The Billings West football team had a ton of guys getting their first varsity game action last season.
Well, a good portion of those faces are back and lead a Golden Bears team hungry to build off last year’s 6-4 record.
“Right now, we're probably two to three weeks ahead of where we were last year," head coach Rob Stanton said. "We have a lot of kids back. Defensively we've got a couple linebackers back. I don't know yet until we start playing on Friday nights. Everything looks good on paper, but we'll see."
“I think last year as our first year of varsity experience for a lot of guys, and especially myself, it was a little fast sometimes. This year I hope I can slow the game down and be a leader to the younger guys, too," senior quarterback Drew McDowell said.
It certainly helps to have a quarterback returning, as McDowell is for West. But he has his hands full day-in, day-out with what should be one of the top defensive units in the state.
“I think it helps us a lot. Especially improving from last year, we're going to get quality defensive reps against our offense. Even in scout, it's pretty much varsity-on-varsity," linebacker Cooper Freitag said.
“It's invaluable. It's more of where you get some good looks against some really good competition against some all-state players," Stanton said. "We think we have some guys on defense, starting with our linebacker crew, that are pretty good. They're fast and they're smart, and we think we should be decent on that side of the ball. But who knows until Friday night."
These guys are grinding through two-a-days in the grueling August heat, but Stanton makes sure the players are hydrated, at least under his watch.
“As a coaching staff we joke that not many kids would have made the good old days where it was three-a-days and you're hitting the whole time. We would be incarcerated maybe if we did that today," Stanton said.
"The kids, that's really up to them to a degree where in between they have to get their hydration. The main thing is you've got to put those dang phones away at night and get some sleep."
West kicks off the season at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium on Aug. 25 against Butte.