BROWNING – Coach Jerry Racine ran into a problem in the first couple days of Browning football fall camp.
“We have about 60 kids. Last year we had about 42,” he explained. “So we have a few kids that don’t have helmets yet.”
It’s a not bad problem to have.
“That just means we have to invest in the program more,” he said. “It’s a good thing, a positive thing. We also have more kids in the weight room than in the past. The energy throughout the town, just wanting to get back to football season. It’s definitely a positive thing in our community.”
Browning has undergone a wholesale change in Racine’s three years at the helm, and new players have flocked to the program. Last year, the team snapped a 34-game losing streak and were the surprise of Class A with a 5-4 regular season record and a 4-1 mark in the Northwest division. That led to the first home playoff game in school history.
The school and the Blackfeet community took notice.
“They built stands for us,” mentioned senior receiver Brant Bremner. “Now the businesses around town write ‘Go Big Red’ on their windows. It makes you feel good and it lets you know there’s people out there that want you to succeed.”
But one successful season doesn’t make a winning program. The only thing that will make Browning a perennial contender is hard work and a culture change. And Racine has seen his players take great strides on the field, in the weight room, and in the classroom.
“It’s really fun to see, they’re competing extremely well across the board and coming together as a group,” he said. “And that’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do is just be fans of each other. Bring the energy, have each other’s back but be fans of each other.”
The Indians lost several stars from last year’s resurgent squad, including lineman Brandon Aimsback, receiver James Gilham and twins Derek and Dylan Loring. But the returning core is strong. All-state lineman Jacob Boggs returns, as does Bremner, who earned all-state honors as a receiver. Ethan Running Crane will start at quarterback after backing up Dylan Loring last year.
“It’s more of a reloading year because of the talent that we did bring back,” Racine said. “And that’s just it. We have a lot of guys that are really hungry willing to fill those shoes. Those guys we lost built the foundation for our new culture that we have here, but these guys built it with them.”
This year’s team doesn’t want to give up an inch of the ground they gained last year.
“I want to make sure that the streak that we just broke doesn’t catch up with us,” said Boggs. “We’re not going to fall back into that pit. I want to help make sure that everyone for the next 10 or 20 years keeps working hard and keeps pushing this program to where it should be.”
And where could that be in 2018?
“The bar is even higher this year,” said Bremner. “We got our fans behind us now. Everybody is going for it and its our one goal — to win Browning’s first playoff game.”
The Indians open the season on the road against Corvallis on Aug. 24.