Ronan Chiefs work on confidence, polish
After returning just two starters on offense and three on defense, the Ronan Chiefs have had to do a lot of growing early in the season. Last year’s team included all-state and all-conference honoree Colton McCrea and six other all-conference players: Michael Irvine, Cole Snyder, Justin Krahn, Cole Gerhardt, Bryce Cullen and Andy Clary. Losing them to graduation was tough, but eight-year head coach Jim Benn is looking to several strong underclassmen to step up this year.
“This is the youngest team we have had in my time at Ronan,” Benn said. “They have tremendous potential but lack experience in varsity action.”
Judging from their performance Sept. 11 in Libby, when Ronan handed the Loggers a crushing 69-13 loss with 332 rushing yards to Libby’s 115, this crop of young Chiefs is learning quickly. Juniors Kasey Mock, Tyler Houle and Aaron Misa rank among the team’s biggest strengths, Benn noted, returning three of last year’s four linebackers. All three were among the top scorers against Libby.
“We’ve had a real balanced effort (from the team),” Benn said. “We had a different leading rusher every game … I think our whole line has been a strength.”
After smoky air forced the Chiefs to move their non-conference season opener against Jefferson to Boulder, conditions still weren’t ideal and officials called the game at halftime with Jefferson up 22-7. While that game is included in Ronan’s 1-2 season record, it was really just a “glorified scrimmage,” Benn said. Ronan played Bigfork after that for a loss at home, and then smashed Libby Sept. 11, both non-conference matches. Playing the Loggers was a great learning experience for all his athletes, Benn noted.
“Everybody we traveled with played in the game,” he said.
Newcomer Josh Morgan, a senior, and Ezekiel Misa and Brendon Blood sophomores also scored against the Loggers and will be part of the core Benn expects to lead the team through the regular season.
“Our district, across the board, every week, is going to be tough,” Benn said. “It’s probably the most evenly balanced I’ve seen it.”
The Chiefs faced one of those tough rivals last week in Friday’s home game against Thompson Falls. Both teams scored in the first, but the Bluehawks capitalized on Ronan’s scoreless second and third quarters, capturing 14 in the second. Both teams scored again in the fourth quarter but Ronan’s brief burst wasn’t enough to break Thompson Falls’ hold. Final score was 28-14.
As the season continues, the Chiefs will work on building confidence and polishing all the details that go into playing good football — Benn’s goal for the season is “continued improvement.”
“I think the kids understand where they’re supposed to go but they don’t understand why and how and the importance of how they do it,” Benn explained. “The kids are very competitive in nature ... I’m pleased with where we are at this point.”
Ronan travels to Anaconda Friday to play the Copperheads.
Thompson Falls 28, Ronan 14
Ronan8 0 0 6 - 14
T. Falls7 14 0 7 - 28
TF - Trais Hoisington 19 pass from Kade Van Elswyk (Joe Lundberg kick)
R - Brendon Blood 4 run (Kasey Mock run)
TF - Makenzie Holt 8 run (Lundberg kick)
TF - Van Elswyk 1 run (Lundberg kick)
TF - Van Elswyk 25 fumble return (Lundberg kick)
R - Brendon Blood pass from Mock (pass failed)