The Columbia Falls Wildcats took home the first Class A state football title in school history last season, defeating Hamilton in the title game, 26-14.
A group of seniors led by Austin Green, now a freshman at Montana Western, went out on top, but the Wildcats have another class looking to make their mark in the history books.
“We think we’re going to be reloaded,” Columbia Falls head coach Jaxon Schweikert said. “We think we’ve got some really good kids that are going to replace those guys. You’re never as good as you think you are and never as bad as you think you are, but we feel like we’re going to have another strong team like that.”
Columbia Falls dominated its conference last year, outscoring opponents by an average of 55-4. A big reason for the Wildcats’ success was their physicality on the offensive and defensive lines. Schweikert believes his defense will once again be among the best in the state, as will his offensive line.
“It’s going to be really hard to run the ball against us. We’re going to have really good corners again, and we just feel like defensively we’re going to be really tough,” Schweikert said. “Our offensive line, last year clearly was the best offensive line in the state, and we think they’re going to be similar. Three of the five (starters) are back.”
Schweikert hasn’t let Columbia Falls get complacent. They open up the season against Hamilton in a rematch of last year’s state championship and host perennial power Dillon the following week.
“When we go play Dillon and Hamilton, people always say it’s crazy because we’re not worried about winning or losing,” Schweikert said. “They’re preseason games. The reason we put those teams on there is because year in year out they’re two of the best teams in the state. They give you answers.”
There is one thing Schweikert may not be able to find an answer for – Billings Central and Chrishon Dixon.
“That’s the first kid that would have came to mind is that young man,” Schweikert said of Dixon and his explosiveness. “To tell you the truth, Billings Central in general. We think they were really good last year and they were young, so we think they’re going to be really tough as a squad.”
“We need to give that kid opportunities with the ball because he can do so many good things,” Billings Central head coach Jim Stanton said of Dixon. “On one hand, get him the ball. On the other hand, being a distraction and hopefully allowing, if teams want to give a lot of attention to him, we can find some other things that work well. He’s definitely the key to a lot of what we’re doing on offense.”
Billings Central fell in the semifinals to Hamilton last year, 35-28, but returns a number of kids from that team that have been motivated by the loss.
“We’ve got a good group of kids coming back and they don’t want to go through that again,” Stanton said of the loss. “They’re a real tight group, a group that works well together. Great attention to detail, doing all the little things that really makes coaching what it is.”
Columbia Falls hosts Hamilton on Aug. 31 and Dillon on Sept. 7. Billings Central hosts Miles City on Aug. 24.