HAMILTON — The spirit of former Montana football coach Mick Delaney is alive and thriving at Hamilton High School.
Most everyone that ever played for Delaney, a long-time assistant coach for the Grizzlies who served as head coach from 2012 to 2014, will tell you he's a man's man who always put his athletes first. That's pretty much the coaching style his former player Bryce Carver is putting to good use as skipper for the top-ranked Hamilton Broncs.
"If you take work ethic and a great attitude, then you've got something that's special and that's what he was as a Grizzly," Delaney said of Carver, who will lead his team into a State A quarterfinal game against Glendive Saturday at 1 p.m. in Hamilton.
"Bryce saw the manner in which we coached, which was to respect players and work hard and be there for them and not yourself, don't be selfish. He took all that in and obviously he's putting it to good use."
Bryce calls Delaney's impact on his coaching life "immense."
"He recruited me pretty hard and he was the reason I ended up at the U," said Carver, who was an all-state basketball player and a standout quarterback for the Dillon Beavers. "Just how he treated me. I was grateful for the opportunity.
"The things I was able to learn from him, his demeanor and the way he interacts with his players and the relationship he built with them, that's all stuff that is really important to me."
With a father who has been a long-time assistant football coach at Dillon and a sister, Mandi, who is an assistant coach for the Fresno State women's basketball team, Bryce was destined to be a coach. Delaney remembers him talking about it right out of high school.
Still, Bryce is the first to admit that bloodlines and an NCAA Division I athletic career don't guarantee coaching success. He's grateful for the three years he spent learning as an assistant at Hamilton and grateful for the talented athletes he inherited as a first-year head coach.
"We've been fortunate to win some games and that makes it a little easier on me," said Carver, whose team boasts an 8-1 mark. "My staff has been amazing.
"I have some veteran guys. Steve Weston has been around for 40 years and the things he's be able to teach me are very important. Then our old head coach Travis Blome is our AD and he and I sit 10 feet from each other in school all day. Just being able to pick his brain and have him help me along the way, I've been pretty fortunate."
For the past two seasons, Carver, who played wide receiver for the Grizzlies, has served as offensive coordinator for the Broncs. This year they're averaging about 42 points per game.
"We're all spread out and running out of the shotgun, so we do like to throw the ball quite a bit," he noted. "But we do have a good running game. If teams want to stop the run on us we've been capable of throwing the ball and if they want to back out and try to stop the pass, we can run the ball, too."
Leading the offense are, among others, all-state wideout Tyler Chouinard, who has amassed over 1,000 yards receiving. Center Zach Fussell is the anchor up front as a four-year starter.
Sophomore quarterback Carson Rostad has throw 33 touchdown passes with just four picks and running back Bridger Bauder is a dual threat as a ball carrier and receiver. On defense, the Broncs' leader is 135-pound middle linebacker Michael Golden, whom Carver calls "one of smartest players we've had in four years."
Hamilton will play the role of decided favorite against Glendive Saturday, but Carver is taking nothing for granted. The Red Devils (5-5) went to Laurel last weekend and posted their first playoff win in 22 years, knocking off a Locomotive team that boasted a 7-2 record, 28-20.
Glendive piled up 306 yards on the ground and 391 overall. Quarterback Cade Dockter finished the game with 85 yards passing and a score, finding Keiser to put Glendive on top 21-13 before halftime. Dockter also ran for 129 yards and a score to pad Glendive’s lead with its final touchdown.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done for a long time in our community. There was a lot of people behind us which was great,” Dockter told 406mtsports.com. “I’ve never been this happy. It’s something I can’t explain. We got a lot of work to do still, but that’s huge for us to come in like that and get a win over Laurel.”
Carver characterizes the Red Devils as a typical eastern Montana football team that stresses its running attack.
"Their quarterback is a great athlete and he can run the ball," he noted. "Then when they need to throw it, they've got some good wideouts."
Carver makes no bones about the Broncs' goal: To play in the state championship. For now though, Hamilton is enjoying its playoff ride and focusing on Glendive.
"The kids see those rankings and they get all excited," Carver said of being ranked No. 1 by 406mtsports.com. "For me I could really care less. There's eight teams left in the state and all eight are good, all are trying to play for that title game.
"When you build success people flock to the program. We really feed off the energy and support of our fans in town. We won the conference by beating Dillon a couple weeks ago and that hasn't been done in a long time. People are getting excited."