Anaconda head coach suspended from team activities

Anaconda will be on the road for two powerful nonconference games against Whitehall and Butte Central this week, but will compete without their head coach.

Confirmed by Anaconda High athletic director Allen Green on Wednesday, boys basketball head coach Bill Hill has been suspended.

The fifth-year head coach was suspended for one week from all team activities. The details of the suspension was not disclosed.

“I cannot discuss the nature of the suspension because it’s a personnel issue,” Green said. “All I can confirm is that he has been suspended.”

Hill will be unavailable to coach for one calendar week starting Monday, Jan. 14. He is expected to return to the sidelines in time for Anaconda’s nonconference home game against Class A Corvallis Friday and on the road at 6B archrival Deer Lodge next Saturday.

Anaconda takes on Deer Lodge, needs help to keep season alive

4N6A9803Although they don’t control their own destiny, they do have some say in who is or isn’t moving on into the Class B state playoffs.

Anaconda travels to Deer Lodge tonight to wrap up the regular season, and just like last year playoff implications are on the line.

The Copperheads beat Deer Lodge 38-14 last year at Mitchell Stadium, propelling them as the No. 2 seed out of the 6B.

Here’s where the story slightly changes this time around. Last season after losing to Anaconda, the No. 3-seeded Wardens earned the wildcard for the West and North divisions. This year, the wildcard is already secured by Shelby out of the 1B.

Anaconda can make the playoffs, but they need some help. Anaconda needs to beat Deer Lodge and have Ronan fall to Mission — the latter seems to be a tall order. If the Copperheads win and Ronan wins, both would have 3-2 district records and Ronan would advance due to their 43-7 win over Anaconda earlier this season.

4N6A9700Deer Lodge controls their own destiny. Beat Anaconda and they are in and Ronan is out. Any other scenario doesn’t matter. No three-team tiebreaker gives the 6B enough bonus points to eclipse Shelby even though they lost to Cut Bank 21-0 Thursday.

But now let’s revisit an earlier week in Class B. On Monday, Oct. 3, word spread quickly about a “mutually agreed upon” game cancellation between Manhattan and Huntley Project. It was later revealed officials from Huntley were upset about the cancellation while Manhattan admitted injuries would make this matchup too one-sided and wanted the forfeit.

Personally, I knew this wasn’t right. I knew this could affect possible playoff implications down the road. How? Try to keep up.

In Class B, a team gets 45 points for a win and 25 points for a loss. Then, at the end of the regular season, a team will receive three points for every opponents win (except if the team lost to that opponent). Add the number and divide by the number of games played on the teams schedule and you have your tiebreaking number.

To save the reader the time I spent working the numbers of wins/losses and their opponents’ wins/losses, Shelby was significantly in front of any possibly third-place team in the 6B or 7B.

Back to Manhattan. For arguments sake say Anaconda misses out by three opponents points. Manhattan forfeited and gave away their chance at three points against Huntley. Were they going to win? Possibly not. But hypothetically, they could have. And it could’ve affected the playoffs. That’s why, when Manhattan cancelled the game because they had too many varsity level players on the cusp of not playing after being banged up from a division win over Whitehall, their decision to forfeit was a cop out. And honestly, the decision was bigger than them.

Yes, safety of the kids comes first. But that’s why you have a JV squad. I can’t imagine having a coach look me in the eye and basically say, “You know what guys, we just don’t have what it takes to play against that team. Let’s take the week off, heal up and see how we look afterwards.”

In my opinion, the MHSA should’ve intervened and made the game happen. I can understand if you don’t have enough to field a team and be forced to forfeit, but this wasn’t the case. They were banged up on three or four skill positions and didn’t want another game against what seems to be a pretty solid squad to get in the way of winning a 7B district title. But Huntley suffered for it as well. They lost another game to improve and possibly play some younger kids to get them exposure to the varsity level. That raises morale around the whole program. Believe it or not, they were losers too.

In the end, it sets a bad precedence. Play the games that are on your schedule. Hell, Anaconda has had to deal with those circumstances for years against Dillon. And not once can I remember coaches Peterson or Orrino looking their players in the eyes and doing their very best to get the players to believe they could overcome adversity — it’s the essence of sports. Blockbuster Hollywood movies are based upon large odds being overcome.

