Thirty-four all-star football players from Montana, many of whom will be gracing college rosters next season, are preparing to square off against North Dakota in the Badlands Bowl this Saturday. Exactly half of the roster are local athletes from Southwest Montana.
More than half of the local athletes are coming from the 'AA' state champion Bozeman Hawks, with nine players set to play one last time for their former head coach Troy Purcell.
"It'll be fun," Purcell said. "We've got nine kids from Bozeman that are going to this game. It's just gonna be fun to be around them again."
Former Hawk and future Griz quarterback, Will Weyer, will captain the offense for Montana. Hunter Gappmayer (Montana Tech), John D'Agostino (Montana State), Jack Hape (Montana) and Keavon Buckley (Boise State, wrestling) round out the Hawk players on offense.
The Hawk defense is also well represented with future Montana State Bobcat, Grant Collins, headlining the squad. He is joined by Mike Naro, Chandler D'Agostino and Wyatt David.
"What's nice is with those nine players, they are going to be able to help us as coaches on the field," Purcell said. "Those kids out on the field will say, 'do this, this is what this is called, this is what the route is.' So I expect our kids to step up and help us coach."
Montana's other local state championship teams are also represented on the Montana roster. The class 'A' champion Dillon Beavers have three players on the roster, Mick Paffhausen (Montana Tech), Donovan Hucke (Montana Western) and Troy Scott (Montana Western).
The class 'C' Ennis Mustangs have two players on the offensive side of the ball, Connor Sullivan (Montana State) and Derek Wham.
The other local athletes are Butte's Peter Granger, Manhattan's Austin Oldenburger (Montana State) and Boulder's Alex Brunett (Montana Western).
"It'll be good to see those kids and meet the other kids from the state that are the best football players in the state of Montana," said Purcell. "You look around the state and it was a very hard decision picking. They're all great kids and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do is to try to figure out where the best kids are. It's gonna be fun to be around those gentlemen one more time."