Click the image or use the arrows to see portraits of the 2009 Best of Preps All Stars.
We have chosen a football star from each Flathead County high school, along with a list of other deserving candidates, to feature in our second annual “Best of Preps: North Stars.” Most, if not all, of these players are college-bound either next fall or the year after that. Yet again, the Flathead has produced a talented crop of gridiron stars.
Mitchell Wassam (Sr., Quarterback, Columbia Falls) – 6’3”, 215 pounds: Wassam had a breakthrough year for the Wildcats, throwing a league-high 19 touchdown passes in the regular season and 23 for the season. He earned Class A all-state honors and led the Wildcats to the state quarterfinals. Also a basketball star, Wassam plans to play quarterback in college and has garnered interest from several NAIA schools.
Wassam on why he loves playing quarterback: “Being in control of the game, being able to dictate the tempo. You know you’re either the hero or the villain when you’re the quarterback.”
Taylor Hart (Sr., Running Back, Glacier) – 6’2”, 205 pounds: Hart broke the school record for rushing touchdowns this year and was one of the leaders in Class AA with 17. He ran for 584 yards on the season in helping Glacier reach its first-ever state tournament. Hart, who was named second-team all-state, has had several Montana colleges look his way.
Hart on the camaraderie of football: “You have people there to help you out when you’re down. It’s the unity you get.”
Connor Thomas (Jr., Offensive Guard, Flathead) – 6’5”, 255 pounds: Like his older brother Tyler, who plays for Oregon State University, Thomas often looks like a man among boys on the gridiron. Only a junior, it’s hard to imagine him getting any bigger, but he likely will. He was a Class AA first-team all-state selection this year at offensive guard. Thomas wants to play in college.
Thomas on the special moments of football: “I like playing in front of big crowds, in stadiums under the lights.”
Daniel Simmons (Sr., Running Back, Whitefish) – 6’0”, 207 pounds: The second-leading rusher in Northwestern A, Simmons ran for 961 yards and nine touchdowns for the Bulldogs. Like Glacier’s Hart, Simmons is a big back who can make unsuspecting defenders pay. Simmons hopes to play in college and has spoken with a few NAIA schools in Montana.
Simmons on football: “I love to hit. I love that it’s a team sport. I love everything about it.”
Travis Knoll (Jr., Running Back, Bigfork) – 5’11”, 180 pounds: On Sept. 18, Knoll scored a dramatic 7-yard rushing touchdown to lift Bigfork over Plains 35-29 for the Vikings’ first victory in three years. Bigfork went on to finish tied for first in District 7-B, in large part to Knoll, who led the team in rushing (666 yards with 15 touchdowns) and receiving (25 receptions for 361 yards.) Knoll, who earned first-team all-conference, would like to play in college.
Knoll on winning the Sept. 18 game: “It was awesome. When you go three years without winning a game, it’s special.”
Kelly Houle (Sr., Columbia Falls) – 6’1”, 230 pounds: Class A all-state defensive end
Shay Smithwick-Hann (Sr., Glacier) – 6’4”, 215 pounds: Second-team Class AA all-state quarterback and punter
Brandon McDonald (Sr., Bigfork) – 6’2”, 250 pounds: Class B all-state offensive tackle
Joel Horn (Jr., Glacier) – 6’5”, 280 pounds: Second-team Class AA all-state offensive tackle
Kaleb Johnson (Jr., Columbia Falls) – 6’3”, 185 pounds: Class A all-state wide receiver
Connor Fuller (Sr., Glacier) – 6’0”, 210 pounds: Second-team Class AA all-state inside linebacker
Derek Crittenden (Sr., Whitefish) ¬– 6’3”, 225 pounds: Class A all-state defensive tackle
Mike Macijunas (Sr., Columbia Falls) – 6’2”, 245 pounds: Class A all-state offensive tackle
Jake Criner (Sr., Glacier) – 6’0”, 220 pounds: Second-team Class AA all-state center
Trevor Beaman (Sr., Flathead) – 6’0”, 220 pounds: Honorable-mention Class AA all-state inside linebacker
Mary Allen (Sr., Defensive Specialist, Flathead): A transfer from Arizona, Allen made her presence known in only one year for the Bravettes. Though she played multiple positions, Allen was named Class AA first-team all-state as a defensive specialist. Allen has verbally committed to play at Blue Mountain Community College in Oregon.
Allen on what she likes about volleyball: “The intensity. It’s so fun when you step onto that court. It’s the greatest feeling.”
Kaitlyn Wehrli (Sr., Outside Hitter, Whitefish): Wehrli, a transfer from Alaska, made an immediate impact on the Whitefish volleyball squad this fall. She proved to be a versatile player, finishing in the top 10 in the conference in both kills and digs. As of now, Wehrli doesn’t have college plans but couldn’t imagine leaving volleyball behind any time soon.
Wehrli on what happens on the court: “It’s constant motion. There’s always something going on.”
Brooke Cady (Sr., Columbia Falls): First-team Northwestern A all-conference
Hannah Sackett (So., Flathead): Second-team Class AA all-state
Jessie Slaybaugh (Sr., Whitefish): Second-team Northwestern A all-conference
Shay Grilley (Sr., Columbia Falls): Second-team Northwestern A all-conference
Emily Hardman (Sr., Bigfork): Class B all-state
Alison Lunde (So., Flathead): Honorable-mention Class AA all-state
Cami Mathison (Jr., Glacier): Second-team Class AA all-state
Molly Filipek (Sr., Whitefish): Honorable-mention Northwestern A all-conference
Danika Johnson (Jr., Flathead): Honorable-mention Class AA all-state
Claire Wilken (Sr., Bigfork): First-team Class B all-conference
Kayla DeWit (Jr., Columbia Falls): Honorable-mention Northwestern A all-conference
Lexy Boschee (So., Glacier): Honorable-mention Class AA all-state
Mallery Knoll (Jr., Bigfork): Second-team Class B all-conference
Grahm Schmaltz (Sr., Glacier): Schmaltz failed to place at the Class AA state tournament, but that shouldn’t take away from his many other impressive accomplishments. Following in the footsteps of two-time Class AA champion and former teammate Larry Iverson III, Schmaltz was one of the best golfers at any level in Montana this year. His lowest score for 18 holes is 63 and for nine holes it’s 30. He is considering scholarships from Weber State, Gonzaga or MSU-Billings.
