Mission High School coach Tyler Murray will now enter his third consecutive season at the helm of the Mission High School football team, and his expectations for the program are far higher than ever.
When Murray began his high school football coaching career in Mission in 2017, it was a time of transition for the Bulldogs. Mission, who hasn’t punched a ticket to the Montana High School Association playoffs since the year 2002, transitioned from MHSA Class B, 11-man football to MHSA Class C, 8-man football during Murray’s first-ever season as the Bulldogs head coach.
Now, the Bulldogs find themselves in a position they haven’t been in a while with a ton of depth, and a lot of key players that return from the previous two seasons in which they were on the cusp of qualifying for an MHSA Class C, an 8-man playoff spot.
“There are a lot of new players, and we have a lot of young guys that are members of our program that will help build the program in the future,” Murray said. “We’ve added one kid that is a transfer student, and we’ve been recruiting the hallways. There are a lot of different dynamics that make us deeper than so many teams. We have a lot of players that will be playing both ways, and they will have to know what they are doing, even if they are a second-string player or just on special teams.”
One area that Murray felt his team has improved on in the first couple of practices is the team’s enthusiasm for the game, which he credits to his assistant coaching staff.
“Improving our team has been a two-way process with the players and coaches, and our players have come to camp excited to come out and practice, which makes the coaches more excited,” Murray said. “I would say we’ve only had one practice that was low energy, and in which our team didn’t get much done out there. I told them ‘it wasn’t a perfect practice,’ and they came out the next day and had the best practice of the season. The kids had a lot of energy and focus.”
Murray always has stressed competition for playing time harbors excellence. This year, with 35 players competing for playing time, that has only made the game more fierce, Murray stated.
“Only time will tell if our team will be competitive or not,” Murray said. “We will find out how good we are when we play and put it together on Friday night. We will figure out what that is all about.”
This year, the dynamics of the conference, like every year, have significantly changed. Charlo no longer has Landers Smith, who was one of the most explosive players in the state of Montana in the MHSA Class C classification, and Arlee, who is coming off of an MHSA Class C, an 8-man football team, has only three of its 18 players returning from last year’s roster.
“It’s going to be very interesting this year, and we will play Victory, watch the film and see what everyone is about,” Murray said. “Right now, we are just going to worry about Victor, and take it one game at a time.”
Murray knows there will be a lot of competition within the team for playing spots, and within the conference.
“Competition breeds excellence and someone in your same position will keep pushing you,” Murray said. “The other person works harder to keep their job on the field, and it just makes you work harder. It’s all about the team, and it doesn’t matter if you are the second-string guy, we need to keep getting better as a team. If everyone is on the same page, we will only get better as a team. Our kids are terrific at not thinking about themselves, but they are worried about the team, and that is just making them better overall.”
As the Bulldogs prepare to enter their first game against Victor, Murray isn’t sure what to expect from a team that had a revolving door of coaches.
Last year, Victor went through two coaching changes, and this year should be no different.
“I am not sure what to expect from Victor, because last year (their coach) ended up resigning halfway through the year, and this year we aren’t prepared for any formations,” Murray said. “You can’t judge a team based on what you’ve seen in years past. Obviously offensively, we will run our stuff, and just make adjustments as we go along in the game.”
Entering the season, the Bulldogs will take snaps from Isaac DuMontier, who will start at quarterback for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs will be gunning for their first-ever playoff spot since the 2002 season.
The Bulldogs continue to improve under their head coach Tyler Murray entering his third season.