Twenty-three Choteau High School boys have gone out for eight-player football this season and will play their first varsity game on Friday, Aug. 27, on the road in Sheridan at 7 p.m.
Lucas Gunderson returns as head coach and will be assisted by Dan Yeager and Chad Peebles. Choteau will run both a varsity and junior varsity schedule this year. The JV team will play its first game on Monday, Aug. 30, at home against Chinook at 4:30 p.m.
There are 48 schools making up 43 teams in the eight-player football program this season. Teams are divided into four divisions: Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western. Choteau plays in the Northern Division along with other Pool A teams Fort Benton, Great Falls Central Catholic, Belt, Cascade and Rocky Boy. The Pool B teams are Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Simms, Hays-Lodgepole, Chinook, Shelby and Harlem.
The Bulldogs began two-a-day practices on Aug. 13 so they could all get the required 10 practices in before the first game.
Gunderson is again the offensive coordinator and is working with the quarterbacks, receivers and linebackers. Dan Yeager is the defensive coordinator and works with the running backs and defensive backs, and Peebles works with the offensive and defensive lines.
Turnout for the team is up from 18 last year. Players out this year include: seniors — Carter Morgan, Jared Selander, Jeff Colesworthy and Jacob Major; juniors, Jacob Beattie, Derek Brownell, Landon Jamison, Cody Hunter, Weylin Johnson, Garrett Torok and Will Patterson; sophomores, Dillon Harrell, Roan Stott, Gus Lee and Bowen Rappold; and freshmen, Kellen Meyer, Nathan Gunderson, Justyce Yeager, Logan Yeager, Carson Thomas, Parker Naylor, Gus Johnson and Nick Morgan.
Gunderson said practices have been going well. The boys appreciated the cool rainy days after several, hot, smoky practices. “It’s a great group. They are a hard-working bunch of kids; they get after it,” the coach said, adding that the boys are cohesive, listen well and are very coachable.
This team has a good-sized offensive line, averaging 200 pounds with some bigger kids including Major at 215 pounds and Patterson at 255 pounds. Lee returns for his second year as the starting center, and with a solid O-line, Gunderson said, he expects quarterback Rappold to run the ball, handing off to Carter Morgan, Brownell and Colesworthy. When he mixes it up with a pass, his likely receivers are Beattie, along with Brownell and Colesworthy.
Meyer and Nathan Gunderson, who are playing quarterback on the junior varsity squad, will be Rappold’s backups at the varsity level.
Choteau will run a three-man front with Carter Morgan, Selander and Colesworthy in the middle. Beattie, Brownell, Rappold and Weylin Johnson will rotate in as safeties.
Looking at Pool A teams, Gunderson said Belt, Cascade and Fort Benton are all likely to field tough teams. GFCC is likely to be down somewhat and Rocky Boy will probably be at roughly the same skill level as last year. Choteau’s boys want to win their pool and if that’s not possibly they want to at least end in the top three for a shot at the playoffs, which start in late October. The first round of playoffs is Oct. 3, with quarterfinals Nov. 6, semifinals Nov. 13 and the state championship on Nov. 20.
The defending state champion is the cooperative team of Drummond/Granite, which defeated Scobey/Opheim in last year’s championships. Choteau did not make the playoffs last season.
The boys’ conference season will start on Sept. 3 at home, when they will host Belt. Gunderson said this will be a very tough game right out of the gate. Choteau’s Homecoming game will be on Sept. 24 against Rocky Boy. Choteau will play seven regular-season games and then has the chance for a seeded playoff game on Oct. 15 or 16 to advance to the playoffs.
In this week’s nonconference game with Sheridan, Choteau should be competitive, Gunderson said. The Sheridan team lost three senior running backs and one lineman to graduation last year. He expects Sheridan to mostly run the ball and break their offense up with some passing.
Gunderson said his team has high hopes for a good season and he sees a squad that can go far. He said he would know more about what the team needs to work on after the Sheridan game.