The Polson Pirate football team had the unenviable task of playing Dillon for their season-opening home game Friday night at Polson High School.
The last six seasons Dillon has played in the Class A state high school football championship and Pirates’ coach Pat Danley didn’t expect Dillon to be any less talented than they typically are as he entered his 17th year with this program and his first-ever game as the Pirates head coach.
The Pirates began their season-opener against the perennial powerhouse sporting a completely new look this year. Departing from last year’s team was their three-year starting quarterback Tanner Wilson, who along with Matthew Rensvold, were the first students to sign with the University of Montana since Kirk Murphy did in 1986. Replacing Wilson at quarterback this year is young signal-caller Bo Kelley. Kelley, who is the son of Randy Kelley, the Pirates head boys basketball coach, made his varsity debut against Dillon in a 21-7 loss.
The Pirates may have lost their opening game 21-7 but the game included several areas that has Danley encouraged as the team prepares to play Corvallis Friday night in Corvallis.
“Our defense played well enough to win and our kids responded to the challenge of playing Dillon in the first week of the season,” Danley said. “We had a lot of opportunities to win that game but we just couldn’t make quite enough plays. We had a couple of untimely penalties and that took away any type of momentum we had hoped to establish.”
One area of the football game Danley said he was “pleased” with his team’s performance was their ability to play on defense.
“We had a lot of stops to be able to hold them to 21 points,” Danley said. “I think our defensive line played well enough to win that game. They just played excellent throughout the game.”
Polson entered the game without the services of one of their feature running backs Colton Cote. Cote, who hurt his ankle during practice last Tuesday, was out. Fortunately, Polson was able to have Bo Kelley, Kyle Druyvestein and Koby Garcia fill in for Cote’s absence, Danley said.
“It is an unfortunate turn of events but we have plenty of athletes that are capable of playing that position,” Danley said. “We played well enough to win that game and I am proud of the kids for not giving up on the scoreboard.”
Despite his team’s stellar performance, Danley knows football is a bottom line business and his team must improve in several phases as they prepare to play Corvallis in week two of the season.
“I am proud of our kids for not giving up and getting on the scoreboard against a tough Dillon team,” Danley said. “Dillon is a good program, but I am not into moral victories. There were many opportunities to be competitive in that game and I am proud of them in that regard.”
A couple of players that Danley said stood out were the performance of Andrey Bauer, who led the team in tackles, Wyatt Goode, who Danley said had some key sacks and tackles, and their new kicker Connor Lanier, who also filled in for Cote punting the ball. One of Lanier’s punts was a 56-yard punt during the game. Some of the yardage was negated by a penalty in the second quarter, which Danley said he felt was a huge play and possibly even the tipping point of the game
The Pirates were able to score on a gimmick play when Colby Soderquist caught the exchange from Bo Kelley on a backwards lateral and found the open receiver for a touchdown.
The Pirates will now play Corvallis, a team that carries a lot of momentum with them with a 2-0 record.
Headed into the second week Danley anticipates Corvallis will display a lot of confidence early in the game having started the season with the unblemished record.
“They have a swagger about them and this game will be a good barometer on where we are at,” Danley said. “We are going on the road and we have to do what we can against Corvallis.”