BOZEMAN — Four years ago, Bozeman Gallatin High School opened its doors. This season is the first in program history the football team has four-year veterans. They've spent the entirety of their high school careers with the Raptors under the leadership of coach Hunter Chandler.
And they’re determined and putting in the work to make this year more special than ever before.
“You know, I don’t know if I’ve ever spent as much time around a group of kids as I have with these guys, and I can still see their faces when they were, you know, seems like yesterday they were 14, and they came in, and now they’re turning into men," Chandler said.
"They’ll be something that we remember in our program for a long time because they put in a lot of work to get us where we’re at today.”
For the seniors, being able to share the process with one another is just as special as it is to their coaches. They've committed so much time and energy to building up a program that started just a few years ago, and they have one last ride together.
“We started together as freshman, so we built up as seniors," Raptors senior Kyle Mounts explained. "I think that we’re all ready to rock with the same mindset. We’re already to play as a team. We’re all ready to work.”
And each year, the Raptors program improves even more than the last. In 2022, they made their first deep playoff run all the way to the Class AA semifinals, losing to the Bozeman Hawks 28-9. But they’re looking ahead to work even harder and to achieve even more this upcoming season.
“It was a good season last year, but we didn’t get exactly where we wanted to be, and that’s also over," Chandler explained. "Every year is a new year, and it’s a new puzzle. You've got to be able to keep moving forward, and we’re also excited about that too. We’ve got a little more depth than we’ve had in the past, and I think that will help us definitely in the long run.”
Looking ahead to the goals of this season, it’s important to the Raptors to stay dialed in each and every day. The seniors are leading by example by remaining hungry and bringing humility to the field every day.
“Just try to be humble," Raptors senior receiver Quinn Clark said. "Just work one day at a time, and try and get better every day and that will eventually pay out in games. We all have to make strides to be better leaders, obviously, but you know, it feels good to help the little kids and develop myself.”
Each teams take a different approach to their preseason regimen, and Chandler enjoys the amount of time they can dedicate to the sport and to their team.
“We practice, we have meetings, we have lunch together, we spend a lot of time together," he explained. "Obviously, we got to get all our stuff in and focus on that, but it’s also a good time to bring the team together, and get that bond, that brotherhood rolling again.”
A brotherhood — something so present in everything they do. They went through the grind of summer workouts together, and now preseason, as a family, which makes the long days even easier.
“Our team as a whole, we’ve worked really hard this summer to get out here, and it just felt good to get out here and compete with the guys again," Mounts said.
Clark, who has committed to play college football at Nebraska, reflected his teammate's thoughts, and mentioned how important it has been to be able to just have fun together as friends too.
“Just out here having fun, I’m sure you saw us dancing around, but just we’re getting focused and getting ready to play games, you know," Clark said. "You only get that high school experience once, you know, and I got to make the most of it.”
The Raptors open their season on the road against defending state champion Helena Capital on Aug. 25.