MISSOULA — Death, taxes, and Missoula Hellgate boys soccer reaching the state championship game.
As the Knights embark on their seventh straight title game appearance, year in and out, they find a way to reload with stars and top players to keep their run of dominance alive.
While plenty of those players start from their freshman year on, senior forward Reggie Duce has had a different approach. Duce didn’t start for Hellgate until his junior year, subbing in occasionally as a sophomore for then-Hellgate standout Matt Baldridge. But in his first crack at major minutes as a junior, Duce led the Knights in scoring.
This year? Quietly he leads the state in scoring and in total points, and Duce said that credit all goes to his teammates.
“I just think my team makes it easy on me," Duce said. "You know, I’m kind of that post-up forward and they just are getting me good crosses and just letting me score a lot. It’s not just me doing it, it’s my wingers and (midfielders) that are getting me the ball.”
Duce racked up 27 goals and seven assists in the regular season and in the postseason has five more goals and three assists, including a hat-trick performance against Billings Skyview in the quarterfinals.
“It means a lot," Duce said. "It’s some pressure but it’s fun to be one of those main guys, and each game is just fun to come out and just play.”
A growth in size, strength, speed and confidence has been a major part of his 2020 campaign and improvement on the pitch as Duce wraps up his high school career. Most stars stand out the minute they step on the pitch, but Duce's development has been more gradual and has led to the memorable season the senior is currently enjoying.
“Every player develops differently and Reggie was not the size he is now when he was a freshman," Hellgate coach Jay Anderson said. "And he’s come a long way, he’s worked on a lot of things, his size and strength helps, and he’s really just turned into a great post forward for me. He’s a great leader on the team -- he’s kind of a quiet kid, but his presence is well-known on the field.
"He's not one to brag or boast about any of his accomplishments. He just works hard on the field, so I'm just happy about the young man that he's turned into and happy that he's doing well this year."
Duce and the Knights once again advanced to the Class AA championship game with a 1-0 win over Kalispell Glacier on Tuesday. The reigning champion Knights will meet Bozeman for the third straight year in the title game. After being initially scheduled for Saturday in Bozeman, the game was moved to next Wednesday, Oct. 28, due to expected poor weather.
So Duce and the Knights will have a few more days to prepare as they aim for their fifth title in six years at Hellgate.
“It’s super special to be a part of, and most of the kids that are on the bench, they could maybe be starting at other schools, so it’s fun to be part of such a good program and really work your way up in it," Duce said.