BILLINGS — Rocky football coach Chris Stutzriem has preached the importance of team culture since taking over in December of 2018.
It culminated last season with a share of the Frontier Conference title and coach of the year honors for the Battlin’ Bears’ head man.
That’s led to some pretty high expectations entering fall camp.
“If you don’t want that, then you’re not the competitors we want here at Rocky Mountain College. It’s very important to us that we want to win every game. We want to win every drill, whether it’s against ourselves or competing from within," Stutzriem said. "We know that the season is tough. Anybody can be beat in this league on any given day. So no matter what happens on Saturday, 24-hour rule, we’ll either embrace it and love or lick our wounds for 24 hours, but we’re back to work and on to the next one.”
Rocky is ranked inside the top 25 in multiple preseason polls thanks to returning all-conference guys on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Nathan Dick is the headliner for an explosive offense, but the defensive side of the ball grew leaps and bounds throughout last season.
“Defensively I love our scheme, I love our game plans," Stutzriem said. "I think we put players in good positions. I think now it comes down to knowing I can do it instead of wait and see that I can do it. Again, it’s the mental side of things to make sure we’re ready to go week in and week out, and that starts with preparation.”
Despite a 7-3 record and a share of the conference title, Rocky found itself on the outside of the playoffs last season. All three of those losses came in one-score games by a combined 12 points, which left a bitter taste all winter.
“Being in Dillon, that long bus ride home – it’s not that long, but it seemed even longer that night. It’s just fuel to the fire. No one expected us to be there, but we were there," Dick said. "At the end of the day, it’s just something that sticks in the back of your mind when its 100 degrees out and we’re practicing, but it’s like, who cares? We don’t want to have that feeling again and we’re going to do the best we can to be as successful as we can.”
“It sucks. When you go see a team playing, at the end of the day we should have won. That’s what we should have done. We can only blame ourselves. Really proud of our team and the steps and strides we’re making," Stutzriem said. "Now we’re kind of getting preseason picked whatever that means in this conference, but we’ve got to stay healthy, number one, and still believe in each other and keep going. But that was kind of our motivation throughout spring ball and winter conditioning.”
Rocky opens up the season on Saturday, Aug. 27 on the road at Southern Oregon.