HELENA — In the first tests of the season for the Helena High and Helena Capital football squads, they'll take on teams that they haven't seen since 2016 in the Great Falls High Bison and the Bozeman Hawks, respectively.
The Helena Capital Bruins will open their season at home when they welcome Bozeman High to Vigilante Stadium on Friday night. Though the two teams haven't squared off in over five years, Bozeman's reputation across that time speaks volumes according to Bruins head coach Kyle Mihelish, and Friday night will be a good test to see where his squad is at.
"We want to have a good showing. I know I'm excited, I know our coaches are excited, kids are excited. (Head coach Levi Wesche) puts out a great product. He's done a great job there for the last few years. I mean, they're, you know, they win a title and they're in the semi-finals last year against Billings West. So they're going to be coached up, they're gonna be ready to go," said Mihelish on Tuesday afternoon. "They're big, they're talented, they're physical, so it'll be a good -- it'll be a good match-up for us. It'll be good to see what we can do as a football team come Friday night."
Friday night also marks the return of nonconference match-ups, which on its face seems like it could change the way a team prepares. However, the Bruins don't see a reason to, it's always going to be full steam ahead.
"We’re still here to work as hard as we can and just push ourselves every day and just be the best we can and come out prepared for game one," said senior center Dylan Cunningham. "I'm ready to go. I want to play and it's really exciting to get back on the field. I just want to be out here. Great guys here and so we just want to get ready to go."
At Helena High, the Bengals will open their season on the road just over 90 miles to the north when they square off against the Great Falls High Bison. Much like the Bruins and the Hawks, this meeting will be the first time since 2016 for the two squads, and though there's certainly film of the Bison for the Bengals to watch as they prepare, another tool they're using to scout is player's film off of the football field.
"We watch a lot of film from last year, and we looked at their scrimmage, but we kind of know who their athletes are through track and other stuff," said senior wide receiver Chase McGurran. "So, we just kind of base our defense off of that and get a game plan ready."
"Competitiveness. You look at a kid like Reed Harris, you know he's competitive at state track, you know he's competitive in the long jump and they compete at a high level. And you see those guys doing that and you see him in basketball, leading his team in post-season title games, things like that. So, you see that competitive edge and athleticism that you can't see necessarily just in football," said Helena High head coach Scott Evans. "So, not playing them, we have to kind of look at some other sports kind of get some idea of how actually versatile they are."
Though the Bengals are taking all of this into account, the fact of the matter remains the same: they can only control how they react to the Bison's offense and defense which is why Bengals players feel like they're prepared heading into Friday night.
"I feel like we're really prepared for all they're going to show. I feel like they're going to do a lot of different stuff and show different schemes and stuff that we haven't seen, but I feel like us just working on the little things and everything else will be fine for whatever they show us," said Helena High senior defensive end Forrest Suero.
Helena High and Great Falls High will kickoff in Great Falls on Friday at 7 p.m, while Helena Capital and Bozeman High will open their seasons on Friday in Helena at 7 p.m.