The Knights will look to repeat as Champs in 2013

Montana High School Boys 2013 Preview

0 - Published March 12, 2013 by in High School

The 2013 Montana High School Boys spring season kicks off in two days and this year we will see a number of exciting changes to the Montana high school boys lacrosse landscape. The Montana Lacrosse Association has approved a JV Division, which will include 4 new teams; Bozeman-JV, Flathead-JV, Hellgate-JV, and Helena. There are also a number of teams playing out-of-state competition this spring for the first time and the overall number of games has increased substantially. Below are my personal pre-season rankings for the Varsity division, along with some information about each program and a season outlook from each coach. Admittedly, I know more about the Missoula-area teams, but I have had the chance to coach kids from all of our state’s programs… and of course, I’m also the head coach at Hellgate.


1) Hellgate

Returning players: 17 (1 goalie, 4 defense, 8 midfield, 4 attack)

’12 Team Record: 13-1, State Champions

’13 Schedule: 18 games (5 home, 8 away, 5 neutral, 8 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: Spencer Schultz (M), Jed Diehl (LSM), Griffin Williams (M), Connor Skiftun (A), Logan Kuhn (M)

Season Outlook: “The Knights know that we are going to be playing with a target on our backs all season. We plan on practicing hard this year, we’ve scheduled aggressively, and we just hope to be prepared for when the time comes. We will rely on a strong senior class to lead a lot of young players throughout the season, and I’m really looking forward to working with this group of young men.” – Kevin Flynn, Head Coach


The Knights will look to repeat as Champs in 2013

2) Bozeman

Returning players: 13 (0 goalie, 2 defense, 9 midfield, 2 attack)

’12 Team Record: 9-4, State Runner-Up

’13 Schedule: 11 games (4 home, 3 away, 4 neutral, 4 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: Cole Peterson (A), Duncan Blake (M), Michael Truex (M), Jack O’Donnell (M), Ben Finegan (M), Sam Rickenbaugh (M), Michael Edwards (D), Joe Prescott (D)

Season Outlook: “We’re looking forward to having an even better team this year and we’re excited for the opportunity to compete.  We graduated some pretty good seniors, but we also have a talented group of underclassmen who have lots of experience.  Senior Cole Peterson will be our leader at the Attack position.  Our greatest depth is at the midfield position and this year’s group will be a great strength to our team.  Both Edwards and Prescott started on defense last year and will anchor a tough defense.  Our team will be well balanced and should be better with the addition of some younger guys moving up that have been playing lacrosse a long time.  The guys are hungry and excited for this upcoming season.  They have been working hard and are becoming better lacrosse players every day!” – John Merkovsky, Head Coach


3) Flathead

Returning players: 26 (1 goalie, 7 defense, 12 midfield, 6 attack)

’12 Team Record: 5-6

’13 Schedule: 10 games (3 home, 6 away, 1 neutral, 0 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: David Rizzolo (A), Tanner Freese (G), Zach Scheueneman (A), Zach Colgrove (M), Travis McGill (M), Zach French (D), Kyler Johnson (D/LSM)

Season Outlook: “Flathead is looking forward to having a JV team this year to compliment a large number of returning players for the Varsity team. We continue to see growth and excitement for the sport on all levels. We should have a cohesive team from players being able to play together for 2-3 years. Everyone has high expectations for the Flathead High School team in its 3rd year.” – Matt Rizzolo, Head Coach


4) Sentinel

Returning players: 13 (0 goalie, 4 defense, 6 midfield, 3 attack)

’12 Team Record: 3-12

’13 Schedule: 15 games (6 home, 5 away, 4 neutral, 4 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: Chris Brady (A), Blake Dufner (M), Austin Walsh (M), Jake Smith (D), Sage Heath (D)

Season Outlook: “The Sentinel High School Lacrosse program will be looking for a much improved 2013, building on a strong finish in the 2012 State Tournament and the leadership of 7 returning seniors. New head coach Eric Moon brings 14 years of lacrosse experience from the East coast, and will be joined by returning assistant coach Trevor Johnson. The coaches will be expecting more from the team, and know they are up for the challenge. The Spartans will be led out of the midfield by returning seniors Blake Dufner and Austin Walsh, who will be tasked to drive a more up tempo offense. The attack will be led by senior Chris Brady, who will quarterback the offense from X, and will work with a young group of attackman where freshman Kolton Johnson will be given the opportunity to step into a starting role this season. The defense will be led by returning senior Jake Smith and junior Sage Heath, who will be key in implementing a new defensive philosophy in 2013. Looking to the future, junior defenseman Sage Heath and sophomore midfielder Danny Lochridge will both be expected to step up on the field as leaders to fill the void left by the large 2013 graduating class.” – Eric Moon, Head Coach


