The Polson High School football team isn’t in limbo about their most key position on offense as they prepare to head into the 2018 Class A Montana High School Association season.
At the start of the 2017 campaign, there was fierce competition between Bo Kelley and Colby Soderquist. Kelley narrowly beat out Soderquist and retained his job for the rest of the 2017 season. Kelley, who was the leader of a young and up-and-coming team after losing key players quarterback Tanner Wilson and Matthew Rensvold, both players who committed to the University of Montana football team after graduation, guided his team to a 2-6 record and narrowly missed the Class A playoffs after capturing the conference title and securing a playoff birth in 2016
Kelley, who is currently participating in straight-ahead non-contact drills after tearing his ACL during basketball season, has created an opportunity for Soderquist to become the team’s starter as the Pirates head into their season-opening game Aug. 24 when they host Stevensville.
Pirates’ head coach Pat Danley didn’t hesitate in his coaching staff’s commitment to Soderquist as the Pirates’ starter.
“Colby is going to be our starter and we are hoping to get some things out of him (entering this season),” Danley said. “Colby is a bit more of a runner. We are going to have some good offensive formations and some screen passes to get several wide receivers involved. We are hoping to have a good year.”
Kelley, the Pirates 2017 quarterback, could be available later in the season, according to Danley.
“Having Bo at the end of the season would be a bonus at the end of the year,” Danley said. “It is possible he may play at the end of the season if he gets his stuff cleared.”
Soderquist should have plenty of wide receiver targets to throw to this season. One of Soderquist’s targets will be wide-out Parker Toth, who struggled with minor injuries last year but still played a significant amount at receiver in the Pirates’ offensive scheme.
“Last year Toth had a great year,” Danley said. “He was a nice, tall and large target. He is fairly athletic and we want to get him the ball.”
Another target Soderquist should have to throw to includes Trevor Schultz. Last year, Schultz was honorable mention all-conference as a sophomore. The accolades have only heightened his expectations headed into the 2018 campaign.
“He is another tall, fast and good-handed receiver,” Danley said. “We are expecting big things out of him. We will start three receivers (headed into the year).”
Another one of Polson’s prominent receiving targets will be Ryker Wenderoth.
“Ryker is probably one of our best guys at running the screens because he had some success at running the screen play and variations of it,” Danley said. “Ryker is not as tall as the other kids but is very slippery to tackle. The other thing about Ryker is he is a great punt returner and was real close to breaking one several times last year. They all do something different for us and all three of them bring something to the table in different capacities. Hopefully they will let their athleticism turn out to do good things (for our offense).”
Sports Editor’s Note: The following are a breakdown of some of the key players at various positions that will most likely see significant varsity minutes
Polson should have a stable of running backs that will each bring their own strengths in what the Pirates coaching staff hopes to be a versatile running attack.
Pirates RB Hunter Fritsch, who is better known for his accomplishments as a state-championship caliber wrestler than on the gridiron, should get a significant amount of carries, according to Danley.
“Last year, he got some carries at running back and he was able to get some carries in his limited roll at running back (in 2017),” Danley said. “He was used more in a defensive role last year for us and is going to be one of our feature backs.”
Esaie Kinsey, a sophomore, will get an opportunity to gain some varsity experience this year while there are currently other running backs still vying for positions and playing time, according to Danley.
“Both of these guys aren’t going to be afraid of contact,” Danley said. “These guys run through tackles and based upon what I’ve seen in the summer, they aren’t afraid to get to hit. It’s fun to watch both of them run.”
For the last few seasons, Polson has developed a reputation for having one of the bigger lines amongst their MHSA Northwest A conference competition.
The Pirates will return three starters on the line and be anchored by Johnny Marquardt, who will start at center for the second consecutive season.
“He will start at the center and he started last year for us as a junior, which got him some playing time at center,” Danley said. “He is looking pretty good.”
Wyatt Goode will be a three-year veteran on the Pirates’ offensive line headed into the 2018 season. Goode, who received second-team all conference guard, will be coming back for his senior season.
There will be other players competing for two starting spots on the offensive line, according to Danley.
Defensive Line, Linebacker
As Polson prepares to enter the 2018 season, they will have several players that will play a significant percentage of snaps in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams
Polson’s defense will predominantly be a three-man front mostly, with the front being anchored by the same players that are also anchoring the offensive line.
Marquardt, Lake and Goode lead the front as all three will shoulder the burden of being on the field for at least two-thirds of the entire game.
“Those guys that have experience on the offensive line also have experience in being two-way starters and one of those starters will probably have to start both ways,” Danley said. “We will try to get more depth on the offensive line but one of our areas of concern is the depth on our defensive line as well.”
Fritsch, who was utilized primarily on the defensive side of the ball last year, will also play linebacker in addition to his runner’s role on the offense.
“He has potential as a two-way starter for us,” Danley said. “He is a great wrestler and he is a tough at inside linebacker. Fritch was the second-leading tackler and honorable mention all-conference last year. He is going to have a great year at the inside position.”
Another player that will get playing at various linebacker positions includes Junior Croft, a special teams tackler. Danley said his instincts will be a great addition to the team.
“He played a limited time and played some later in the year,” Danley said. “They have a good knack for the ball and hopefully the two of them can man the middle.”
Other candidates for outside linebacker include Dugan Davis, Sissler and Kaleb Unger.
“We will use some combination of those three,” Danley said. “The most likely will be the starting positions that remain to be seen with the others.”
The secondary will include several players who will play on the offensive side of the football including Toth, Winderoff and Schultz.
“(Our secondary) was a huge area of concern from last year and it is going to have to make some plays for us this year,” Danley said. “We have spent some time on it this summer. We are going to return with some experience and mess around with different coverage’s from last year. Hopefully those three man the back end.”
Boston Goode will also be one of the top candidates for strong safety.
“It is a little bit up in the air, but those are most likely the starters,” Danley said.
One of the huge issues with their team on both sides of the ball is lack of depth. Because the Pirates lack depth in key positions, they can’t afford to be injured as they prepare to compete in one of the toughest conferences in their classification that included the defending Class A state championship team Columbia Falls.
“(Our lack of depth on both sides of the ball) is a huge issue and we make a point of trying to avoid injury because if we lose a starter to injury, that is like losing two starters in several cases,” Danley said. “We have to be in the best possible shape going in and it is always typical in the first game that is an area of concern. However, we have confidence that our kids will be in proper shape and get ready to play some iron-man football.”