Those large odds need to be in Mission’s favor tonight for Anaconda to go to the playoffs. That however is out of their control. What is in their control is ending the season of the same school that ended theirs in the Western B Divisional tournament in Kalispell last year.

If that’s not motivation enough, nothing will be.



Food for thought on the travel issue with Anaconda moving to Class B

There’s been plenty of data kicked around about the financial burden moving to Class B may put on Anaconda in terms of travel expenses. But in my findings, that’s just not the case.

I did a mock up schedule for football, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ tennis and boys’ and girls’ golf, and it shows we can be lower in terms of mileage – in some cases significantly – and at no worse equal across the board when it comes down to it.

Regional scheduling is the key. If were to be put in the same conference as Missoula Loyola, Florence, Ronan, St. Ignatius and Deer Lodge, we have same level competition in non conference games available with short distance trips to Whitehall, Boulder, Townsend, Three Forks and even Manhattan.

Football, volleyball and boys’ and girls’ basketball and tennis travel becomes significantly less while boys’ and girls’ golf and softball would increase in the hypothetical scheduling. Wrestling, track and field and cross country won’t be much different due to the mixer style of events they already participate in.

One concern may be divisional and state tournaments, but I don’t think that’s fair to consider because success should be judged on a season-by-season basis. Girls’ basketball made the state tournament for the first time in three years this season, boys’ basketball hasn’t reached state since 2005, the Copperhead volleyball team hasn’t advanced to state since 2009 and the football team has made the state playoffs twice since 1995.

What I hate most about these numbers is seeing golf, one of the most successful programs over the years, having to move seasons. Head coach Mark Torney has worked his ass off with offseason practice schedules, even giving free lessons, and will now have to restructure his program if the change is made. But being the standup individual he is, he agreed he wants to do what’s in the best interest of all the kids of Anaconda. Although his program may see a decline with the spring scheduling, he’s still looking out for the best for AHS. Now that’s the sign of a great mentor and coach.

I love the competition in Class A. But I think it’s best we look at moving down to our rightful place in Class B. The numbers in terms of enrollment just aren’t up to par with schools in our division or conference.

Here’s a mock schedule which features regional scheduling.

mock schedule workup

My thoughts on Anaconda moving to Class B

On Monday, head coaches representing every Anaconda High sport met with AHS principal Paul Furthmyre, AD and vice Principal Shawn Hansen, SD10 Superintendent Dr. Tom Darnell and the board of trustees in order to consider a motion by Montana High School Association requesting the school to move to Class B. The move would take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

I reported on the meeting at (click here for the article) but it’s no secret I think the school should consider moving to the lower classification for a number of reasons.

1), It’s time. We are competing against bigger school in the Southwestern A, and the only reason we aren’t as bad off in terms of numbers against the majority of schools is because the likes of Hamilton, Corvallis and Stevensville are fielding huge soccer and cross country teams (currently, Dillon, Anaconda and Butte Central are among the minority in Class A who do not offer soccer for either boys or girls). According to AHS head football coach Bob Orrino, we have approximately 30 kids out for football each year. I can confirm Dillon had nearly 60 on their JV-Varsity teams last year, not counting members of the freshmen team numbering similar to Anaconda’s entire program.

2), We need to stop fooling ourselves. Forget the recent successes we’ve had in the classification, those are on a case by case basis. Our girls’ basketball and volleyball teams from 2006-2011 were an anomaly. Sure they were among the best teams in the state regardless of classification, but so was Fairfield this year after completing a 105-game winning streak. Could they continuously compete against teams of larger enrollment? Possibly. But that success couldn’t be sustained.

3), I’m one of the biggest supporters of Copperhead athletics and love where we play. The SW-A has some great administration and coaching staffs, including our own. With that being said, it’s just not fair to our kids to keep fooling ourselves. We need to move to where our school can compete on a level playing field AS A WHOLE and not by using a case-by-case basis.

I will say I loved the passion by each coach stating their individual cases on Monday night. All were respectful of one another and expressed their own concerns in a civil, professional manner. I wish all of the issues hitting our school board could be conducted the same way. There’s passion, then there’s misguided anger.

