BOZEMAN — On Tuesday, Bozeman's Kellen Harrison added another accolade to his football career: 2023 MaxPreps player of the year for Montana.
The quarterback helped the Bozeman Hawks to an undefeated 12-0 season and their first state championship since 2019.
"It means a lot," he said. "I didn’t really have those expectations going into the year, but I was surrounded by such good teammates and coaches that they put me in spots where I could do that. It was really cool to get that, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates or coaches."
Bozeman coach Levi Wesche said that Harrison’s success stems from what people don’t see — a high level of effort in his preparation during preseason and practices.
"It’s great for our program because kids are going to look at this now and say, ‘Hey, if you want to be successful, I’m going to do it like that guy,’" Wesche said in reference to the precedent Harrison sets. "And then we’ve got a guy like Kellen who does everything right."
Harrison’s a dual threat at quarterback. In the state championship 35-27 win over the Western AA No. 1 seed, Kalispell Glacier, he threw for over 240 yards and four touchdowns. He rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown of his own.
And on the season he had 2,874 throwing yards for 25 touchdowns. He rushed for over 300 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns of his own.
"Talking with coach (Justin) Mobley, our defensive coordinator, he said one of the hardest things to defend is a quarterback that can make plays with his feet as well," Harrison said. "And I feel like it’s kind of harder for teams to game plan against a quarterback that can take off and get first downs on like third and 9 — it’s pretty demoralizing for a defense. But I also had a great line. I barely got hit all season."
Harrison’s isn’t just the starting quarterback — he’s also a starting defensive back. That’s not something you see every day for a state championship quarterback at the Class AA level.
"I put in a lot of work at quarterback with (assistant coach Robert) Boyle, and I also had coach Mobley and coach (Drew) Melton that helped me on defense, and coach Wesche allowed me to play both ways, which obviously, a lot of coaches probably wouldn’t do that, so I appreciate that," Harrison said.
If you saw Harrison in action on defense, you know why Wesche let him play on both sides of the ball. This past season Harrison totaled 27 tackles and five interceptions as a defensive back.
"It’s so funny because I talk to a lot of coaches around the state, and they go, ‘Man, you’re crazy,'" Wesche laughed. "And maybe I am a little bit, but Kellen proved me right every week."
Wesche further explained the team's mindset to having Harrison maintain his role as a starting defensive back.
"You know, our defensive coordinator came to me and said, ‘We’re seven points better every game if Kellen plays (on defense),' so, you know, when you have that kind of advantage, you can take an average of seven points off a game, you’re going to take that every day of the week," Wesche said.
Harrison has now turned his attention to basketball, where he's the starting point guard for the Hawks who are on the hunt for another state title come March.