BIG TIMBER -- The Big Timber football program is coming off one of its most successful years in quite some time. The Sheepherders reached the semifinals of the Class B playoffs in 2018 before bowing out to Missoula Loyola, but they lost several standout seniors from that squad. Gone are the likes of Casey Gunlikson, Ethan Bullock and Blake Finn, setting the stage for the rise of new names.
“You don’t get those kind of classes very often," Big Timber head coach JV Moody said. "It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough to replace the talent and the size that we had, the speed that we had last year. We have a lot of promise out here. We have a lot of young kids, we had 18 freshmen come out this year. Eighteen kids that really worked hard in the offseason.”
“Those guys are one of a kind, it’s hard to replace them," Big Timber senior captain Cody Stene said. "We’ve got some young guys that are looking pretty good. They’re going to be different, but I think we’re going to get it done in different kinds of ways.”
Although Big Timber is replacing a large chunk of its starters on both sides of the ball, the Sheepherders are focused on reloading rather than rebuilding. Seniors like Stene, Connor Dringman and Dawson Laverell played significant snaps last year and are being leaned upon as leaders.
“We have a lot of good kids coming back. We had a good year in the offseason," Moody said. "Kids are in the weight room, kids are working out, and that’s shown in the first couple days of practice. Now we just have to plug and play. We’ve got to figure out where the kids are going to go.”
“I’m confident we’ll be able to fill in those gaps," Dringman said. "It’s going to be hard, obviously, but with hard work we can step up and we can fill those spots, and I think that we can get it done this year.”
Last year’s success was also noticed by the incoming freshman class. Big Timber has around 45 kids on the roster this year, with 18 of those being freshmen. Some of those freshmen could be contributors.
“I think Big Timber has always been a football-oriented town. Kids have always kind of looked up to the high school football team and wanted to play, but I think our success last year probably did help encourage some of those younger guys,” Dringman said.
“We have a lot of young guys that are looking really strong," Stene said of the incoming freshman class. "We have a lot of shoes to fill, but I think those young guys are really going to step up this year and continue what we started last year.”