I probably shouldn’t have even been at the meeting, but again I felt it necessary to say my peace. And I appreciate the coaches for bearing with what I had to say.

Being a numbers guy, I though it necessary to compare Anaconda to one of the two recent former Class A teams which dropped down to Class B due to the same concerns we are having. I used Bigfork as that model. Here’s what I found.

One of the last teams to move from Class A to Class B was Bigfork in 2009-10. But their collective downfall across the board was seen for years. Sure they had some individual success, but their team records were always at or near the bottom of the Northwestern A. They were competing with schools which had almost twice their enrollment, and although there were scattered wins here and there, sustained success was not realistically attainable.

In the case of football, Anaconda and Bigfork last met in Anaconda during the 2005-06 season. Anaconda, a 3-5 football team that year, beat Bigfork 21-7. The Vikings finished 1-7 overall that year, then went winless over the next three years with 0-7, 0-8 and 0-8 records before moving to their rightful classification. In 2009-10, the football team went a respectable 4-4, and immediately rebounded from embarrassing 30 and 40 point losses to division rivals. In 08-09, Bigfork was outscored 46.5 to 11.3. The year they moved, their scoring and defense improved dramatically. Although they still allowed 36.8 ppg, they also scored 24.9 ppg.

Then in 2010-11, they went 10-2 and won the Class B state championship. Four years leading up to their move they went 1-30. Five years since, 41-13. And that’s just in football.

In basketball, it was much of the same. The four year prior to the move the team recorded a 16-61 mark with the best record being 7-13 in 2005-06. Since, they’ve advanced to three state tournaments and placed twice going 98-24 over that span including a perfect 26-0 record and Class B state championship this season.

Anaconda is almost identical to the tough choice Bigfork made moving down a classification, but you can see what happens when a school plays against other schools of like enrollment.

Even if the goal isn’t to succeed like Bigfork has, it should be at least to give our student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a level comparable to their competition. Winning on the playing field breeds winning in the classroom. Like Shawn Hansen has always said, when the student athletes are competing at a high level outside of the classroom, his problems in terms of discipline, absenteeism and tardiness reduce significantly.

You thing Bigfork isn’t loving life competing against their level of enrollment and not against the like of Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Polson? Think again. Here’s a nice article speaking to their moving from The Flathead Beacon (click here to read the story).

Some against the move say the competition isn’t as good. I don’t agree. Sure, the crop of competition is lower due to the lower enrollments and larger amount of schools competing in the Class B (currently at 40), but when you get down to the final 8-10 teams, those squads, whether it any specific sport, would wipe the walls with teams one or two classifications higher on any given year.

What does change in lowering the classification is the sustainability of the programs. In Class AA or A, bigger class sizes allow for the ability to have more athletes to sustain success. In Class B or C, that probability lowers significantly. Sure there are some collectively better than others, but that goes back to the quality of life in each school district.

Unfortunately, our population is made up mostly of poverty level kids dealing with some tough childhood situations. Anaconda is tough, but even we have had some uphill battles with getting back on our feet from the Smelter closure. But we do what we can and offer some pretty amazing opportunities in terms of quality education and recreation. So why not level the playing field for our kids and coaches? Pit them against like enrollments in order to give us that ability to sustain a program? Why can’t we be the big fish, why must we always try to overachieve?

In terms of academic-athletic opportunities (now I just did football because it’s the easiest to track) for our students, football is very kind to small schools in Montana. I searched back four years in the Frontier and Big Sky Conference schools Montana and Montana State (last year and their recruiting classes this year), and the results are very encouraging.

Many will say the lower the classification, the harder it will be for our student-athletes to receive scholarships. However that just isn’t the case. Thanks to social media, collegiate coaches are more in tune with the smaller school now that ever.

Looking back at just football from the past four years, over approximately 869 players hailing from Montana were on Frontier rosters, and this doesn’t include Dickinson State (except for last year) or Jamestown College in North Dakota which loads up on small school athletes from eastern Montana. Of this 869, 319 came from schools from the Class B or C ranks. So in other words, 37 percent of all football players in Montana that go on to play college football in the Frontier Conference hail from Class B or C.

