The Polson Pirates along with every other Mission Valley football team are preparing for the first official day of practice sanctioned by the Montana Activities Association.
The Pirates and their coaching staff, who participated in 11-on-11 scrimmages with four area teams last week including Eureka, Libby and Whitefish, got a good look at their personnel last week, according to new Pirates’ football coach Pat Danley.
Danley said the Pirates got to look at a wide variety of styles in the scrimmage.
“It was pretty interesting to see because Libby and Whitefish have had two totally different playing styles,” Danley said. “Whitefish was spread out, had three receivers and had a little bit more passing. Libby operated out of a two tight end wishbone and it was a totally different look on offense from the last time Libby played football in our conference.”
Danley, who conversed with Whitefish coach Chad Ross after the game, was told Whitefish, who won the state championship in 2015, is still a work in progress in the process to returning to championship-caliber contenders.
“I was told they were a little better than last year,” Danley said. “They really had some speed at some positions. They are going to have speed and that will be an issue. They are probably one year away from being really good and they have a lot of kids that are really physical.”
The Pirates, who will begin their traditional 8 a.m. practice Friday morning, are “looking good” in the early portion of their season, Danley said.
The Pirates are still trying to solidify their quarterback position. The position battle is down to two candidates: Colby Soderquist and Bo Kelley.
“We played well on both sides of the ball,” Danley said. “I thought we played well and our (two quarterbacks) got equal reps up there. Eventually, we will settle on a starter.”
Danley was adamant that he will name a starter before their opening day against Dillon.
“I am hoping we will have a starting quarterback by then because I don’t want to be splitting reps during games,” Danley said. “I’ll probably give one of them some looks at receiver. I don’t have any intention of splitting reps during games.”
At the practice, Danley said two players stood out for the Pirates: defensive back Trevor Schulz and WR Koby Garcia.
“Schulz had a great night at defensive back, had a couple of interceptions and was real active,” Danley said. “He is kind of half running back and half receiver. He had a good night catching the ball and that was good to see.”
Bulldogs ready for the transition
The Mission High School football team is in the process of transition.
The Bulldogs will transition from the Class-B, 11-man game to the Class-C, 8-man game.
“It is my first year coaching and we are going to call everything the same (in 8-man) as we would in 11-man,” Bulldogs’ Coach Tyler Murray said. “We are trying to watch as much film to see what they do, what works well, what doesn’t work well and learn from the highs and lows.”
Murray acknowledged there will be a learning curve and felt he will learn a lot about 8-man football in their first game against Flint Creek.
“They have a really good 8-man team and they will learn how football actually works,” Murray said. “We are teaching them schemes and stuff and still blocking and tackling. We are trying to do that with three less guys on the field and get the ball in the hands of your play makers often. We are going to try to just do our thing.”
During the off season, the Bulldogs have had 15 new faces in the weight room.
“That is our core group and obviously you can’t do it for a core group,” Murray said. “There are 25-30 kids and we want to finish (the season) with around the same number of kids finishing. (Our goal) is to get 95 percent of those kids to finish. We have to make football fun again for Mission and hopefully, we will finish (the season) with about 25 kids.”
Murray said his Bulldogs are excited headed into the season.
“We are going to 8-man and may get some kids out that didn’t play last year,” Murray said. “Maybe some guys that didn’t want to play football want to give it a try. That is what the hope is and we will see Thursday and Friday (where our numbers are at). They are super excited for it and we are kind of curious and more excited to be playing schools that are more our size.”
Murray, who is a recent graduate from Montana Western and in his first-ever year as a high school football coach, said he felt his team is “ready.”
“They are ready to roll and we hope we have a good group and a good solid foundation,” murray said. “They have worked hard all summer. They’ll learn and we try to teach football mentally and physically. That is a big aspect of football.”