Mission High School football coach Tyler Murray has seen an increased level of participation in his second consecutive season as the Bulldogs’ head football coach.
The elevated level of participants was evident in the team’s first 7-on-7 tournament of the season at Superior High School, according to Murray.
The Bulldogs lost in the semifinals and Superior captured the championship crown.
“Last year, we had around 30 kids and probably five to ten of them were in the weight room daily,” Murray said of his team. “This year, we’ve had around 30 and maybe we are pushing 35 kids. Right now, we are right around that 10 to 12 number and it is still a good start because we have a lot of kids that are consistently coming.”
The Bulldogs, who came within winning the final two regular season finale games of qualifying for the Montana High School Activities Association Class C, 8-man tournament, are now committed to qualifying for the playoffs after last season’s near miss, Murray said.
“We have a good group of seniors and they really help us out a bunch,” Murray said. “(Our seniors) have become leaders and our group of juniors are going to be phenomenal because we have great athletes and great play makers. We have a good sophomore group and a freshman group that will have a chance to play right away and help us out. It is a full team effort and everyone will be out there.”
Murray said he was complimentary of the participants involved in the 7-on-7 Monday at Superior High School.
“There were some good teams,” Murray said. “Darby looked very good, Plains beat us right away and it was fun to mix it up with last year’s state champion Flint Creek at MSU Camp. It is really good to see those guys pack it up for July, get ready for competition and get ready for football season. I really appreciate good competition.”
Last year, Mission had one of the most difficult schedules in the state of Montana playing state champion Flint Creek twice and Charlo, one of the perennial favorites to win Class C, 8-man football after finishing second in 2016, twice in a week.
The Bulldogs also had tough conference foes such as Plains and Arlee, both teams that qualified for the Class C, 8-man playoffs in their conference.
“When I look at our conference, I think ‘Holy Cow!,’ we don’t really have any bye weeks,” Murray said. “That is what you want when you play in a conference like this is to have a tough match up every week when you get into the playoffs.”
It is only July, which is approximately two months from when the teams kickoff, and Murray acknowledges the two months’ time between now and the regular season will be short.
“We are taking off next week of lifting and practicing,” Murary said. “It is going to be quick and (the regular season) will be coming right on us.”