MISSOULA – Friday marked the first day that high school football teams across the state reported to camp. And perhaps no other team in the Treasure State was more eager to get back on the field than the Missoula Loyola Rams.
They remember all too well what happened in the Montana Class B state championship last season.
“It’s still unnerving to think about,” said Rams guard/linebacker Curtis Williams. “I mean, I just heard the crowd — half the field erupted, half of it went dead silent.”
Leading Eureka by 3 points, all the Rams needed was one stop on defense. Unfortunately for Loyola, Eureka receiver Austyn Sherwood found space behind the Rams’ secondary, and hauled in the state championship-winning touchdown as time expired.
“It’s going to sting for a long time because you can never get it back,” said Rams head coach Todd Hughes. “You can’t put your finger on why it happened that way, and so it probably hurts a little bit harder. But these kids have worked hard this summer individually, just in the weight room and stuff. This senior group, they don’t want that to happen again.”
With the state title game in the past, Loyola looks to its future, which has proven to always be bright under Hughes.
But the Rams have some work ahead of them. Thirteen seniors graduated from last year’s team, leaving voids across the depth chart, as well as leadership roles, to be filled.
“Stepping in as a senior, it’s something that you have to earn,” said Joe McElroy, the team’s left tackle who lines up on the defensive side of the ball, as well. “You just don’t get coming in as a senior. Just respect one another, treat everyone how you want to be treated, and it comes back to you. It’s like good karma. It comes back in the right way.”
“I’m just trying to show them the brotherhood, not even the technicalities and football stuff. More the mental game, because football really is all mental,” added Williams. “It’s how you deal with adversity, and the way you can forget about that last play and the mistakes you made.”
The Rams open the season against the Huntley Project Red Devils. The two teams will meet in Bozeman on Aug. 25 to play on Bobcat Stadium’s new turf.