Despite small numbers, Devils look for big season

Talented group ready to take Class A by storm

bbyers@heraldonline.comAugust 10, 2011 

— Great Falls football coach Kenny Schofield is the right fit for his job.

Schofield knows that every season it will be a struggle to coax players to play. He loses some, gains some, but hardly ever stays the same. He can tell you exactly how many players are in each class and what each means to his team.

"We have six seniors,'' he said Tuesday afternoon while answering questions before his team's intra-squad scrimmage. Mid-Carolina was scheduled to come and the Red Devils players were itching to hit players other than their teammates.

Maybe it was a good thing so early in the season. One injury, Schofield said, could account for three positions, could sideline a talented senior like Ernest Talford. He starts at running back, defensive back and returns kicks.

Talford, like his other senior mates, never complains. He wants to be a leader, take his turn to head the herd of underclassmen making up most of the teams.

"I'll play wherever coach needs me,'' he said. "We (players) worked hard this summer because we knew numbers were down, that we could make up for that by being in shape.

"I think we are going to turn it around this year ... Great Falls football. The team, small in numbers as we are, wants to make it to Benedict for the state championship game."

Turn it around? Schofield got a chuckle from that statement. After all, he pointed out, the Red Devils were 8-4 last season. Tough to imagine a bad season with that record, but every school isn't Great Falls.

Schofield is 95-43 in his 11 years there. He's had a 13-1 season and a pair of 12-1 seasons and his team has played in the state championship game. He's also had a pair of 3-8 seasons, the latest in 2009 ... low numbers and defections at a school that hovers around 290 students each year in grades 9-12.

"Our six seniors are good players and will set the tone of this year's team,'' Schofield said. "We have 12 juniors who have done well learning from our seniors.

"Then we have 10 to 12 freshmen and sophomores, depending on who's here. Our Mike linebacker and one defensive end are sophomores who will start.''

That's 30 players to field a varsity and junior varsity team.

It's not a case of Schofield's style or lack of it. It's more a case of most teams lose players in the preseason and some don't return. Schofield said he could name several players who didn't come back and that departures leave a "big hole'' depending on who shows up.

But there is no crying in Pride Valley, where the big bell in the north end zone rings for every Red Devils' score. The players were excited as they walked down the hill to practice once again by hitting each other.

The odds are a lot better for Great Falls, and Shaq Simpson (RB, DB, KR) likes the Red Devils' chances.

"We have a lot of speed all over the field,'' Simpson said. "Everybody is quick and our offensive line is coming around.

"We know it's hard for coach Schofield when players don't come out or don't come back. We try to recruit players, do the best we can. I think we can take it to the house with what we have. We're going to be a nice team.''

Because Great Falls is a Class A team, Schofield said he'd allow players who haven't, to come out. They would have to make up for time missed but could be part of a season that looks good right now from the outside.

Schofield said it is a case of getting his players in prime game condition while not overdoing it. Plenty of water breaks and rest periods have been added because of the heat.

Then there's Cody Mobley, a gangly 6-foot-4 player whose long legs seem to take up three-fourths of his body below his wild mop of blonde hair. He was chosen Class A's All-State kicker last season. He even had a long punt of 64 yards.

"Us six seniors, we've been together a long time,'' he said. "Last year's team had stars. This one doesn't; has good players. I'll take a team of good players any day over a couple of stars. This is a good team.''

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Barry Byers 329-4099

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