HELENA — Friday morning was the beginning of fall practices for most sanctioned MHSA sports and nearly every team across the state was buzzing with anticipation for this day.
At Helena High, the Bengals are coming off of a solid showing last year after going 6-2 overall, while the Helena Capital Bruins went 4-5 but were able to capture a playoff upset against the Butte Bulldogs in the first round of the Class AA playoffs. For a lot of the seniors on both squads, the final first day of their high school football career brings unbridled excitement, but couples it with a bittersweet feeling.
“I'm just excited to play with my friends, you know? It's the last year I'll get to play with all these guys," said Capital senior linebacker Tucker Zanto. "I've known all these guys since I was like five or six and it's my last time I'll get to play with them. So I want to go out with the state championship.”
“Just excited to be out here again with my senior boys and all the coaches, and now the underclassmen and really excited about that,” said Helena senior quarterback Kaden Huot.
Starting at Helena, head coach Scott Evans noted their first practice starts with trying to really get to know the kids he and his coaches will be working with this fall. Evans also noted that being able to come into this year with at least a semblance of normalcy is a blessing.
“It's great to get kids back. You know, there's some sense of normalcy. Of course not totally normal. We understand that with COVID protocols still, but at the same time, there's, it's excitement here every year you start football up," said Evans. "You just feel good to be on the grass again. That's what we're about.”
Understandably, the Bengals are ready to navigate their next two weeks of practices before they open the season, but there's one thing that senior linebacker Marcus Evans is looking forward to.
“To play games. I'm excited that we got the scrimmage next week, but can't wait for the first game,” he said.
The Bengals will open their season on August 27 against Great Falls High in Great Falls.
The Helena Capital Bruins started their practice shortly after the Bengals on Friday morning and for head coach Kyle Mihelish every year starts with the hope of a state title, this year is no different as the Bruins look to escape the first round of the playoffs down the stretch.
"I know there isn't any reason why we shouldn't be in the top four teams by the end of the year. That's our goal. We want to improve," said Mihelish."Sure we won a playoff game last year, I guess you would say kind of an upset of Butte and then we went on to play Billings West. But we want to continue, we want to be there in the latter part of the year.”
The Bruins open their season on August 27 when they host the Bozeman Hawks.