MISSOULA — The nature of high school football makes every team replace star seniors every season. Missoula Sentinel knows all about that challenge this year, but the Spartans have seem to come up with good answers lately.
Sentinel is still waiting for a big breakthrough in Class AA, but the Spartans have not had a single losing season over the past four years. Head coach Dane Oliver's club keeps creating new stars, and the current group is ready to face the pressure this fall.
"That's one of the things I love about this program, is that we have so many young people that are willing to step up and fill those spots," said senior offensive tackle and defensive end Jarod Duvall. "Maybe we're going to have some empty gaps towards the beginning of the season. But I'm not worried at all, because we have tons of younger kids who are willing to step up. And they are energetic, as well."
"It makes them pay more attention to detail from a kid's perspective, because they know if they are not getting it done there is somebody else bouncing in there," added Oliver. "But I think that's how the program takes the next step, is you have that competition. So it's healthy and it's exciting."
Sentinel just missed a playoff spot on a tiebreaker a year ago. But if each class of Spartans keeps doing its part, the program will keep going in the right direction.
"I feel like we've got the wind behind our sail in the program, from freshmen, JV, varsity," said Oliver. "And I think that's just the legacy passed down from the older kids. So depth is there. Numbers are great."
"A lot of the kids have been just waiting for their turn for years. It's finally their time to shine," said senior wide receiver and cornerback Preston Jones. "All of our classes are super close. So we all trust each other. Sophomores that are starting, the seniors trust them. Same for all of it, pretty much. There is a lot of trust built with our team. That's why having so much depth helps a lot."
Oliver loves the makeup of his offensive and defensive lines. One key spot to watch comes at quarterback, where junior Dayton Bay and sophomore Zac Crews are battling for the right to replace current Montana State Bobcat Rylan Ortt.
Sentinel opens the season on Friday, Aug. 30 at Great Falls High.