COLUMBIA FALLS — After going undefeated and winning the Class A state title in dominating fashion, five seniors from the Columbia Falls boys soccer team recently announced their commitments to take their talents to the collegiate level.
"We all kind of saw this chemistry and this magic come together like in junior high, and then they just kind of kept sticking with it and it's a special group, that's for sure," said head coach O’Brien Byrd. "And definitely made a really big impact on my life and made me a better coach, definitely."
One commit, Nico Lang, is headed to Edgewood College in Wisconsin near where his mom grew up. But while he looks ahead, he's also still relishing the state win and couldn't be more grateful for all that led up to it.
"It's like the perfect way to leave the program to because I've learned and grown so much in the game and out of the game," said a grateful Lang. "And it's helped me so much through school through high school. I have so much respect for this program and I owe so much thanks to it."
Dale Blickhan who will be attending Bellevue College in Washington is overjoyed to be continuing the sport he loves and knows him and his teammates couldn’t have done it alone.
"That’s been a big part of my life, played soccer like year round for the past like five years," said Blickhan with a smile. "And O’Brien's done a lot for us, pretty much helped us all get to the colleges that we're at right now, so it's pretty cool."
Although sad to move on Finley Schumacher-Sundberg knows his future at Evergreen State College in Washington will be bright and he won’t be there alone.
"It’s meant like everything because almost every single person from that state soccer team, all of the seniors, they're all my best friends," said a sentimental Schumacher-Sundberg. "One of my best friends is actually going to play with me at Evergreen. He was on this team, we're both going there next year, so I'm super excited for that."
Future Evergreen State teammate Walton Nichols knows no matter what his future career has in store, Columbia Falls will always hold a special place in his heart.
"Going back to fifth and sixth grade, even before that, watching the kids play here at Columbia Falls meant so much to me, said a reminiscent Nichols. "And then being that kid that younger kids look up to and get to watch the play, it means everything to me. And the coaches here, the players here, it made high school worth it."
And finally there's Bryce Dunham. He's staying in state playing for Montana State Billings, but that doesn't mean his connection with his former teammates will end.
"I think it's real special that all of us are going to play at the next level, spreading out," said an emotional Dunham. "I'll be able to play Walton and Finley still, but yeah I'm just, I'm just really excited."