The summer workouts were packed. The first practices were full of energy. Following last season’s exciting success, the Whitefish Bulldogs are clearly hungry for more.
“The staff is really excited. The kids did a great job last year bringing back the tradition of working hard and expecting to win,” head coach Chad Ross said. “Now they have some pretty high expectations. We believe we will be able to compete in every game.”
The Bulldogs bring back several talented seniors who are leading the way and providing even more excitement around the football program as the season approaches. Whitefish kick off the fall season at Havre on Aug. 30. The first home game is Sept. 12 against Belgrade.
One of the top returning players in the entire state is Luke May, now a junior entering his third season as the starting quarterback. As a sophomore a year ago, Whitefish’s skilled QB passed for 1,562 yards and 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also ran for 717 yards and another nine TDs, and helped guide Whitefish to the quarterfinals of the Class A state playoffs.
The Bulldogs finished 7-2 in the regular season last fall and defeated Butte Central 43-12 in the first round of the playoffs, before Belgrade edged out a victory over the Bulldogs in the next round, 27-20.
A few key players graduated, including Sean Foley, who erupted for a huge season and was recruited to play at the University of Montana.
Ross said he is eager to see new players step up and fill the important roles.
“Last year we really had seniors who took ownership in the program and turned it around. They went out expecting to win every game,” he said. “They set that tradition and passed it on to the seniors-to-be.”
As a sophomore sharing carries last year, running back Chris Park piled up 304 yards and three touchdowns.
Jack Streibich, now a senior, is poised for a big season at wide receiver. Last season he caught 13 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
Jed Nagler could also have a breakout year at wide receiver. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior caught 14 passes for 240 yards last season.
“We’ve got a lot of good three-year starters coming back,” Ross said.
Ross described this year’s team as fast and athletic, which could lead to an exciting offense.
“We’ve got the mindset of being in shape and playing every down,” Ross said.
Whitefish finished in second place in the Northwestern A conference a year ago, going 3-1 in conference games. This will be the final year the conference is aligned the way it is following Libby’s move to Class B in 2015. That could mean there’s added motivation to claim the final Northwestern A crown. For Whitefish, that will require taking down a longtime rival.
Last fall Columbia Falls blanked Whitefish 21-0. The two teams square off this year on Sept. 26 in Whitefish.
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