BILLINGS — No one made the highlight reel more last year than Junior Bergen. Every time Billings Senior took the field, it seemed like the wide receiver-turned-quarterback was making another spectacular play as he propelled the Broncs to the state semis.
But Bergen’s now on a college field in Missoula after switching his commitment from Montana State to Montana last April.
So with no Junior, what’s next for Senior?
“So this year, instead of, ‘Junior, go make a play. Junior, go do this. Junior, throw the ball to Burckley.’ This year, we’re going to focus as a team," said senior lineman Noah Campbell. "We’re going to do our best working together and see where that gets us.”
It’s a brave new world for new starters like Campbell. There are some returners: Christian Emineth will likely be Bergen’s replacement - he split starter’s reps as a sophomore in 2019. But early on, the team will look to the defensive side to lead.
“We have two linebackers that have played since they were sophomores for us," said head coach Chris Murdock. "And so we’re really going to lean on those guys to lead the way and make sure everybody knows what the expectations around here are.”
“The heart and soul of defense is the D-Line and the linebackers, all of them," Campbell added. "I’m happy they’re on our side because some of those guys are pretty big, and I wouldn’t want to guard them.”
This is technically the first week of practice, but the work started long ago for every team in Montana, so there’s no "easing in."
“That’s why we spend all that time in June/July, getting in shape," Murdock said. "They’ve had a lot a lot of reps, so we do push them. We’re not in pads now, but there are different things we can do for kids to compete.”
The team says this summer’s record heat hasn’t slowed them down. Neither have COVID-19 restrictions.
“Last year was one of the more challenging and longer years that we’ve had in a while, and so this has been quite refreshing," Murdock admitted. "There were so many changes last year, all in a short amount of time, and so it’s nice to get back to the way we do them.”
One more norm he’d like to get back to: winning trophies. Senior will kick off the football season in Billings Thursday, Aug. 26 at Daylis Stadium against Butte High.