Grizzly Football Season Ends Early

22 11 2010

November 21, 2010

For the first time in 18 years, the Montana Grizzlies will not be competing in the FCS playoffs.  The Grizzlies extinguished their chances of a playoff berth after falling to their rival Montana State 21-16 at Washington Grizzly Stadium yesterday.

And although the team has plenty of excuses such as losing 17 seniors from last year’s team and undergoing a coaching and scheming overhaul, the team will most remember the untimely mistakes it made on a frigid November day against its bitter rival.  Montana had three redzone turnovers, two of which came with 5-yards of the endzone.  And so despite the Grizzly defense shutting out the Cats in the second half, Montana’s offense couldn’t find any points in the last three quarters of play.

In another bitter storyline, senior runningback Chase Reynolds finished just three yards shy of the all-time Grizzly rushing record.  Reynolds rushed for 180 yards and a touchdown in the game off of 21 carries.  He finishes his brilliant collegiate career with 4,067 rushing yards.  He also holds school records with 59 total touchdowns and 52 rushing touchdowns.

Montana ended the game with slim hopes of getting an at large playoff berth into the 2010 FCS playoffs.  Those hopes were dashed this morning when the selection show revealed a 20-team playoff bracket that did not include the Grizzlies.

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Busy Fall Season

6 10 2010

October 5, 2010

Between my busyness and my laziness it’s been tough to find motivation to post lately.  I attribute a lot of it also to the fact that it’s tough to know when to post when there are so many work and sports related things going on every day… it all tends to run together.

In KECI-related news, we’ve lost our fearless leader (sports director) Jake Zivin to a larger market as he’s now reporting in Eugene, Oregon.  For the three weeks he was gone it was just Kayla (Anderson) and me holding up the sports department.  However just a couple weeks ago our newest member joined the team from Fargo in Zach Borg.

In the world of the Grizzlies we’ve had a tough start to the season following that wallop over Western State.  We proceeded to lose our next two road games (to tough opponents in Cal Poly and Eastern Washington).  Both losses were close games but the skid marked the first time since 2002 the Grizzlies had lost two straight regular season games.  We’ve since recovered with wins over Sacramento State (28-25) and Northern Colorado (30-7).  Unfortunately in the game against Sacramento State we lost Walter Payton Award candidate Andrew Selle for the season after sustaining a career-ending injury to his throwing arm (torn rotator cuff).  The senior quarterback out of Billings (Billings West High School) ended his outstanding four-year career at Montana with a record of 14-3 as a starter.  He is ranked 10th in school history in career passing yards (4,131) and in total offense (4,217 yards).

Meanwhile, former Grizzly Marc Mariani reached a spectacular milestone this past Sunday against the Denver Broncos as the return man took a kickoff 98 yards for his first NFL touchdown.  Unfortunately his Titans fell by a final of 26-20.  Griz Nation hopes (and is confident that) the score is just the first of many for the outstanding athlete out of Havre, Montana.

On a more personal note,  I had the pleasure to meet and talk with sportscasting legend Brent Musburger today in the University Journalism school.  He is one of the nicest and most sincere men I’ve ever met and it was a great experience to listen and learn from him talk about his career.  Meanwhile I’ve also been busy making weekly video stories on various topics including everything from UM Baseball tryouts to a profile on Grizzly runningback Peter Nguyen.





Grizzlies Destroy Mountaineers in Home Opener

5 09 2010

Jordan Tripp's Early 22-yard Interception Return Sparked a Record Performance by the Griz Defense

September 5, 2010

Coming into the 2010 season, things were very different for Montana Grizzly football.  The team has a new head coach (Robin Pflugrad) and many new players, however one thing is the same from last year…they opened up their season hosting Western State College at Washington Grizzly Stadium.

For the first time in my Griz football spectating career (which now totals 28 games), I spent the entirety of yesterday’s game on the field, shooting the game with Kayla for KECI.

And the Grizzlies did not disappoint myself nor the home crowd.  Montana was up 21-0 just minutes into the game and cruised to a 73-2 victory.

The story of the day was the Griz defense giving up no points and scoring four touchdowns of their own, setting a Big Sky Conference record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Three of those pick sixes came in the first quarter as the team wasted no time demonstrating the speed and hands of their new look pressure defense.

Another bright spot for the Grizzlies was the excellent return game by Peter Nguyen who totalled over 200 yards on kick and punt returns.

Montana will face a tougher opponent next Saturday when they take to the road to face Cal Poly.

