BILLINGS — When Elijah Reynolds got to high school in the fall of 2017, everything changed.
“I was actually really into basketball until freshman year, then I learned that high school’s a little different. My body turned into a football body," Reynolds said.
He also had a former NCAA Division I player, who could see the future, coming back as the Rams’ head football coach.
“He told me when I was a freshman that I had potential," Reynolds said of his first interaction with Red Lodge coach John Fitzgerald. "He just kept pushing me to get to where I am. I owe a lot to him.”
“He had a little edge to him," said Fitzgerald, a former Montana Grizzly fullback and tight end now in his second stint as Red Lodge's head coach. "He’s always been a pretty good athlete, and he worked hard to get better.”
He had to because Reynolds and the Rams weren’t any good in 2017, losing every single game.
“Freshman, sophomore year we lost a lot," Reynolds admitted, "so having a good junior year definitely helped us in the offseason and get some confidence back.”
“He started both ways as a freshman, and he was humbled a couple times as a freshman," Fitzgerald said. "He took that competitive challenge to get better and he’s risen to the top.”
In just two short years, Reynolds and the Rams went from worst to almost first, losing on the final possession of the Class B state semifinals in 2019. His football body has continued to fill out, and he’s now an imposing 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. That’s why Montana State is planning on him becoming a future star at tight end, but in Red Lodge’s run-first, second and third offense, you won’t see his name much in the stats.
“I do a lot of blocking for Jay (Jetmore)," Reynolds laughed.
On most plays, Reynolds plays more of a fullback role, making holes for buddy Jay Jetmore, and he makes big ones. In the Rams’ season-opening win Friday against Big Timber, Jetmore ran for 381 yards and five touchdowns.
“When I get a block and he’s running past me, there’s nothing better than that," Reynolds said. "I’d rather do that than catch a touchdown.”
“I think his leadership skills are transferring down to our younger students right now, and that kind of leadership is transforming our program," Fitzgerald said of Reynolds' impact.
But the senior still has one more thing to do before he moves on.
“One more win. One more win than (last year)," Reynolds said. "Red Lodge has never really had (a state championship), so that’s our motivation, is to be the first, ... just make history.”
Reynolds is doing that a lot these days.