starting QB.

Neil Fuller has his work cut out in Libby, where an athletic team has formed up. There is size in 6-5 receiver Erik Lauer and 6-4 two-way lineman Michael Curtiss, and speed in receiver Isaak Jones, but the Loggers lack experience. Dom Voorhies and Braydan Thom will take the snaps.

Southwestern A

Dillon still has the goods, including quarterback JD Ferris and his 26 touchdown passes and 406 rushing yard. There are also two more Ferris cousins: running back Jason and receiver Justin.

Right behind the Beavers is Butte Central, which returns eight starters on both sides of the ball from a team that lost in the first round of the Class A playoffs to Whitefish.

That appears to leave one playoff spot up for grabs, and Corvallis and Hamilton are gunning for it.

The Hamilton Broncs won a playoff game last year, over Polson, and returns all five of their offensive linemen — including Zach Brown, Dylan Myhre and Philip Whitney.

Head coach Travis Blome is moving Bret Huxtable up to replace graduated quarterback Josh Bauder, but his team may not throw quite as much as last year’s pass-happy squad.

“We have the same system,” said Blome. “But with five returning O-linemen and a couple good running backs (Alex Draper and Wyatt Luedecke), we’re going to have to take advantage of that.

“And for the first time we’re going to have a couple tight ends that have put in the time. Our personnel packages are going to be a little different this year.”

Luedecke is the fastest Bronc, but can he help Hamilton catch Corvallis? The Blue Devils could play 6-4, 235-pound Jesse Sims at running back as well as linebacker; Jayce Gilder gives them an equally large quarterback.

In fact, both players line up behind what second-year coach Clayton Curley says is one of the smaller offensive lines in the league. The idea is to make up for that with quickness and aggressiveness, and earn the Blue Devils’ first playoff berth since 2008.

Anaconda, which like Libby is in its last year in Class A, has some skill likes like running backs Dylan Flack and Sean Gallagher, but the Copperheads may need help up front.

It’s the same story in Stevensville, where first-year coach Eric Burrows’ biggest player is 215-pound two-way lineman Kordale Behner. The tallest is quarterback Bryce Torrey, and he has some talented targets in Bo Zeiler and John Diepstraten.

But it’s a tall mountain to climb. Of 45 kids that came out, 30 are sophomores or freshmen. On the other hand, five of those sophomores started on the O-line last year.

“We’re super young, but some of these young kids have varsity time already,” said Burrows, who was a Stevi assistant for three years before taking over. “We’re going to have to fight for everything we get, but that’s OK.”


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