BUTTE — There’s a noticeable difference surrounding Mike Cutler’s football practices during this week’s 8-Man all-star festivities and the regular season at Drummond-Philipsburg. In the fall, it’s all business all the time. This week, it’s smiles, laughs and jokes.
“It’s so much fun, especially being with these other coaches that you’re clashing with during the season. We try to make this as fun as possible,” said Cutler, who is coaching the Blue Team for this Saturday’s Bob Cleverley 8-Man All-Star Game.
“We have to get our work done, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a point in time where you want to have a little bit of fun,” he continued, noting the leg wrestling competition to end Tuesday’s afternoon practice. “We’ll do something like that at the end of every practice.”
Players on the Blue Team say they enjoy Cutler’s intensity, as well as the sheer knowledge he’s bringing for the game. But how many of those players recognize Cutler for his work as a player – the five appearances in the Montana High School Association record books and the hall of fame career at Montana Western?
“I don’t really think they know him, but I know who he is,” said Drummond-Philipsburg quarterback Colton Grange. “He has a ring from Western that he always shows us. He’s in the hall of fame at Western, so that’s pretty sweet.”
“They probably don’t. We have (Arlee) coach (Chuck) Forgey in the hall of fame (at Montana Tech) and I don’t think they know the caliber of football guys around them,” said Charlo’s Mike Krahn, an assistant on the Blue Team. “Those coaches are humble guys, they’re not going to say anything about it, but we know as coaches. The kids, maybe not so much.”
“No. I don’t even remember that,” Cutler laughed of his playing days. “No, I’m not going to show them anything. I couldn’t show them a damn thing. I was trying to show them how to cradle (Tuesday) morning on a pooch kick or something, and it took me three and a half minutes to get off the ground. Those days are gone.”
Players might not recognize the talent on their coaching staff, but they certainly do of their teammates, with rivals becoming friends.
“There’s a couple of kids I didn’t like during the season, but they’re pretty cool guys now that I get to know them,” said Joliet’s Trey Oswald. “Tanner and Corbin Wood (of Ennis), I didn’t like them during the season, but they’re pretty good guys, I guess.”
Players from Harlowton to Denton-Geyser-Stanford to Arlee make up the Blue Team for Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. at Montana Tech’s Alumni Coliseum. Though their backgrounds differ, the players are finding common ground.
“Everybody wants to beat Forsyth, and it’s kind of funny because I can say to them, ‘It doesn’t really matter to me, because I already beat them once.’ They get all (sour) when I say that,” laughed Grange, who was on the Drummond-Philipsburg team that defeated Forsyth 44-30 in last fall’s state championship.
Forsyth coach Shawn Hollowell is leading the Red Team and has seven former Dogies — Caleb Knoche, Logan Martens, Nathan Weber, Lex Heberle, Mickey Bidwell, Cade Johnstone and Paul Johnstone — on the roster. Forsyth, which finished the season with a 12-1 overall record in its first year playing 8-Man football, defeated Charlo in the quarterfinals of the playoffs and Ennis in the semifinals.
“We want to beat the best,” Cutler said. “You heard all year long that Forsyth was the best and they have six or seven kids (on the Red Team). I don’t know that that’s my motivation, but if that’s what works for the kids, I’m all about it.”
“I was told to not trash talk by the coaches, so I’m just going to keep my mouth shut,” said Oswald.