The Glacier Wolfpack played the role of underdogs for years.
Not anymore. The Wolfpack have developed into perennial contenders, having advanced to the Class AA playoffs each of the last five seasons. Last fall, when only a handful of starters were back, Glacier defied expectations and rolled into the state championship game.
This latest squad features eight returning starters on offense and five on defense, while Bozeman, the powerhouse that dropped Glacier in the championship game, has graduated most of its stars.
In other words, the throne appears up for grabs.
“Last year we got to prove everybody wrong. This year the challenge will be different,” said head coach Grady Bennett.
“This year, let’s say we are the top-rated team, you don’t get to be in that position very often. But we don’t want to change our mentality, as far as being hungry and continuing to strive to get better every day. We just want to keep doing what we’re doing.”
The team is back on the field this week in preparation for the season kickoff against Billings West. The Wolfpack travel to Billings Aug. 29.
Bozeman, Helena and Great Falls C.M. Russell are all expected to vie for the top spots in the standings along with Glacier. But the Wolfpack appear to be the top contender thanks to a solid core of experienced players returning from last season’s historic 11-2 team.
Senior quarterback Brady McChesney is back for his second year as the starter. A year ago, he passed for 2,691 yards and 33 touchdowns, averaging 269 yards per game. He completed 60 percent of his passes and was the second most prolific offensive player in the state.
One of his favorite targets also returns: Logan Jones, a first-team all state wide receiver who piled up a total of 1,433 yards and 12 TDs as a junior. Jones is one of the most explosive players in Montana, and will also provide the Wolfpack a scoring threat on every kickoff and punt return.
“The guys are really good about understanding that we don’t want to talk about the end result. It’s all about the journey, it’s not just the end. Every day is special. We want to focus on winning the next play and that will start with practice on day one,” Bennett said. “If we become the best team we can be, we will have a good chance.”
The defense has a few more holes to fill. Last year’s squad was the third best in the state in terms of stifling opponents’ scoring. Glacier limited opposing teams to an average of 16.2 points per game. The team’s scoring offense averaged 41.2 ppg.
Also, Glacier will be implementing a new style of tackling this fall. While attending a University of Washington camp, Bennett and his coaching staff learned about a new tackling progression that follows the mentality of rugby players and even wrestlers, tackling a player’s legs instead of the head or shoulders. The goal behind the change is to reduce head injuries, primarily concussions. But as Bennett says, it’s also more effective.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It’s a big change for us.”
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