BELGRADE — The old saying, ‘Age is just a number,’ certainly cannot apply more to a program than to the Belgrade boys soccer team.
That isn’t because of the young player, but one of the young coaches leading them, 19-year-old Jeff Debuse, who is an assistant coach on head coach Ric Plante’s staff.
“I played with him my sophomore year,” senior Tyler Monlux said. “We won a state championship then. And now that he’s my coach, we have a lot that we can relate to, and it’s a completely different vibe than having a coach that’s 30, 40 years older than me.”
A former Panther player himself, Debuse started college at Montana State after graduating from Belgrade High School. He started coaching the boys in the fall of 2017, helping the Panthers to their second consecutive Class A state championship.
But winning isn’t out of the ordinary for Debuse.
“The reputation this program has and also having the players we do have, it makes it easier on the coaches when everybody knows the expectations, everyone knows what to do during practice,” he said. “We just kind of have to guide them in the right direction.”
His players agreed.
“Beglrade has always been viewed as a hard-working team,” Monlux said, “and we’re bringing that again this year, so we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
Debuse also has the ability to connect with his players in a different way than other coaches can, all due to the small age gap.
“He looks at things from a coach’s perspective and a player’s perspective because he used to be a player, too,” senior Kanon Tebo said.
And he’s certainly left an impression on the young men, as well.
“Freshman year I was a shy kid that didn’t speak up on the field and that’s kind of changed a lot as I’m a captain now and have to lead by example,” Monlux said, reflecting on the impact of Debuse.
“I played with him my sophomore year when he was a senior. I looked up to him as a player, it was always Jeff who I looked up to,” Tebo said. “I was like, ‘I want to be like this kid. I want to score goals and have the vision he does in games.’ And now he’s my coach and it’s really an honor for him to be my coach.”