GREAT FALLS — When the Great Falls High football team takes the field against Billings West on Friday night the Bison will do so with several things weighing on their hearts.

First, joy. Assistant coach Koda Tchida and his wife, Karlee, welcomed a baby girl into the world last week.

“Beautiful, healthy baby girl,” described Bison head coach Mark Samson. “Congrats to the Tchida family.”

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Second, concern. Troy Ross, the 3-year-old son of assistant Wes Ross is still fighting to get healthy at the Seattle Children’s Hospital after an unknown illness caused respiratory failure.

“The little kid is a cute little kid,” Samson said. “He’s been to our practices, he’s been to our games and stuff. I couldn’t believe it when Wes called me the day after it happened when they were already in Seattle.”

The team immediately reached out in support.

“We’re all thinking about him,” said junior receiver Blake Thelen. “Coach Samson posted his number in the locker room, so anyone who wants to give him a shoutout can text him and just let him know we’re all thinking about him, hoping that Troy will get better. We’re a Bison family and he’s part of that family, so we just got to stick with him through the good times and the bad times.”

For Samson and the coaching staff it puts things in perspective.

“As intense as a 58-year-old man gets in football it kind of puts in focus what we’re doing all here,” Samson said. “Sometimes as coaches we forget these things and sometimes you need something to remind you just how precious life is.”

As each day passes, Troy makes progress in Seattle. His breathing tube was removed on Thursday as his lungs get stronger.

“He still remains in ICU and if he requires help breathing again, they have certain steps ready in hopes he won’t have to be intubated again,” his mother, Callie, wrote in a Facebook post. “As for a diagnosis and treatment from this point forward, that is still a mystery.”

The hope is that it won’t be long before the Ross family can return home and Troy can just be a regular 3-year-old kid again.

“Like I told Wes last night, hopefully some day 15 years from now when your son’s playing linebacker for me,” Samson said, “we’re going to look back on this and say it’s just a blip in the radar.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: There are several ways to show your support for Troy and the Ross family. A GoFundMe page has been set up. Donate blood and post a selfie using the #PintsForTroy hashtag. Michelle Mitchell-Devine, a neighbor of the Ross family, is printing #TroyStrong shirts to help raise funds for the family)

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