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A win that meant more than most

Missoula Hellgate’s Jace Buche leaps over Great Falls receiver Dylan Tatarka to intercept a pass in the first half Friday afternoon at Missoula County Stadium. Kurt Wilson/Missoulian

By MICHAEL HEINBACH

of the Missoulian

The glory and the headlines are generally reserved for successful teams and standout players in the Missoulian sports section.
And though the scoreline and the statistics sheet didn’t exactly paint the most glorious of pictures, I was thrilled to witness Missoula Hellgate’s first football victory of the season last Friday at Missoula County Stadium.
Yes, it was a 6-0 victory over a one-win Great Falls High team playing without its opening-day starting quarterback in a contest that saw its lone score come late in the fourth quarter. But a win is a win and it wasn’t a stretch to regard it as well-deserved Hellgate victory.
Think of it this way: Though success on the gridiron has been a struggle at Hellgate in recent memory, don’t believe for a minute the Knights and their coaching staff aren’t working just as hard or harder than every other high school football team in the state.
Those who’ve played for a team like the Knights know how difficult it can be to be at your best for practice when your team seems overmatched every week. The bumps and bruises that come with a high school football season hurt just a little more and the load in the weight room seems twice as heavy when you start the season 0-6.
But that hasn’t stopped the Hellgate football team from repeatedly putting its best foot forward. Each week when I talk to Hellgate head coach R.L. Boyles in preparation for the week’s contest, he’s quick to point out how his Knights get a little better every week, how hard they practice and how the effort is always there.
That’s why it was so much fun watching Hellgate as it refused to fold up shop when starting running back Dain Cowan was relegated to the bench in the second quarter with a shoulder injury against the Bison.
In his place stepped sophomore John Dalpiaz, who not only scored the only points of the game on a 1-yard touchdown plunge with 5:48 to play, he iced the victory when he ripped off a 30-yard scamper in the waning moments which allowed the Knights to run out the clock.
When it was over, I spoke with Dalpiaz and senior quarterback Luke Bewley, both of whom were overjoyed with the result. Both credited the Hellgate offensive line and the entire defense for the win, rather than pounding their chests and trying to get their own names in the paper.
In addition, Boyles couldn’t stop talking about how happy he was for the kids on the team, how bad they wanted that win and how much they deserved it.
I ran into Boyles on the street Monday morning and without prompting, he stopped me, took the time to thank me for keeping things as positive as possible in the newspaper and for supporting the hard work his kids have put in.
His simple gesture of taking two minutes to let me know he appreciates what I do made my day.
It reminded me that fighting through struggles the way the Hellgate football team has all season will only make the young men on the team stronger in the long run.
There won’t be new hardware in the school’s trophy case when the football season ends. But as a group, the Knights will have accomplished a feat much greater than anything that can be found by in looking at the Class AA standings.
Though it might not be as immediately rewarding as reaching the playoffs, the Knights are putting a truly noble effort into playing for nothing more than the pride that results in doing their best every week, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
And though it rarely ever is, that kind of determination should always be applauded.

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  • 03 Feb 2015

    UPDATED: 2015 national signing day's western Montana football commits

    UPDATED: With fall camps just around the corner, the list of western Montana natives in the Missoulian's coverage area has swelled near 50. Take a look:
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  • 23 May 2014

    Makena Morley gets creative to fund trip to track nationals

    Ever wanted an autographed photo of one of Montana's all-time record-breaking prep runners? Now's your chance. Bigfork High School junior and State B champion of champions Makena Morley is raising money through technology and grass roots to help her reach the New Balance Outdoor High School Track & Field Nationals meet in Greensboro, North Carolina in mid June. And any donors of $25 or more through the fundraising website IndieGoGo.com receive a Morley original complete with signature.  As of this posting, Morley is about 75 percent of the way to her goal of $2,300 for travel and lodging costs for her and her father to the national meet. Events run June 13-15. Morley isn't new to the national running scene, but she appears to be getting create in funding her trips there. She won the West Regional of the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships back in December and then finished eighth in the ensuing national race. "As a junior I have been to 4 national championship races (three in cross country and one for indoor track) but I have never won a national title, so this one is very important to me because I would love for this to be the year for me to win," Morley wrote on her IndieGoGo.com fundraising page. "It is an important year for my college recruiting process, because this is the year when all colleges are looking at you and at what you have accomplished!" IndieGoGo is a kind of online kickstarter to raise money for a cause or idea. It's "the world’s most established crowdfunding platform," according to the organization's website. Crowdfunding is the process of pooling money from many different people for a cause. Morley, a three-time winner of the State B cross country title and Gatorade Runner of the Year for Montana, plans to run the 5,000 meters at the New Balance Nationals along with either the one or two mile. For more about her trip to nationals, or to donate, you can visit her page here.

  • 12 Feb 2015

    Entry to Montana wrestling's Four-Timers Club just got tougher

    Winning four straight state wrestling titles is hard enough, but the reclassification of weight classes in Montana that began this year will likely make the feat decidedly more difficult. When the Montana High Schools Association shifted from 15 to 13 wrestling classes, it eliminated the weight at which many four-timers wrestled as freshmen. The 98 and 105 weights were combined -- as were 195 and 220 on the upper end -- to form a new hybrid weight of 103 that will leave fewer holes in brackets and dual lineups. But it also adds new competition for the lightest weight, the one typically housing freshmen, by doubling the participants. "It's going to be interesting with the weight changes," said Columbia Falls wrestling coach Jesse Schaeffer, who has a senior in his wrestling room chasing state title No. 4 this week in Shonn Roberts. "I think that's going to maybe reduce that." Twenty-three Montana wrestlers have completed their four-peats and 11 of those started at 98 pounds of lower -- Gene Davis of Missoula County High, the state's first four-timer, won his freshman year at 95 pounds in 1960 before a similar weight shift later in the decade. Add in Roberts, who will compete at 138 pounds when state action begins Friday in Billings but won at 98 in 2012, and that's exactly half. "It's kind of weird since that's what I wrestled at as a freshman," Roberts began, "but 103, the 98-105 mix, I think that's reasonable. It'll make things a little bit tougher." That's hardly the thinking behind merging weights, though. At either extreme ends of the weight scale (195 and 220 became the 205 class) fewer teams -- especially at lower classifications -- could field a full lineup. Many times, too few entrants there led to a state bracket marred by automatic byes and regular season duals that might as well skip on to 105 pounds anyway. The unintended consequence is that 2015 may be near the last time wrestling fans will get a trio of four-time possibles all on the mats at the same time. Sidney's Gresh Jones joins Roberts in the Class A tournament this week at 126 pounds searching for his fourth, while Forsyth's Matt Weber will be the talk of Class B-C with a potential fourth title. Both boys won their first -- and lightest -- at 112 pounds, though.