Meanwhile a pair of ex-Griz football stars have officially made the cut for their respective NFL teams.  Former Montana wide-receiver and Marc Mariani made the final Tennessee Titan roster yesterday.  The Havre native led the entire NFL in all-purpose yards during the preseason with 440.  His former teammate Shann Schillinger also made the cut with the Atlanta Falcons.





Gridiron Season Approaches

19 08 2010

August 18, 2010

It’s that time of year again, despite baseball season still being in full swing everybody is itching for football season.  I’m a self-proclaimed baseball nut but even I’m anxious for some pigskin action.

It’s been very encouraging to see success in the NFL preseason by players who were suiting up for the University of Montana just a year ago.  In his first game for the Titans (against Seattle on Sunday, August 15) Marc Mariani hauled in 3 catches for 21 yards, caught a 2-point conversion, and returned several punts and kicks… his spot on the roster = solidified.  Meanwhile Stephen Pfahler had a 16-yard reception himself for Tennessee.  Shann Schillinger also made headlines over with the Falcons, with a tackle and interception (returned 29 yards) in his first professional game.

As great as it is to see those guys continue their success… there remain several questions about the immediate future the current Montana Grizzly team will have.  I was at their first scrimmage of the season on Sunday.  The vigor of our young tailbacks such as Peter Nguyen and Jordan Canada was good to see.  Both ran hard and took several attempted tackles to bring down.  Obviously the starting job in the ground game is still Chase Reynolds without question but any and all offensive weapons are good to see.  On the defensive side, it was all about a sure-handed secondary of safeties grabbing four picks on the afternoon.  Returning starter Erik Stoll made a great interception along the sideline, Mike McCord had a 99-yard touchdown return on his pick (albeit an easy play on a terrible ball thrown by Chase Reynolds), and junior transfer Andrew Badger caught two interceptions himself (one if which he returned 17 yards for a score, brilliantly navigating through a slew of attempted tackles).

I have yet to place my faith on the passing game, the scrimmage saw lots of minimal success screens and dump-out passes… we’ll just have to wait until the season fires up to see if we have a chance to advance to a third straight national championship game under our new coach in Robin Plugrad.

Of course I haven’t given up on baseball by any degree… and the Missoula Osprey are looking the best they have since the season began.  The team sits just one game back of first-place Helena in the current 2nd half season standings, despite being two games under .500 at 7-9.  Adam Eaton continues to tear up the Pioneer League as he leads the league in hitting (.374), slugging (.563), on-base-percentage (.507), OPS (1.070) and even ranks second in steals with 17.  However if the team pitching doesn’t find it’s magic slipper soon it will remain an ugly pumpkin that will keep the O’s from finding a playoff berth (the team ranks last in ERA at 5.09).

On one light-hearted note, Kayla and I had a ton of fun doing a story on Matt Helm and Bobby Stone anchoring the corners of the infield… and doing so fashionably with a mullet each.  To view the story click here: Mullet Magic.





Beautiful Day for Sports

11 04 2010

April 10, 2010

Spring weather in Montana is as indecisive as it gets.  Whereas it was freezing cold and snowing yesterday, today was perfectly sunny and warm all day.  Thank goodness it was too since I shot outside for five hours this afternoon.

My first stop was at Loyola’s softball field to catch a couple innings of the Breakers facing Eureka/Troy.  This was actually my first time ever shooting softball… it’s harder than I thought.  It’s tough to follow the ball cleanly off of the bat looking through lens that is in black and white.  I can only hope I get much better before baseball season rolls in.  I left after the second inning as Loyola jumped out to a 8-0 lead.  It wasn’t so much that Loyola was knocking the crap out of the ball, but they were making consistent contact and Eureka’s fielders had all sorts of throwing errors that were leading to runs for the Breakers.  Loyola ended up winning the game 10-3.

After that, I headed to Washington Grizzly Stadium to join Kayla at the Grizzly football scrimmage.  The team looked good, especially offensively.  Coach Pflugrad has definitely changed up the offensive scheme as we knew he would.  There was a lot of no huddle and the play ratio was very pass-heavy.  There were quite a few end around and reverse type plays when we did run the ball.  Jabin Sambrano looked sharp and should be quite the playmaker for us next season.  Bryce Carver also looked like a bright spot in my opinion.  For a little guy, he made a number of athletic plays as wide receiver and I can see him getting a lot of snaps next year.  The only conundrum I saw was that Chase Reynolds didn’t get any action.  It appears Pflugrad didn’t want to play him today as he tests out players at new positions… then again I suppose Reynolds won’t need as many repetitions when we’ll be running a spread offense aerial attack with some draws, screens and reverses.

