GREAT FALLS -- If you’ve ever been to a Great Falls CMR football practice over the past 56 years and then stopped by one this year, you’d notice a stark difference.
Dennis Morris, in his first year as head coach, brings a lot of energy to the field, but it’s what he’s added to practice that players appreciate.
For the first time in program history, there’s music blaring from speakers at Pride Field.
“I’ll tell you what, it does keep them going. You don’t know how much juice music brings until you watch the music go off and watch the kids go dead silent,” Morris said. “It’s something that our kids enjoy, and you get a lot more energy out of it. Seeing the kids bouncing around in between plays just keeps our energy high.”
“It hypes me up,” said senior defensive end Andrew Altschwager. “It goes all the way back to summer lifting when we’d blast a whole bunch of music, just to make sure that it gets us all pumped up and ready to go.”
And the Rustlers (2-4) will need the energy this week against their crosstown rival Great Falls High on Friday. CMR leads the all-time series with GFH 36-24 but has lost the last two meetings and three of the last four.
What’s more, in addition to pride and bragging rights, the game will have major seeding implications for the playoffs.
“A win on Friday night puts us in Billings against Skyview, a very beatable team, and a loss puts us against Bozeman, a really tough challenge,” Morris said. “So it’s not only a game that we want to win against our crosstown rival, but a game that we got to win to stay alive.”
CMR has been able to play its entire schedule but has lost several starters over the course of the year due to COVID quarantines. The Rustlers enter Friday at mostly full strength with a chance to close the regular season on a high note and build some momentum for a postseason run.
“I think our guys are feeling a little more energy and getting a little more aggressive than we were towards the beginning of the season,” said junior nose tackle Davin Hickman. “We’re starting to feel the crosstown mood and starting to get ready for the ‘Beat the Bison’ time.”
This is the first crosstown matchup for Morris as head coach, but he’s well-versed in the rivalry having played for the legendary Jack Johnson at CMR in the 1990s.
“Like we told the guys (this week), if you can’t get excited for this then you’re not even human,” Morris said. “You go to rivalry games, like Cat-Griz, and then realize that this is a bigger rivalry than that. So we’re just jacked up for this week.”
GREAT FALLS CROSSTOWN FACTS (Courtesy of Great Falls Public Schools):
Friday will be the 61st overall meeting and the 56th regular-season meeting.
-Overall CMR leads the series 36-24.
-Regular season CMR leads 32-23
CMR and GFH have met four times for the state championship and one time in the semifinals.
- 1983 state championship -- GFH
- 1985 state championship -- CMR
- 1989 state championship -- CMR
- 1990 state championship -- CMR
- 2002 semifinal -- CMR