In terms of Montana and Montana State the ratio goes down slightly but is still significant. Last year, Montana had 26 locals on their roster with 2 players from small school. Montana State had 39 and 10. So 19 percent of all Montana football players at the Division I level are from smaller schools.

Lower the school into its correct classification won’t hurt their ability to earn a scholarship or even play at the next level in the least.

Being smaller doesn’t mean being worse. Let’s get that through our heads right off the bat. As soon as we can get that stigma out of our lexicon the sooner we can get back to a level playing field for our entire school district, not just on a case by case basis.

We’re all in this together, let’s hope we all make the right choice.

The School Board will vote on the issue on Wednesday night, if you have some input I advise you to attend no matter where you stand on the issue.

Wagner wins SWMJGT final stop, earns season medalist honors



Jackson Wagner hits his third shot on the Par 4 10th over Warm Springs Creek just close enough to drain a 60-foot par putt during the SWMJGT Tour Championship at Old Works G.C. Monday afternoon. © CS PHOTO,LLC

Jackson Wagner’s good play met some even better fortune Monday, carding a 3-over 39 on the back 9 on the way to a division-best 80 to run away with tournament honors at the Old Works Tour Championship Monday afternoon. 


Wagner showing off the hardware he won at the SWMJGT today. © CS PHOTO, LLC

The win also secured his overall points championship as well, making him the medalist of the Tiger Woods Division (boys’ 16-17).

Wagner, the soon-to-be senior for the Copperhead boys’ golf team, has worked tirelessly on his game over the summer with sophomore friend and teammate Caleb Stetzner. Driven since finishing one spot out of All-State honors a year ago, Wagner has steadily lowered his handicap (now playing to a 7.1 hdcp) to become a viable contender with Stetzner — who won it as a freshman last season — for the Southwestern A golf title.

The Copperhead high school season begins play next Monday again at Old Works. Both boys’ and girls’ teams begin practice on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Anaconda Country Club.


Alexandra Huber tees off on the Par 4 14th Monday at Old Works. ©CS PHOTO,LLC

Two other Anaconda golfer competed in the final tour stop today. Soon-to-be senior Alexandra Huber and Fred Moodry Middle School student Carter Morley both made the required stops to compete in the tour championship.

For more information on all SWMJGT events, go to

TOURNAMENT RESULTS – Old Works Championship






Hardly a bad way to spend a Monday: Soon to be senior Alexandra Huber used Monday’s SWMJGT round to gear up for her senior season for the Copperheads. Here she tees off on No. 14 with the “A” Hill and Deer Lodge County Courthouse in the background. ©CS PHOTO, LLC

Stetz records first ace, rolls to SWMJGT victory at ACC

Anaconda’s Caleb Stetzner continues to amaze on the golf course this summer. A full week off of winning the State Junior Am at Bill Roberts Golf Course in Helena, the Copperhead sophomore ran away with the Anaconda Challege Wednesday morning in the South West Montana Junior Golf Tour played at Anaconda Country Club.


Caleb Stetzner during the first round of the 2012 Class A State Tournament at Old Works G.C. © CS Photo, LLC

Stetzner posted a career-low round in the process, carding a 5-under 66 at ACC. He had a 4-foot birdie putt on the Par-5 18th for the course record of 65, but it sailed just wide of target.

And even with the career round, his most memorable moment may have come on the Par-3, 145-yard 8th. He stepped up with a 9-iron and hit it pure. It was right of the pin but began to work back just in time.

“It was a little right, and I said, ”c’mon, spin left,’” said Stetzner, recalling his shot. “Then it hit and spun left. So I turned around and the kid (Butte’s Will Kilmer) in my group said, ‘I think it just went in.’ I was just shocked.”

To my knowledge, it’s the first ever Hole In One during the SWMJGT events.

Stetzner is the defending Southwestern A medalist and runner up in the 2012 Class A State tournament. His high school season will begin Aug. 19 at Old Works G.C.

Atta boy Caleb, keep up the good stuff!

Estes follows her roots, inks with Utah State

Since 1965, Utah State has been without an Estes matriculating on campus.

That 48 year drought will end come the 2013 fall semester.