Schmaltz on his inspiration: “I watch the pros on TV and want to be like them.”
Kiley McConnell (Jr., Whitefish): McConnell has been among the best golfers in Class A since she was a freshman. Each year she finishes near the top of the state tournament standings, but she hasn’t quite nabbed the top spot. This fall she finished fourth. She still has another year to win a state championship, and to crack the 80 threshold. McConnell has never shot in the 70s.
McConnell on the individual nature of golf: “You’re dependent upon yourself. If you mess up, it’s your fault. There’s no one to blame it on.”
Reed Platke (So., Whitefish): Class A state champion
Joe Blakemore (Sr., Whitefish): Tied for second at Class A state tournament
Zack Maassen (Sr., Whitefish): Fourth at Class A state tournament
Justin Newton (Sr., Glacier): Fifth at Class AA state tournament
Logan Iverson (Fr., Glacier): Seventh at Class AA state tournament
Breanna Cameron (Sr., Whitefish): Sixth at Class A state tournament
Karli Aurich (Sr., Glacier): Twelfth at Class AA state tournament
Elsie Satterfield (Sr., Glacier): Thirteenth at Class AA state tournament
Cali Toth (Sr., Flathead): Shot 192 at Class AA state tournament
Andrea Spicher (Sr., Glacier): Shot 191 at Class AA state tournament
Travis Adams (Sr., Whitefish): Adams has played soccer since he was 6 years old and considers it a lifelong endeavor. This year, he helped guide Whitefish to the state championship game before losing to Billings Central. He was second in the state with 12 goals and also had five assists. Adams, who was named Class A all-state, is undecided on college.
Adams on the improvisational nature of soccer: “It’s creative. There’s no plays or anything. You just make stuff up as you go.”
Maddey Frey (Sr., Glacier): Frey graduates as one of the most accomplished athletes in the school’s history. A three-time all-state selection in soccer, Frey was named Western AA’s girls soccer player of the year for the second straight season. Frey, also one of the fastest girls in the state in track, has a scholarship to play at the University of Montana.
Frey on playing for the Grizzlies: “I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity and I know I’ll need work really hard.”
Seth Bumgarner (Sr., Glacier): Class AA all-state
Matt Danczyk (Sr., Whitefish): Class A all-state
Alec MacCallum (Sr., Bigfork): Class A all-state
Cody Morritt (Sr., Flathead): Western AA all-conference
Jerrad Merrill (Sr., Flathead): Western AA all-conference
Josh Neiman (Sr., Glacier): Western AA all-conference
Anthony Hoelscher (Sr., Columbia Falls): Class A all-conference
Chelsea Shuman (Jr., Flathead): Class AA all-state
Tess Brenneman (So., Flathead): Class AA all-state
Patty Hughes (Jr., Glacier): Class AA all-state
Megan Apple (Sr., Whitefish): Class A all-state
McKenzie Reeve (Sr., Columbia Falls): Class A all-state
Caitlin Charlebois (Jr., Bigfork): Class A all-state
McKenzie Kiser (So., Columbia Falls): Class A all-state
Leif Castren (Sr., Flathead): Castren finished third at the Class AA state meet this year and fourth at state last year. This fall, Castren was a senior leader on a talented and deep Flathead Braves cross country squad. While Castren has the ability to run on scholarship in college, he’s placing academics as his top priority. Dartmouth and Cornell are among the colleges on his list. Still, he has no plans to give up running.
Castren on running’s importance in his life: “I’ll definitely keep running, whether it’s competitive or not. It’s become a lifestyle.”
Kayla Carlson (Sr., Bigfork): Carlson has seemingly unending energy and she uses this to her advantage on the cross country course. Generally one of the smallest girls in the race, Carlson has relied on sheer tenacity and hard work to earn all-state honors three years in a row. This year, fighting through bronchitis, she finished fourth at the Class B state meet. Carlson will run either at the University of Mary or Rocky Mountain College.
Carlson on her passion for running: “I can’t imagine not running everyday. When you’re in a place like Montana, why not be running outside?”
Shawn Whitman (Sr., Columbia Falls): Fourth at Class A state meet
Derrick Williams (So., Columbia Falls): Fifth at Class A state meet
Patric Jessat (Sr., Columbia Falls): Seventh at Class A state meet
Justin Whitman (So., Columbia Falls): Eleventh at Class A state meet
Troy Fraley (Fr., Glacier): Seventh at Class AA state meet
Jesse Bennett (Sr., Flathead): Tenth at Class AA state meet
Jessica Sagen (Jr., Whitefish): Fifth at Class A state meet
Bailey Eaton (Jr., Whitefish): Sixth at Class A state meet
Loni Hanson (Sr., Whitefish): Seventh at Class A state meet
Paige Bouma (So., Flathead): Eleventh at Class AA state meet
Hannah Weaver (Sr., Whitefish): Eighteenth at Class A state meet
Heather Fraley (Sr., Glacier): Twenty-eighth at Class AA state meet
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