LEWISTOWN — There’s been word around Lewistown for the past couple years that this senior class was going to be special. And it hasn’t disappointed.
Outside of a season-opening loss at Laurel, Lewistown has been suffocating opponents with its defense, allowing just six points in the three games since.
The Eagles’ stout defense begins up front, where all-conference linemen Jace Phillips and Mason Harrison anchor Lewistown on both sides of the ball. Phillips and Harrison eat up blocks, allowing the linebackers to flow to the football.
“We gave up six right at the end of the Havre game, and since then we haven’t given up a touchdown in three games,” Lewistown head coach Vic Feller said. “They’re doing a pretty good job. They’re swarming to the ball.”
Linebackers Wes Jameson and Duane Otto have thrived this season, each totaling more than 50 tackles through the first five games of the year.
But Phillips, Harrison, Jameson and Otto are just pieces to the puzzle for Lewistown. The Eagles boast a total of 12 seniors (Otto is a junior) who play and have a role.
“I like our chemistry of our team. We’ve had great leadership out of our seniors,” Feller said. “We’re seeing a lot of success because of the time they’ve put in the offseason, too.”
Maybe the most important piece to the puzzle for Lewistown is 6-foot-5 wide receiver Tanner Trafton, who just committed to play football for the Montana State Bobcats. Trafton is an all-state athlete in football, basketball and track, and offers Lewistown the ability to stretch the field like few in Class A.
“When you’ve got a guy that’s 6-5 on the edge that can run, you’ve got to cover him,” said Feller of his star wideout. “If they want to double him, that’s fine, we can get a little more run game going inside. That takes another guy out of the box, obviously. He’s a big threat on the perimeter.”
Talent, experience, chemistry — Lewistown has all the ingredients of a championship contender. But there’s another trait that the Eagles have that could put them over the top — an ultra-competitive spirit that stems from the coaching staff.
Feller’s staff is loaded with former college football players, giving more weight to the coaches’ words. Defensive coordinator of 25 years Troy Hudson played at Jamestown, Derek Lear played quarterback at Montana State-Northern, Orin Johnson was Lear’s favorite target for the Lights, Clint LaRowe played at the University of Montana and Kyle Dobbs played at Montana Tech.
Those assistants are well-respected by the kids, but Feller says there are days where they’re tough on the guys, letting their competitiveness flow onto the practice field.
“Without those guys, we’d be a lost program. Those guys bring a lot of energy. (Lear), (Johnson), all those guys know what it takes to be successful,” Feller said. “(The kids) really respect those guys. I would take my staff against anybody else’s staff as far as the competitiveness of the staff. They want to win. That’s bleeding over to the kids, too.”
And win is just what Lewistown has done. Reeling off four consecutive wins hasn’t guaranteed the Eagles anything, but Feller is confident in the direction of his team. A talented, experienced, competitive team with great chemistry is extremely dangerous come playoff time.