Deep Wolfpack ready for banner '23 season

Aug. 25—The Glacier Wolfpack have played for three State AA football championships and won one, so it's saying something that this 2023 squad might set the high-water mark for the program.

For sure, Coach Grady Bennett said, it is his deepest group of seniors.

"I don't know that we've ever returned this many starters," said Bennett, the program's coach since Day 1 in 2007. "There are 17 starters back from that playoff game (a 31-23 quarterfinal loss at Bozeman). We played only five seniors, really.

"But the unique thing about this senior class is there's 22 of them, and all of them can play. We've never had this kind of depth in one class. There just isn't a drop off."

The one question mark was quarterback with the graduation of Gage Sliter, now in camp with the Griz. Bennett seems to have solved that with Jackson Presley, a sophomore who came up from California.

"He's a good one," Bennett said. "He came here as a freshman and was going to enroll that summer. And he had some family situations that led him to go back to L.A. Now he's come back.

"He joined us in the spring, was in the track program, and was in our football camps this summer. And yeah, he's QB-1 at this point."

The rest of the offense is full of familiar names that contributed heavily on last year's 7-4 squad. Third-year starters Henry Sellards (an NDSU commit), Rylan Heil, TJ Gannon and Ben Winters on the line; Isaac Keim, Van Scholten and Kole Johnson at tight end. Cohen Kastelitz, Easton Kauffman, Bridger Smith, Evan Barnes and Ethan Anderson at outside receiver, and Rhett Measure and Alex Hausmann in the slot.

Kastelitz averaged 20.4 yards on a team-high 46 receptions a year ago, with seven touchdowns.

In the backfield a healthy Kash Goicoechea — like Keim, he has committed to the Griz — will split carries with Kobe Dorcheus. Dorcheus ran for 487 yards and eight scores last season.

This is a good example of our depth," Bennett said of the running back spot. "Isaac Ritter is our No. 3 back and he's a really good back. I think he'd start for a lot of AA teams. And we'll get him out there, too."

Similarly, Bennett noted, Scholten started last season at tight end and now finds the position crowded with Keim and Johnson.

"That's kind of how it is across the board," Bennett said. "We've been talking about rotations and keeping everybody selfless and cheering each other on.

"Keep our guys fresh, rotate them in and out and just come at people in waves."

The one hole might've been right guard, if Aiden Krause and Justin Timlin weren't ready to go. Bennett is really happy to have Krause, who suffered a leg fracture the first day of last year's fall camp, on the defensive line: "Having him come back to his mix is like, wow."

Sellards, Winters, Keim and Timlik all fortify the front in Glacier's 4-2-5 look, and Dorcheus will play some rush end.

Kaleb Shine leads a linebacker corps that includes Jaden Dannic, Carter Lapke and Mark Ahner. The secondary is deep, starting with linebacker/safety Carson Baker.

Jack Robinson and Ethan Kastelitz back up Goicoechea and Johnson at safety; Hausmann, Barnes, Kauffmann and Smith give the Pack a surplus of corners.

Glacier opens the season at Legends Stadium Friday against Billings Senior, a 3-7 club a year ago, including a 31-0 playoff loss on the same turf.

Peyton Oakley returns at quarterback for the Broncs, and receiver McClain Burckley caught 62 passes in nine games last year.

Bennett notes that Bozeman could be the team to beat; the Hawks fell to Helena Capital for the 2022 AA championship. "When Bozeman beat us, that was juniors on juniors," he said.

Now his juniors are seniors, and it should be a memorable season.

"They're high-character kids, fun to coach, fun to be around," Bennett said. "There's no doubt this is going tobe a special season. A lot of fun."


1. Glacier

2. Sentinel

3. Helena

4. Capital

5. Flathead

6. Butte

7. Big Sky

8. Hellgate

Players to Watch

Riley Allen, QB/P, Sentinel; Braden Capser, TE, Flathead; Easton Capser, LB, Flathead; Tyler Christensen, CB, Sentinel; Cole Dawes, LT, Capital; Kobe Dorcheus, RB, Glacier; TJ Gannon, C, Glacier; Kash Goicoechea, S/RB, Glacier; Matt Goleman, LT, Helena; Brett Grange, SP, Helena; Barrett Hageman, G, Capital; Alex Hausmann, CB, Glacier; Tanner Heichel, CB, Flathead; Cohen Kastelitz, WR, Glacier; Isaac Keim, TE/GL, Glacier; Carter Kraft, QB, Helena; Hudson Luedtke, TE, Butte; Aiden Marceau, S, Big Sky; Drew Martins, K, Big Sky; Rhett Measure, K/WR, Glacier; Manu Melo, WR/KR, Helena; Dylan Mosness, AP, Helena; Jackson Presley, QB, Glacier; Ryan Prisinger, LB, Helena; Colter Ramos, WR, Big Sky; Brandon Rondeau, RB, Sentinel; Kade Schleeman, G, Butte; Henry Sellards, OT/DT, Glacier; Kaleb Shine, LB, Glacier; Gabe Sims, TE, Flathead; Danny Sirmon, TE, Sentinel; Cade Stajcar, WR, Butte; Kyler Stenson, DE, Butte; Ben Winters, DT, Glacier; Kehler Woodland, DL, Helena.

PARKING: Starting this month access to Legends Stadium from the south is no long an option, as the city begins to occupy their long-owned property on that end of the venue.

All fans and athletes must enter through the two north gates, and all fans are encouraged to arrive early and use the county parking lots to the northeast of the stadium.

Four handicapped spaces have been added near the northeast gate to improve accessibility for those fans that require it.

Please be safe and courteous to neighbors and patrons while accessing Legends Stadium.