KALISPELL — The Kalispell Flathead Braves advanced to the Class AA state championship football game last season for the first time since 2000. Now the program tries to extend that success under a new head coach.
Matt Upham is the new Brave in charge. Upham replaces Kyle Samson, the architect of Flathead's turn-around over the past five years, who now serves as offensive coordinator at Montana Tech. Upham spent the past four seasons as Flathead's defensive coordinator, so he knows the Braves have a good thing going. His main job is to keep the momentum.
"I'm the guy that talks at the end of practice," said Upham explaining the only thing that's different this year. "I've been the defensive coordinator for four years. That role hasn't changed at all. Coach Samson was a great role model for me. He set a great template. Just continuing to do what we've done here. We've had a lot of success in the past. We've got a pretty good culture going. We'll just continue to build on that and get better every day."
"He preaches effort, so a lot more speed, shorter periods, just working as fast as we can, as hard as we can," said senior linebacker Paxton Boyce. "I had him as my defensive coordinator last year. So he's one of my best friends as a coach. So I think it's awesome. I'm super excited to have him."
While Upham strives to keep much of the program the same, he does stress the importance of a clean start this fall. He wants his team to realize last year's success won't do them any good now.
"Last year was last year. We're not talking about last year anymore," stated Upham. "It's 2019. Everybody's 0-0. It's great, I told our kids 10 years from now that's a great memory. But it's 2019. We're not concerned about 2018 at all."
"We're not necessarily thinking about last year a whole lot. But I do think we have momentum coming into this year," said senior offensive and defensive tackle Max Anderson. "And I hope we do really good with what we have, the guys we have."
The Braves know Upham well, and he states the seniors have done a great job stepping up to lead the current group. They will need to hit the ground running, though. Flathead hosts Bozeman in the season opener next Friday night, the same team it upset in the state semifinals last November.