HELENA – It’s hard to know for sure how many people outside the grounds at Helena High School could have predicted a 3-0 start for the Bengal football program, including defeating two-time defending champion Billings Senior in late August.
Even first-year head coach Scott Evans admits, while he imagined success, he didn’t see this coming, though he believes his former boss may have.
“I don’t know. I tell you what, I think (former Helena High head coach Tony) Arntson knew it was coming. (He’s now) at Carroll College, but we had a good group of seniors, so that always helps you out,” said Evans. “Having a good group of seniors always makes you a lot better as you start the year out. It fixes some wounds.”
There haven’t been many Band-Aids necessary since the Bengals’ first half in the season-opener against Great Falls CMR, which saw Helena High trail 6-0 early before scoring 16 straight in a 16-6 victory.
Then came the 41-14 drubbing of Billings Senior, ending the Broncs’ streak of 27 consecutive wins, followed by the 56-14 rout against Missoula Hellgate.
Still, the Bengals know doubters remain.
“I think it’s playoffs in late November (when you prove how good you are),” said Evans. “That’s kind of when it’s going to happen. We’ll stick with the non-believers a little while longer and we’ll just get there, do our business and keep track of what’s going on with us, make everything better each day. I can’t change anybody’s mind, but I love our team right now, I love what our philosophy is and I like what we’re doing. We’ll just stick with that.”
“I think a lot of people didn’t realize how many juniors we had coming in (to this year) that were starters last year,” said senior defensive back Cooper Biegler. “I think with the number of seniors we have this year, I think that’s going to help a lot. We all knew where we were going to be this senior year since we were freshmen, sophomores and juniors.”
Biegler pointed to the experience of Helena High’s secondary – himself, Alex Johnson, Zach Spiroff and Connor Murgel – as being pivotal in the Bengals’ defensive success. The group is “a tight crew” according to Biegler, who added, “We’re here to show teams what we have in store.”
Evans, meanwhile, has been appreciative of the team as a whole, trusting the coaches’ game plan and believing in themselves.
“I enjoy that they understand our scheme. They walk out there and feel comfortable with it and confident,” Evans said. “We always talk about the first three steps, ‘Know your first three steps.’ When they get rolling, they understand those first three steps. Then from there, the athleticism takes over and that’s a cool thing to watch.”
The schedule isn’t kind to Helena High as the season carries on, with the Bengals set to face four of the top programs in the state before November. Friday’s opponent, Kalispell Glacier, may seem like an underdog at 0-3, but facing a Wolfpack team motivated to get back on track, could also be a trap game.
“I’ll tell you what, they’re one of the best-coached teams in the state of Montana, year in and year out. It doesn’t matter what their record is, I throw that crap aside because guess what? (Wolfpack coach) Grady (Bennett), Coach (Shannon) Smith and the guys up there, they put a good defensive plan together. They have a great offensive plan with Coach (Arron) Deck and they do a great job with their athletes, putting them in position where they’re always a danger to score,” said Evans.
“They had Billings Senior on the ropes early in the year, the Great Falls CMR game was really close. I mean, Bozeman, they had some things just because of quarterback problems, but other than that they have played a good season so far,” he continued. “I don’t know if it’s a trap game, it might be for somebody else, but for me it’s just a game that we have to play on our schedule.”
It’s a chance for Helena High to improve to 4-0, a start not the players, not Evans, not even Arntson saw coming. Unless maybe they did.