When Jordan Spoonemore's family moved from Missoula to Billings, he was wondering how he would fit in at Billings West and what role he might play on the football team.
It couldn't have worked any better for him or the team.
"It was tough at first," said Spoonemore. "My teammates showed me around the school and stuff and helped me learn plays. The coaches taught me really well. They made it a really easy transition."
Spoonemore caught on quickly, and will be starting his 23rd consecutive game at middle linebacker when the Bears host Great Falls CMR in a Class AA semifinal game at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium.
"He came here from Missoula Big Sky and, like all new guys, you always have something to prove," said coach Paul Klaboe. "We noticed right away he was pretty good and before too long, he was the starter. He's amazingly tough and he's real quick."
One other thing Klaboe noticed was Spoonemore's appetite for work in the weight room.
"He's very dedicated," Klaboe said. "Last summer, he'd show up at 6 a.m. in the weight room. I'd go out for driver's training and come back at noon and he'd still be there. I make the linemen come in early in the morning and he's always there."
Spoonemore doesn't mind the work, saying, "It helps me focus."
Focus hasn't been a problem for the defense this year. The Bears play like it's an insult to give up a touchdown.
"Our goal is just not let anybody score on us," Spoonemore said. "That's our goal every game. Just give them nothing, take everything. That's our motto."
Only one team, unbeaten Helena Capital, has scored more than two touchdowns on the Bears. Last week Kalispell Flathead scored on its first possession, a 17-play, 80-yard drive. But the Braves later made some crucial mistakes, particularly three bad center snaps, two of which turned into West touchdowns and the other killed a Braves' drive.
"We just came out slow, came out playing at their pace," Spoonemore said. "Once they scored on us, we were kind of like, 'We need to get going.' We just played our game after that, getting everything going to our speed, what we want."
Spoonemore returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter as West rolled to a 56-13 victory.
"It got deflected up and I just ran for it," Spoonemore said. "Then I turned and looked and I had a whole bunch of West blockers for me so I kind of knew it was going in because they were blocking them all. It was a good feeling."
That wasn't a surprise to West defensive coordinator Greg Walter.
"I believe he has the potential to make a big play on every snap for us," Walter said of the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder. "He had 23 tackles against Helena, he's had a turnover for a touchdown. He is our leader in sacks, he forces bad passes. As long as he's out there, we have a chance to make something good happen."
Spoonemore leads the team in tackles with 138. He's made seven sacks and two interceptions and credits a lot of that to those around him.
The defenseive line rotation includes Anthony Hurley, Kyle Iverson, Patrick Lawler, Jordan Cooley, Derek Fritz and Alex King. Spoonemore is flanked at linebacker by Pat Webster and Cesar Bonilla. Robbie Harcharik and Zeke Snoozy have also contributed. The secondary has cornerbacks Josh Pelczar and Josh Swain and safeties Tyson Shriver and Tyler Patenaude. Landry Brockel and Trey Garza have also filled in well at cornerback.
"Without all those guys, it wouldn't be the same," Spoonemore said. "We just have good chemistry. It wouldn't happen without those guys."
West has come up with 16 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries. Seven different players have made picks with Josh Swain (5) and Pelczar (3) leading the way.
"Speed is a great thing," Walter said. "It allows us to be creative and daring when you have a lot of it. But speed is in no way our greatest asset. I think the strength of the defense is toughness. You look around at Spoonemore, Patenaude, Vegas (Hurley), Webster, Shriver - those are tough kids."
The Bears will have to be tough again this week because CMR has one of the best offenses in the league.
"They're a strong team," Spoonemore said. "They like to run the ball quite a bit and they like to throw the ball quite a bit. You've just got to be ready for anything they can throw at us. They can do it all."
Spoonemore and the Bears have shown they can do it all on defense, too.