The Spartans will be fighting hard to get back to the State Championship in 2013

5) 10sticks

Returning players: 11 (2 goalie, 4 defense, 2 midfield, 3 attack)

’12 Team Record: 6-9

’13 Schedule: 13 games (3 home, 5 away, 5 neutral, 4 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: Al Plant (LSM), Dan LaFranier (A/M), Mike Brown (D), Zach Schmidt (M), Beau Mills (D)

Season Outlook: “This year will be bittersweet in that we will be graduating four of our original ‘Ten Sticks’ – Al Plant, Dan LaFranier, Mike Brown, and Zach Schmidt. We will also be graduating Beau Mills, who was named to the All-State team last year despite missing a large segment of the season due to injury and being his first season to ever play lacrosse. I’m very proud of these boys. They stepped forward to try a new sport while all of their peers hung back and waited. Without them, none of this would be happening. We now have our first Girls Lacrosse Coach, Ricki Ollinger, and two new coaches who will be helping me launch and run Next Nation Lacrosse League, an non-traveling Chumash style little league that will eventually grow and evolve into a fully competitive youth lacrosse program in later seasons. We couldn’t be more excited for the spring season.” – Alex Alviar, Program Director


10sticks continues to Grow The Game on the Flathead Indian Reservation

6) Billings

Returning players: 16 (1 goalie, 3 defense, 8 midfield, 4 attack)

’12 Team Record: 1-10

’13 Schedule: 14 games (8 home, 4 away, 2 neutral, 5 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: Sal Principe (G), Garret Compton (M), Ryan Wilson (M), Jake Vopel (A)

Season Outlook: “The Billings High School Boys Scorpions plan on ramping up our level of competition this spring with new kids from our youth programs and more experience to returning players due to another full year of playing, both in-season and at camps during the off-season. Billings is looking to expand the program to allow for more depth, more playing time, and to move from a solid understanding of the fundamentals to achieving a better grasp of the tactical aspects of the game. We are also very excited to be holding not only the largest lacrosse jamboree Montana has ever had, but also to be able to draw teams from surrounding states and beyond and to expand Montana’s lacrosse reach and get more people excited and involved in the great sport of lacrosse” – Spenser Kuhn, Assistant Coach


7) Big Sky

Returning players: 6 (0 goalie, 1 defense, 3 midfield, 2 attack)

’12 Team Record: 8-6

’13 Schedule: 14 games (7 home, 6 away, 1 neutral, 0 out-of-state opponents)

Key Players: David Anderson (D), Blue Hayler (A), Wes Rigler (A)

Season Outlook: “The Eagles have a lot of new players who are new to the game, but there is a lot of potential in them. Our goal is to have them reach that potential by the time we get to Bozeman in May. We plan on practicing hard, recruiting more, and raising enough money to compete. The team has been practicing hard so far and putting in extra work outside of practice. I’m looking forward to working with these guys and it should be an exciting season.” – Keith Kreiner, Head Coach

David Anderson will need to carry a big load in 2013


Rankings Analysis: With every team being so young, there is really a lot of room for growth each season. A single new recruit or returning player who worked hard all off-season can make a huge impact on a team out here – so it’s really anyone’s game. Based on the number of players with experience, I think Hellgate and Bozeman are the teams to beat this year, just like in 2012. The Knights get the nod in the pre-season ranking because they are the reigning State Champs. I think Flathead will continue to develop and they have skilled players at all positions, so I think they are a dangerous team in 2013. Sentinel is my pick to make the biggest jump from 2012. They ended last season on an upswing, they have a new coach who will bring in a new system, and they are already out playing and actively recruiting this year. The Spartans lost a lot of close games last season and I think they will win more of those this year. 10sticks is another team that will be improved over last season. They have a really talented defensive unit, but they will need to find some more scoring to win the big games. Billings is also going to be a much improved team in 2013, but they were just so young last year that I still think they will have some catching up to do. They will need to improve in face-offs and scoring to win games this year, but their defense and foundation is pretty solid. I think Big Sky is a dangerous sleeper where I have them, but I really just don’t know what they will look like this spring. They lost a lot of players to graduation and have been very quiet this off-season. There are a few really good athletes that I know will be on the field for them, so if they can get some more players to help they could easily be a force this season. The bottom line is anything can happen. Overall, I expect to see a lot of close and exciting games this spring and it’s awesome to see all these teams raising the bar for lacrosse in the state.