Let’s Play Some Football

The gridiron season is starting up for our local high school and college teams

By Jeff Epperly

It is time for football! Friday night kicks off the gridiron season for our local high school and college teams. The offseason programs, the camps, and the fall two-a-days are now in the books and the season is here.

There are many interesting storylines heading our direction as teams begin to work their way through their schedules. Football is such an organizational and logistical challenge. This puts a premium on coaching and their ability to put it all together. The sheer number of players and coaches and their coordination requires a visionary leader and an effective manager, let alone someone who is knowledgeable as well as passionate, positive, and enthusiastic.

With that said, I am interested in how new head coach Jeff Choate of Montana State will do with his Bobcat team. Former coach Rob Ash did a fantastic job bringing that program to solid footing but sometimes coaches have a shelf-life and the Bobcats had gone stale. But with a new coach comes a “freshness” and an excitement and coach Choate is bringing that to Bozeman. Thus far, he seems to be doing all the right things within the program and even among the Bobcat faithful. There is an incredible amount of belief that coach Choate is the guy to bring titles to MSU as well as beating their in-state rival with more regularity.

In recent years, the success of the Bobcats or lack thereof has depended on how well the defense plays. The Cats have been a superior offensive team but have been near the bottom defensively. Can the Cats improve in this phase of the game? That will be the question going into the 2016 season.

Another coach and team I am curious about is second-year coach Bob Stitt and the University of Montana. Coach Stitt and his Grizzlies are one of the preseason favorites. But I have watched the Grizzlies closely and I wonder how this team will come together. It seems to me that coach Stitt’s program continues to transition to his new way of doing things. The changes have come “fast and furious” these past 18 months, and I am beginning to wonder if he can get everyone on the same page to meet the incredible high standards of Grizzly football tradition.

With that said, keep an eye on the offense. This is coach Stitt’s bread and butter. Quarterback Brady Gustafson must have a great year to help make his head coach’s transition smoother. I am hoping that the Billings native has an MVP-type season so that the tradition can continue to build.

Then there are the Flathead Braves at the high school level. Coach Kyle Samson has done a fantastic job of energizing the football program, giving it tremendous passion and visionary leadership.  Flathead football is on the rise and they will be a team that will be very difficult to beat this year.  Getting a team to believe they can win is half the battle in coaching. Coach Samson  is doing just that with amazing effectiveness.

In watching the Braves this season, pay attention to the offense. There seems to be a lot of talent on this side of the football. Coach Samson’s teams always seem to perform well in every phase of the game, but when the offensive phase performs at a very high level it can be a game-changer.  Senior Bridger Johnson is the quarterback and I believe he will have a breakout season to lead the Braves into the playoffs.

These stories and many others will be fun to follow. Can Whitefish repeat as state champs?  How will a very young Bigfork team perform? Can Columbia Falls rise to the next level? And can the incredible football program of Glacier High contend for another state title? How will these stories be written? I am curious. I hope you are, too.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.