HELENA — Football was in the air Friday, as Montana high school teams across the state got their 2018 seasons started with their first practices.
“It’s great. I mean, what a good morning,” smiled Helena High head coach Scott Evans. “You know, get up really early in the morning and you get to go out on the football field again. Can’t ask for anything better.”
The new Bengal coach pretty much said it all right there, as both Helena High and Helena Capital started practices bright and early. But Evans, who is in his first season leading the Bengals after longtime coach Tony Arntson stepped down, has a reason to be a little more amped up than usual.
“I’ve been doing this job a long time, but just waking up this morning knowing that I was in a different position, it came full force (Friday),” said Evans. “So it’s a great opportunity, but at the same point and time, I woke up a little bit nervous.”
Any nerves quickly turned to excitement, though, as the guys returned to the grind. Helena fell short of the Class AA state title last year, losing to Billings Senior in the championship game. That kind of thing has a way of acting as fuel for elite teams like the Bengals.
“It’s extremely motivating,” said Bengals senior cornerback Zach Spiroff. “Throughout the entire summer and stuff that’s kind of the thing we look back to. We were that close, but that means we just have to work that much harder.”
“I’ve been waiting a long time,” added senior running back Grady Koenig. “I mean, I think a lot of the guys, just everyone on the team has just been ready to roll for a little bit now. We just couldn’t wait, chomping at the bit to get going.”
Across town that same hunger to start the season resides with the Bruins, who were denied a trip to the championship game by their crosstown rivals — another memory that does not fade quickly.
“I’m so excited,” said Capital senior lineman Alaric Greil. “I’ve been waiting since spring, really. I missed lacrosse because I got super sick, so I’ve been ready to get out and just hit people and get some redemption from last year.”
That redemption will have to come from a host of new playmakers after Capital lost workhorses like Seith Schneider, Conor Quick and Justin Jenks to college programs. But that’s a yearly problem at Capital, and the next man up better be ready.
“I think our running back crew has some potential,” said Bruin head coach Kyle Mihelish. “Obviously our (offensive and defensive lines) led by Alaric Greil. We have some holes to fill there, but they are good, strong, athletic kids. I like our receiver crew, we got a group, a stable of guys there. It’s going to be good competition.”
But those kinds of things will work themselves out as camp goes on. Until then, for both Helena High and Capital, their only jobs are to show up and be ready to work.
“What we tell these kids once they get on this football field or once they’re at (Vigilante Field) or somewhere else, it’s all business,” said Mihelish. “We’re worried about what we need to do. We need to block and tackle and we need to do our thing.”