After the scrimmage we interviewed Dodson, Sambrano, Selle, and Coach Pflugrad.   It was nice to hear each of the players being honest and optimistic about the transitions of coaching staff and play-book structure that they’ve dealt with so far this off-season.  It truly appears that the team is coming together and finding its new identity.

After the scrimmage I shot an actual football game in Washington Grizzly… the Missoula Phoenix taking on the Glacier Knights in Rocky Mountain Football League (RMFL) action.  I could only stay for the first half.  While I was there, the Phoenix jumped out to a 12-0 lead as a result of a pair of deep touchdown passes.  The Phoenix ended up winning the game by a final of 18-13, improving their record to 1-1 on the season.

After all that fun in the sun, I finally returned to the station just after six o’clock to edit my footage for the 10 o’clock news.  All in all a very productive day in shooting new sports and watching our football team evolve before my eyes.





Spring is in the Air

25 03 2010

March 24, 2010

This week of work has definitely been causing my mindset to transition into the swing of spring.

Monday I covered the first day of full pads for the Montana Grizzly football team’s “spring ball”.  Shooting football in March certainly felt confusing… the weather didn’t help at all either.  Every five minutes went from borderline blizzard to eye-blindingly sunny.  As difficult as it is to dress and cope with such conditions physically, shooting video in this kind of weather is equally draining.  Every time the sun disappeared and it would start raining, I’d have to turn the camera’s filter down from two to one or none.  I’d also have to re-iris the shot for lighting and re-white balance for crisp color.  Not to mention I shielded the camera with my coat to prevent any water damage.  Of course  minutes later the sun would come out and I’d reverse all of these steps again in order to get a usable picture.   After about three hours of shooting B-roll of various drills and scrimmaging, I finally got to interview defensive tackle Tyler Hobbs and newly appointed head coach Robin Pflugrad.  Today was my first time meeting and interviewing the coach… I’m sure it will be far from my last.  Coach Pflugrad wasn’t in a particularly chatty mood as he articulated that the day hadn’t been the best practice session he’s seen out of his players.  Hobbs emphasized that the team is still finding its way.  Besides the rust of winter, the players are facing many changes in coaching staff and thus changes in specific expectations of the players.  Although it felt exciting to be shooting Montana football again in Washington Grizzly Stadium… I had to remind myself that this was just a tease.  After all it is just March, competitive collegiate football is almost half a year away.

What isn’t far away in the world of sports is softball season.  Kayla and I attended two high school softball practices today to gear up for high school softball season which is less than a couple weeks away.  We got footage and interviews at both Missoula Loyola’s pratice and Missoula Hellgate’s.  The weather today was consistently warm, sunny and great for a change.  It really felt like spring outside and seeing softball practice reinforced the transition into the spring sporting season that is upon us.  I’m nervous/anxious/excited for trying my hand at filming a new batch of sports as the season approaches.  It’s becoming apparent that spring has arrived.





Pursuing Gridiron Glory

10 03 2010

March 10, 2010

This morning I had the pleasure of shooting a story with Kayla on three exceptional Grizzly football players pursuing their dreams to play at a professional level.  We attended the workout session of Griz stars Marc Mariani (wide receiver), Shann Schillinger (safety), and Shawn Lebsock (linebacker).

The trio was working out for Pro Day, which is just days away.  Throughout talking to the guys, in both formal interviews as well as off-the-record chatting, the guys made it clear that the specific training they’ve done for Pro Day is annoyingly different than the drills they’re used to for gamedays.  It’s more of a focus on specific athletic feats rather than the broader and perhaps more telling spectrum of what the guys are capable of seeing and reacting to out on the actual field.  With just one day of specific drills and precise measurements, Mariani said that it’s a lot of pressure to perform without error.  With that in mind, this morning’s routine consisted of drills to improve/maintain the players’ vertical jump, broad jump, bench press and 40 yard dash.

However, the drills of sprints, ladders, weights and jumps was helpful for shooting the story.  Tight shots of struggling during repetitions of weight lifting, legs exploding into nine-foot boadjumps, and bursts of sprinting speed make for perfect pops of natural sound in packages as well as cutaway transitions.

Aside from these players’ raw athelticizm, Missoula residents can’t help but wish them the best in their football endeavours as upstanding football players and people.  The three of them had nothing but respect and humbleness in regards to their coaches and teammates.

Pro Day will take place here in Missoula this coming Monday, March 15.  After that the prospects will have to wait until the NFL Draft, which starts April 22nd, to figure out their next step in their pursuits of gridiron glory.