Ronan High School football coach Matt Detwiler and his Chiefs team may be transitioning from Class B to Class A but that doesn’t mean he or his coaching staff will be lenient on his team’s expectations.
In Detwiler’s first-ever season as a high school head football coach, he and his team not only made the playoffs but early in the season gave themselves a chance to challenge perennial Class B powerhouse Loyola for a conference title.
Last year, Ronan had to sit in the locker rooms and anxiously await for their team to listen to a game between Anaconda and Deer Lodge fight it out to decide whether or not they qualified for the Class B state playoff berth. The Chiefs backed into the playoffs and were able to take advantage of the reprieve. They won their first playoff game and hosted a second playoff game losing 42-26 to Whitehall, a team that lost to the eventual state champion Eureka team in the semifinals.
The new-found success has created some new expectations Detwiler and his staff have created for the Chiefs as they prepare to head into the 2017 season.
And he isn’t about to cut his team any slack just because they moved up to Class A, based on enrollment numbers.
“That is just kind of the Chief mentality and if I had a feeling that they weren’t going to do well, than it is on me (as a coach),” Detwiler said. “I think regardless of the talent that you have on your team, it is what you make of it. Our team is ready for the challenge.”
Detwiler hasn’t modified his own expectations for his team and program but remains mindful of the situation his team will step into as they host their season opener against Butte Central Friday night at Ronan.
“There are some really solid teams across the board and one of our coaches watched Whitefish play Hamilton,” Detwiler said. “Hamilton has a very good football team. Corvallis sounds like they did pretty well also.”
Despite being mindful, he doesn’t want his Chiefs reverting from their ultimate mission statement of playoff. Detwiler knows it won’t be easy.
“I want Ronan’s mentality is that we are a football playoff team and I don’t care if we are in Class B, Class C, Class A or 8-man football,” Detwiler said. “We have to try to get the job done no matter who or where we play.”
Butte Central will bring with them tradition and numbers when Ronan plays them. This year, Detwiler’s team will have a solid offensive and defensive line which should combat some of their initial size issues they thought they would face in their transition from classifications.
“Our line is probably one of the better lines that I’ve ever seen in Ronan,” Detwiler said. “Our skill kids are fast and I think we will be looking to do some damage in Class A with our personnel. However, it is hard to get an exact measurement of where we are. It’s usually a good tool to see exactly where we are and what we need to do as well.”
An underrated aspect of Ronan’s football program is the consistency they are establishing with their coaching staff. This will be the second year that Detwiler and his assistant coaches will be coaching together. This is the same staff from last year’s team that coached the team that qualified for the Class B quarterfinal football team.
“Having the same staff back from last season is huge and there is just a consistency through the staff to know we can help each other,” Detwiler said. “It makes practices and games go so much more smoothly and makes my job a lot easier.”
He and his coaching staff won’t be able to gauge a lot from studying film on Butte Central’s current players but they will get an idea of the schemes that coach Quinn Peoples likes to run.
“Coach Peoples has been there for 20 some years now and I don’t know how much will change from year to year,” Detwiler said. “I just know that we are going to play some good football come Friday night. They have some speed and they run some jet counter with their wings. They have a good balance of both passing and running. I’ve read an article that says they are young this year but when you have a coach that has been with that team that long, they will be a well-oiled machine.”
The Chiefs have been consistent about one thing throughout the summer and headed into camp they knew their quarterback situation. Last year, Ronan had QB Kasey Mock, who signed with Western Montana and is now looking to play at tight end for the Bulldogs. This year, it will be versatile quarterback Brendon Blood.
Detwiller admits he is a “defensive-minded” coach but knows what he has with Blood.
“He’s the kind of QB that keeps me up at night,” Detwiler said. “He can turn a third and long, play some cover-4, scramble around and just make things happen. From a defensive stand point, I would hate to have to play against him because he is a huge key to our offense. He is capable of moving around but he can stand in the pocket and drop some dimes and throw a deep ball. He’s just the whole package when it comes to quarterback. It opens up the playbook completely and I added some more plays to our playbook that we had from last year.”
At the skill position players, some of the starters will be Happy Cheff and Noah Cheff in the slot receiver. There are some interesting battles for wideout between Vinny Birdmaster, Ezekiel Misa and Kane McAllister.
“I think McAllister played in middle school and decided to come out his junior year to play,” Detwiller said. “He really stepped up. He’s a rodeo kid and just a tough kid. Rodeo kids, whether it is team roping, bull riding, or bronc riding, there is just a mentality that goes there with those kind of things and he has that.”
Justin Mays looks to be one of the primary running backs in a stable of Chiefs backs.
“We will move a lot of kids around and shift kids at a lot of different positions,” Detwiler said. “However, Mays will probably take the majority of the snaps at running back.”
In the defensive secondary lurks Noah Cheff. According to Detwiler, the state champion wrestler his sophomore year is a player to contend with.
“He is faster and he chased down every kind in scrimmage,” Detwiler said. “Everyone is moving at the same speed and he can just click into another gear and chase them down. He has caught a kid at the 1-yard line. He is willing to go wherever and do whatever. He is the type of player that on family game night, he would take everything way too seriously. He is just that competitive and wants to win.”
“On the defensive line and offensive line, Jordan Skelton, another player who wasn’t out last year, looks like he will be a “solid football player,” Detwiler said. “Coleman Taylor is a player who played American style football in Australia this summer.”
Other players will include Landon Lynch, Tyler Kelsch, and Sam Mocabee.
“Hopefully, this season we will play well across the board and not have to leave a playoff slot left to chance,” Detwiler said. “Our schedule will be tough. Hopefully we will get some power points and get the job done during the season in order to qualify for the playoffs. Our team has good guys and I am excited to see what the team does.”