Mia Estes signed her National Letter of Intent at the studios of KANA 580 AM Wednesday afternoon. Photo copyright CS Photo, LLC

Mia Estes will join the Aggies women’s track and field program as a javelin thrower after signing her letter of intent on Wednesday, June 19, at the studios of KANA 580 AM in Anaconda. In 1965, Mia’s larger-than-life uncle, Wayne Estes, attended and immortalized himself as a All-America basketball legend on the Logan, Utah campus.

“I’m really happy, it’s kind of unreal,” said the Anaconda High School multi-sport athlete regarding the signing and recruitment process. “I had a lot of tough schools I had to choose from, and that’s because of the coaches I connected with. It was hard to pick where I wanted to be or call home for the next four years.”

Mia’s father and throwing coach, Ron, who was just a boy when his big brother Wayne was killed at the scene of a traffic accident following a game in 1965, believes Logan is the perfect place to continue her athletic and scholastic career, even if separating from his only daughter is going to be difficult.

“We’re extremely close,”Mia said glowingly of her dad. “I think he’s exited for me. He knows it will be a good place for me, it’s a safe town.”

Not that Mia will ever have to feel the burden of following in the footsteps of her uncle Wayne, however it’s still important to her to make a good example following the acceptance into the Aggies family.

“It’s really special, and it’s a lot to own up to,” Mia said, choking up. “It’s going to be a fun experience, I’m so excited for my journey to begin.”

Wayne Estes, just hours after scoring 48 points in a win over Denver University on Feb. 8, 1965, was electrocuted at the scene of a car accident when his head came into contact with a downed power line. That night, he scored his 2,001st point (a school record at the time) in his third-year as an Aggie.

Following that, his senior season, Wayne Estes was named to the All-America Second Team and was projected to be selected above Rick Barry in the NBA draft with the No. 1 pick. He was drafted, posthumously, by the Lakers.

Not only is he remembered with a shrine in Nelson Fieldhouse, his likeness is a major part of Anaconda’s Memorial Gymnasium trophy case as well. In addition, he is remembered every year at the end of March for the annual Wayne Estes Memorial Basketball Tournament, a collection of high school and adult teams that has drawn upwards of 120 teams.

Now, USU is Mia’s university too.


At the beginning of her senior season, Mia was sporadically receiving offers from schools — many just partial or incentive-laden scholarships. Sure, she had been in contact with local universities such as Montana and Montana State, but nothing too in depth.


Mia Estes as a senior for the Copperheads. Photo copyright CS Photo, LLC

But once she shattered her own school record with a throw of 143-10 at the Beaverhead Invitational in Dillon, Mont. – a throw that unofficially placed her fourth for a prep in the United State according to – word quickly spread about the 5-foot-7 superstar in the making. As if that wasn’t enough to get her noticed, just days later she popped the a throw of 146-3 at the Belgrade Invitational in Bozeman, Mont., to effectively send her suitors into a frenzy.

After several attempts at improving on her school-record mark came up short, Mia settled for her second-straight Southwestern A Conference title. Then, she claimed what has basically become her family birth right at the end of May, winning the Montana Class A state championship in Laurel. The win allowed her to join her father, Ron (1970-Class AA, Anaconda High) and brother Michael (1999-Class C, Granite Co. (Philipsburg), 2001-Class A, Anaconda High) as state javelin champions.

And although she came up short of her goal of setting the state girls’ javelin record, her dream of standing on top of the podium akin to her father and brother was fulfilled.

Getting the state-championship monkey off her back was nearly as rewarding as finally signing her name on the National Letter of Intent – both of which have consumed her with worry for some time. Now, Mia can’t wait to get on campus and begin building lasting relationships with her new teammates.

“They’ve been texting me a lot, wondering when I was going to sign,” she said. “I can’t wait to be there with them.”

Now, university officials are calling on Mia to be a part of the ceremony kicking off construction of the Wayne Estes Center, a $9.5-million multi-sports facility on the USU campus announced earlier this year.

“They want me to come down for the groundbreaking,” Mia said. “That’s going to be a very special day for us.”

Mia will pursue a degree in physical therapy.

Johnson twins representing Anaconda well at Montana Hershey

Now the waiting game begins.

imageLogan and Layne Johnson, soon-to-be seventh-graders at Fred Moodry Middle School in Anaconda, each placed in three individual events at the 2013 Montana Hershey Track and Field Championships in Colstrip on Saturday, June 15.

