Letter from the editor: A toast to the football team

It’s not easy losing. It’s not easy talking about losing. And it’s certainly not easy losing for the last time. 

For a handful of seniors, Friday night’s loss to Huntley Project marked the end of the football season, and quite possibly some football careers. For me, it was the end of the fall sports season, and a shift in focus, now, toward the basketball teams. 

But in reality, it was only the beginning. 

I think it was after the Colstrip loss I realized there was something pretty special about this football team. I’ve covered a lot of football — hundreds of games between my time as college football writer at Iowa State University, to my time as a prep writer for the past three years. And there weren’t many who stacked up to this Herder team, in terms of drive and execution. 

I’ve certainly seen more talented teams and I’ve seen far, far worse teams. I’ve covered bowl games and state championships, but there was no way I’d rank this Herder team outside my top five most enjoyable teams to watch. 

After that Colstrip loss, the Herders would go on to lose two more, to Manhattan and Whitehall. I’m pretty sure I wrote a column somewhere in there about not wanting to miss this exciting team. I’m happy to say, I told ya so. 

By now, I know coach speak; I know when coaches and players say, ‘We gave 100 percent,’ and when they actually mean it. I know when a team gets lucky, most of the time, and when a team really deserved a grind-it-out kind of win. 

There was no luck when it came to winning football games this season. Just education and execution, from the staff to the players. 

But I’m not sure there’s a statistic out there that could quantify the success of the 2017 Herder football team. 

However, I think head coach J.V. Moody said it best after the Huntley Project loss. 

“I’ve been to playoff games and there was a fifth as many people on the sideline. I said, ‘Look. That’s because of you. And the way you play. These people want to come out and watch you play.’ So, it’s not just parents sitting over there. It’s a lot of people from town. There are a lot of people pulling for them.”

I sent a tweet out Friday night when I got to the game, somewhat surprised at how many people had actually travelled the one and a half hours to Worden for the playoff game. I’d seen plenty of road playoff games 20 minutes down the road from hometowns with less people than the Herders had there Friday night. 

I talk on a podcast every week with a friend of mine who moved to Butte just after I moved here. He’s from Iowa, too. And one thing we’re always talking about is how football programs are always “trying to change the culture.”

But here in Big Timber, that’s actually happening. The reason Moody said the loss was so incredibly difficult Friday night was because the Herders actually came out and expected to move on in the playoffs. Imagine that for a second. Expecting, if you do your job and play the way you’re supposed to, you’ll be able keep playing football.

Well, the Herders did that, for the most part, and came up short. That’s why this is so tough for them. 

But, it’ll only be tough for right now. 

I’ve said it before and I’d be happy to say it again: I’m not here to cheer on the teams. I’m not here to rah, rah, rah for the programs. Their success doesn’t dictate how I’ll write a story one way or another. So, don’t confuse this column with that. 

I’m not asking you all to raise a glass to a fun, exciting, hard-fought, well-played football season. I don’t think we should cheers to them trying their hardest, because doesn’t every team try their hardest?

We should be cheersing or toasting or whatever — go down and have some pizza at Iron Star or the Bakery — to a group of 16 to 18-year-olds who actually made a difference; who actually set a foundation to change the culture of a football program. 

It’s not every day you get to instill change in something. And to be able to get people to not just travel a long way to watch you pay, but to get people invested in what you’re doing, that’s something I hope I get to do here someday, too. So, here’s to you, Big Timber football. For making a difference in your community.

Stephen Kalb-Koenigsfeld, Pioneer editor


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