Polson High School football coach Pat Danley and his team is just excited to play someone besides themselves even if their first opponent Friday will be Dillon.
The Beavers have developed a brand of football that is not only synonymous with excellence in their region but they have also gained recognition in the state having played in the last six consecutive Class A state high school football championships, according to Danley.
The Polson Pirates won’t have to worry about defending quarterback Troy Anderson, who signed with the NCAA Division I Montana State Bobcats and will play with them as a freshman at the start of the 2017 season, but Danley expects their team will still have quality players.
“That has typically been Dillon’s M.O., they just reload,” Danley said. “You don’t play in six state championship football games without being able to reload. TTThat is just the way it is for Dillon.”
The Pirates will have a lot in common with the Beavers. Like Dillon, their starting quarterback from last year, Tanner Wilson, signed with the University of Montana Grizzlies and they will both be looking to replace quality NCAA Division I caliber athletes as signal-callers from the previous season.
“Like us, they will be breaking in a new quarterback and it is going to be hard to know what we are going to get with that,” Danley admits. “I suppose it would be tougher if they brought last year’s team in that they graduated but they obviously have a lot of tradition. Playing Dillon will be a good challenge for us in game one. We are going to line up and do the best that we can.”
Danley anticipates Beavers’ coach Rick Nordahl will have a lot of the same schemes as the team continues to watch last year’s film because neither team has played a down of football yet.
“Again, it’s a little bit of an advantage and I don’t think Dillon will be dramatically or radically different (scheme-wise) from last season,” Danley said. “They will run the same sets and have run the same kind of stuff for years. I have an idea of what they want to do and what our team needs to do in order to execute and stop it. That is one nice thing about being familiar with them is that it’s not going to be a complete surprise because we’ve played against them the last 17 years.Obviously, they will have different personnel but we have traded some of our scrimmage film and we’ve gotten to see some of their film from this year.”
The Pirates have executed well on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, Danley said.
“I think generally we’ve been pretty good executing our stuff and our new guys have stepped in well,” Danley said. “That is one thing that really helps us a lot is that we’ve had a core group of guys that have been there all summer from the Ronan camp, to the weight room, to the Whitefish camp. They’ve learned a lot of stuff over the summer and that has helped tremendously. Those guys have been a huge help and they hit the ground running when camp opened on Aug. 11.”
With the Pirates solidifying their quarterback position after a close race between Bo Kelley and Colby Soderquist, they are starting to look a little more settled now that the two competitors are no longer splitting reps, Danley said.
“I think Bo is getting more and more confident,” Danley said. “I think he’s understanding the offense and reads and he is getting better and better at quarterback. We’ve got a group of upperclassmen lineman and running back that he can heavily lean on. He has made a couple of nice throws in the scrimmages. I am for the team as a whole and I think he is going to have a good year (at QB).”
Danley said the team is looking more and more confident since they opened practice on Aug. 11.
“I think our team is going to be pretty young in the defensive backfield and we are trying to get them a lot of reps and trying to get them to recognize our various coverages,” Danley said. “We are developing quite a bit of depth at the linebacker position and I am feeling pretty confident that we will be quite good in that department.”
One area that was a question mark last year for the Pirates’ team was answered in the off season and that is special teams. This year, the Pirates brought over Connor Lanier, from the soccer team to help the team kick off, kick extra points and kick field goals.
“One thing that I’ve noticed over the year is that a lot of early season games on special teams can really make a difference,” Danley said. “Offense and defense are the hardest thing to recreate in practice situations and at the early part of the season, a lot of weird stuff can happen on special teams. We want to be on the positive side of that.”
Danley said his team is excited to kickoff the season opener even if it is against a perennial western Montana powerhouse.
“I am just really excited to play someone else besides our own kids,” Pat Danley said. “Our kids are looking forward to playing on Friday night.”