And to top it all off, Layne’s 800 meter performance may get him a trip to Hershey, Penn. in August for the North American Finals.

Although Logan’s best finishes were extremely admirable runner-ups in the 400 meter dash and softball throw, Layne busted out a first-place in the 800 meter run in the boys’ 11-12-year-old division to qualify for a chance at the National Finals.

Logan added a third-place finish in the 100 meter while Layne notched a third in the 200 and fifth in the long jump.

Layne will now have to wait to compare his time with eight other states around the Northwest Region to see if he will qualify for the Hershey National Track and Field Meet Aug. 1-4 in Hershey, Penn.

The Johnson’s are the sons of Wade and Jaime Johnson.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Anaconda’s Jimmy Verlanic: From athletic underdog to classroom superstar

Bobcat Beat

 Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of “Where are they now?”-style pieces on memorable Bobcats from Montana State teams of the past.

 Jimmy Verlanic was always a natural.

Jim Verlanic mug

When it came to competing on the football field, the Anaconda native usually had to give everything he had to hold his own. But in the classroom, the former Copperhead valedictorian was a star.

As the former Montana State offensive lineman (2004-2008) begins his third year of medical school at the University of Nevada-Reno, his mental mettle is finally being tested.

“It is difficult,” Verlanic said. “School has always been one of those things that came to me naturally. Even in college, playing football, it took a lot more energy for me to excel in football than it did academically. Medical school, I thought all I had to do was go to school so it would be easy. And I never developed incredible study habits because it wasn’t that hard in college. Medical school has forced me to study constantly. That’s been one of the hardest things because your life becomes sitting on your ass reading Power Point slides and a textbook. That’s been a huge challenge.”

On Thursday morning, Verlanic took his Step 1 board exam. He’s not sure what the result will be, but he’s cautiously optimistic he did well. After five weeks of spending 12 to 14 hours a day studying, the biggest test of his life is behind him.

“The depth of knowledge they expect and the subsequent amount of studying it takes to get to that level is rather astounding,” the former center said. “This week while I was getting ready for the test, my dad (Ken) told me at least I didn’t’ have to line up across from a nose guard that wanted to rip my face off. I just had to sit in a room and take a test.”

If things go according to plan, Verlanic has no more didactic learning. He won’t spend much time sitting in classrooms or libraries. Now he’s on to his clinical work and he can see his ultimate goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon on the distant horizon.

Academics may have come easily to the captain of the 2008 Bobcats, but the 27-year-old appreciates how much his alma mater prepared him nonetheless.

Verlanic up

Jimmy Verlanic at his center position in the 2007 season. Photo by R. Dean Hendrickson

“I did one of the tougher degree programs at Montana State and combined with football, I had a very busy schedule,” said Verlanic, who was an Academic All-Big Sky selection three times in his Bobcat career. “One of the biggest things I learned was how to handle my time efficiently. Once you learn how to handle your time, you can handle each aspect of your life with everything that is going on.”

“Montana State academically prepared me tremendously,” Verlanic continued. “I took an anatomy class my senior year of college at Montana State that really helped me excel my first year of medical school. I felt like I couldn’t have been better prepared academically.”

Verlanic was born in Butte and grew up in the Smelter City of Anaconda. Bozeman was a bit of a change, although the outdoor enthusiast said he’s always been a Bobcat fan who came to the Gallatin Valley as a kid. He spent his first year of med school at Nevada-Las Vegas before moving to Reno.

“Reno is an interesting place,” Verlanci said. “I lived in Vegas for a few years and right away, I liked that Reno is a lot more similar to home. You have mountains and snow and the climate is more like Montana. It’s smaller than Vegas too, which I definitely like. It’s a town with a lot of character. We live down in midtown and there’s a lot of Hipster changes lately, which has been interesting. It’s not somewhere I’d like to stay forever. I’d like to get back to Montana.”

