Last season will be a hard act to follow. But these Columbia Falls Wildcats seem up to the challenge.
Seniors Ty Morgan and Ike Schweikert are leading the resurgent Wildcats into another fall campaign, which begins Aug. 30 at Lewistown.
This year’s team is bustling with talent and excitement following last season’s historic run.
“We’ve got a ton of guys back,” head coach Jaxon Schweikert said. “What we’ve seen so far, the difference with this team is that we appear to be more explosive. When they touch the ball, you’re going to think they might score every time.”
That says a lot considering last year’s Wildcats were one of the most prolific teams in the state. Columbia Falls averaged more than 37 points per game while holding opponents to roughly 12. That led to one of the best seasons in program history, as the Wildcats achieved its first unbeaten regular season since 1976 and only the second conference championship in three decades. The team finished 9-1 overall and 4-0 in conference.
Billings Central ended the team’s landmark season, defeating Columbia Falls 33-21 in the semifinal round of the Class A football playoffs in Billings. Dillon went on to beat Billings Central 25-13 for the state championship.
“They came away feeling like they were the better team. They felt they were the best team in the state. But a lot of times it’s not the most talented teams that win,” Schweikert said. “They learned a lot. We have to play our best ball every time out. We have to be focused and do all the little things every game. It doesn’t matter who it is we’re playing.”
In order for the Wildcats to build on last year’s success, the team will likely need to take down one of the state’s dynastic programs. Dillon and Billings Central have played for the Class A title the past three years.
“There’s going to be quite a bit of competition out there this season,” Schweikert said.
Columbia Falls will have a new quarterback this season. Jared Trinastich’s replacement will be 6-foot-1, 210-pound sophomore Dakota Brigwell, who played junior varsity last year and has performed well in spring and summer camps.
Brigwell will have the benefit of a strong line and talented skill players back in the lineup, such as Morgan and Trevor Houston. As a junior, Morgan racked up the most individual scoring in the Northwestern A conference. He averaged 12.2 points per game, scoring 122 points over 10 games. He caught 66 passes for 1,073 yards and 16 touchdowns, becoming the best wide receiver in the conference and among the best in the entire state.
Houston also had a standout year last season, catching 27 passes for 353 yards and four TDs as a sophomore.
On defense, Ike Schweikert is the reigning defensive MVP in the conference, and leads a strong core of returning linebackers, alongside Colton Gove, Justice McManus and Connor Bowman.
All in all, Columbia Falls has 85 players out for football this fall, making it one of the largest programs in the state for Class A.
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