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Big Sky's Johnson, Hellgate's Softich reunite as coaches on football field

The last time that Matt Softich and Matt Johnson shared a football field, by the latter’s recollection at least, was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years ago.

And the field wasn’t in Missoula where both men coach high school football now — Johnson at Big Sky, Softich at Hellgate. That last time was in Anaconda when Johnson was quarterbacking the Copperheads as a prep player and Softich was his QB coach.

They’re back together at Missoula County Stadium when the crosstown foes collide Friday night.

“I’ve known Matt since — forever,” Softich said, holding out his hand waist high measuring a young, invisible Matt Johnson.

Softich, a 1978 graduate of Anaconda High School, coached at his alma mater before stops at Montana Tech, the University of Montana and some semi pro teams, among others. The first-year Hellgate coach has mellowed a bit since those days in the early 90s back in Anaconda.

“He would always walk around and headbutt everybody before the games,” said Johnson, a ’96 grad, of his coach’s preferred method of firing up the players. “We had football helmets on. He didn’t.”

Johnson’s Eagles will play the role of the favorite when their teams meet up this week. Big Sky is 3-3 and sniffing at a Missoula city championship. A win in Friday’s matchup would clinch it.

Hellgate on the other hand is still seeking its first win and the first win in the Softich era as head Knight.

And though the two coaches go way back, this week there’s no polite chit-chat between them, Softich said.

“It’s game week and you set all that stuff aside,” said Softich before turning his attention to Johnson’s five-year run as Eagles’ head coach. “Missoula is really lucky in general and Big Sky in particular to have him as their football coach. I have a lot of respect for Matt; he’s a great guy, a great coach, cares about the kids.”

And next week they can go back to being friends again.


 

UPDATE: Big Sky beat the Knights 52-0 on Friday to win the Missoula city championship.

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