Season openers are nothing new for Ron Lebsock and Paul Klaboe.
This is Lebsock’s 30th opener as the head coach at Billings Skyview, while this will be No. 29 for Klaboe, the head coach for Billings West.
Just entering his third season as head coach, Chris Murdock of Billings Senior is the newbie of the group.
But just because Lebsock and Klaboe have done this a few more times, doesn’t mean the games generate less of a kick for the veteran coaches.
“There is," said Klaboe of having more of a buzz around the season opener.
The Golden Bears open the high school football season with a 4 p.m. Friday game against preseason favorite Kalispell Glacier on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
Billings Senior hosts Butte at 7:30 p.m. as part of the doubleheader.
“You’ve got some kids back and you’ve got some young kids, where this is their first test at this level. They have to come through for you,” said Klaboe. “You’ve been to a couple of camps, you’ve put the time in the weight room, thrown the football around during open gyms, along with all the meetings.
“There are so many hours put in by everybody, the players and the coaches. It’s time to go, to find out what you’ve accomplished in the offseason. It’s the unknown. You want to make sure you’re one of the top eight teams at the end of the year.”
Skyview, another team high in the poll, travels to Bozeman for a 7 p.m. matchup against the defending Class AA state champions.
“It’s the first game going into the season with basically a new football team,” Lebsock said. “There are things you want to see happen, but not sure if they will until you get there.
“There is no week off in Class AA.”
Senior's Murdock concurred.
The Broncs host a team two years removed from the state championship.
“The possibilities are endless,” said Murdock. “In Class AA, you don’t have time for a warm-up. Every game is important.”
Glacier at Billings West
The Golden Bears are looking to rebound from a winless 2013, while they take on a Glacier team that reached the title game before falling 24-14 to Bozeman last November.
Glacier is led by all-state quarterback Brady McChesney, who threw for 3,590 yards and 41 touchdowns last fall. Glacier averaged more than 40 points a game in 2013.
McChesney’s favorite target, Logan Jones, also returns. Jones had 1,014 yards receiving, 419 rushing and scored 12 touchdowns.
“We have to keep him contained,” Klaboe said of McChesney. “He’s a quarterback who can get out and run. Hopefully, our secondary is good enough to match up.
West, with good size on the offensive and defensive lines, will go with senior Casey Klaboe at quarterback. Klaboe, who shared playing time last season, was 37 of 85 passing for 364 yards and two touchdowns.
He will hand off to a trio of running backs – Zach Wolff, Cody McCombs and Nick Lawther.
“This is what the game is all about,” Klaboe said of opening with one of the early contenders. “It teaches you have to give it your best every time out. You have to stand there toe-to-toe until the very end.
“I like our chances.”
Butte at Billings Senior
Dallas Cook is no longer throwing the football all over the field for Butte, but his top target returns.
The Bulldogs will try to put the ball into the hands of receiver Dalton Daum, who swept the Class AA 100- and 200-meter sprint titles in the spring. Daum had 69 catches for 1,088 yards last year.
“He’s that good,” said Murdock. “You need to know where he is at all times. He is, if not the best, one of the best players in AA right now.”
The Broncs are going with sophomore quarterback Nathan Dick, along with running backs Nolan Timmons and Sam Sparks.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Murdock said of his young quarterback. “He throws the ball well and is very intelligent.”
Timmons and Sparks are also defensive backs for the Broncs. Timmons, who had two interceptions in 2013, was an all-state selection.
“We’re not very big but we have a lot of speed,” said Murdock. “We have to play fast, play hard and finish. That’s our motto this season.”
Billings Skyview at Bozeman
The Falcons get the opportunity to double their revenge.
Of Skyview’s five losses last season, two were to the Hawks — the season opener and the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re playing a team that has done very well the last few years,” said Lebsock. “We’re not fearful at all.
“You have to go out and make things happen. In last year’s opener, we missed 36 tackles. We need to make tackles. And on offense, we need to take care of the football.”
The senior-laden Falcons, with a wealth of talent back at the skill positions and quality size on the offensive and defensive lines, are looking to ride the momentum from 2013 where they won four of their last five games during the regular season.
Logan Nelson takes over at quarterback, while running back Riley Barta, along with receivers Tre’von Dixon-Strong, Kendal Manuel and Taylor Trollope are back. Barta and Trollope are also two of the top hurdlers in Class AA.
Barta rushed for 714 yards and five touchdowns last fall for the Falcons, while Dixon-Strong (19-373, 4 TDs), Manuel (12-286, 1 TD) and Trollope (10-185, 1 TD) were the top three receivers.
The Falcons also moved Justin Keeling to fullback and have Rashawn Kroll at halfback. Keeling was Skyview's third leading rusher with 634 yards and four touchdowns, while Kroll was fourth with 131.
“We’ve got really good athleticism,” Lebsock said of Skyview’s backfield and secondary. “We’re not deep on the offensive line, we know the situation. But I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys up front.
“I’m more concerned about us playing well. How we play the game.”
The Hawks were hit hard by graduation. Running back Cordell Appell is back for Bozeman after rushing for 172 yards and two scores in 2013.