When Verlanic first arrived at Montana State, he was a 200-pound walk-on. By the time he wrapped up his career, he was a 260-pound two-year starter and a team captain. He started a legacy that continued for the past five seasons. He passed on his No. 61 to Alex Terrien. Terrien, an All-America captain in 2011, passed the jersey on to all-league tackle Steven Foster last season. It’s uncertain if the tradition will continue. Freshman defensive Connor Thomas is currently listed as No. 61 on the MSU roster, but was switched to No. 97 following fall camp. Numbers won’t be official until fall camp opens on Aug. 4.

bobcat media guide

Probably one of the coolest family heirlooms a father-son could ever ask for, Jimmy and his father, Ken, appeared on the 2008 Bobcat Football program.

Verlanic, who’s father, Ken, played offensive guard on MSU’s 1976 national title team, tries to keep up with the ascending Bobcats as best he can. He watches games on Big Sky TV and on ROOT Sports. He has an app on his phone to listen to the radio broadcasts for the three-time defending Big Sky champs on his cell phone. Although his playing days are over, he’s still proud to be a Bobcat.


bobcats named captains

Above: Montana State University center Jim Verlanic, left, stands with Bobby Daly, Dane Fletcher and Jeff Hansen after being selected by teammates as the captains for the upcoming 2008 Big Sky Conference football season. All of the captains selected are from Montana.
Top: Verlanic, right, stands with the president of the Montana Chapter National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame, Bill Sprinkle, at the awards banquet last Saturday night. Verlanic, along with 11 other football players from Montana’s five high school classifications, five Frontier Conference schools and two State Universities. Courtesy photos


“The rise of the program is absolutely astounding,” Verlanic said. “It’s amazing to see that end-zone finally bowled in. It’s amazing to see how far the program has come. It’s just awesome to see those guys winning so much. I think it’s phenomenal. It’s really cool to see them get better and better. I couldn’t be more excited about the program and where it’s headed.”

Colter Nuanez is a freelance journalist living in Southwestern Montana. He is the senior writer for Bobcat Beat (, a website covering Montana State athletics. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @Bobcat_Beat.




Brooke Chapman commits to Hamline University softball

IMG_5516From a Copperhead to a Piper, Brooke Chapman, no matter the mascot, will be continuing her playing career while following her passion in the classroom.

Chapman, the Copperheads’ all time winningest pitcher not to mention career strikeout and ERA record holder, has agreed to join the Hamline University softball team under head coach Jim Rubbleke starting in the fall of 2013.

“I’m really excited to get the opportunity to not only continue playing the game I love, but also get the chance to pursue my degree,” Chapman said, who will be chasing after a bachelors in psychology at Hamline with the eventual goal of earning her masters in clinical psychology.

After a campus visit during this softball season, Rubbleke informed Champman of her status on the team and how they could use her right away, according to the outgoing Copperhead senior.

“He told me I’d be in line to play right away, and that’s more than I could ever ask for,” Chapman said, who added she will be included into the pitching rotation as well as being used as a hitting presence as well. ”(Hamline) is a great fit for me because it allows me to continue playing while also offering exactly what I want in terms of my studies. I’ve always been a student first, and this choice for me was no different.”

Chapman has been a four-year starter for the Copperheads, leading them to their first-, second- and third-consecutive state tournament appearances in her frosh through junior years (2010-12) capped by a Southwestern A conference championship last season – all firsts for the school in competitive girls’ softball. This season, Chapman led the Copperheads to a 4-4 conference record and 9-10-1 overall mark during a brutally tough schedule to notch the fourth-straight state tournament appearance and No. 3 seed out of the Southwestern A.

“Sooner or later, somebody was going to see our progress as a team,” said head coach Dotsie Shafer, who has been with the softball program as an assistant and head coach since its inception. “(Brooke) is one of the better ones to have come through here. I think she will do well, she’s very coachable and adapts to her surroundings.”

Maybe this year’s finish was a little below the expectations of Chapman and her teammates, however the competition in the conference is the best in some time. Nonetheless, Anaconda remains a solid dark horse for a possible place on the medal stand after it’s all said and done.

Chapman has earned a school record 31 wins (31-37) for the Copperheads, who just so happened to have never finished dead last in any softball season before her class arrived at Anaconda High. This year, she broke her school record in Ks (116 set in 2012), and has 118 with still at least two game remaining. Leading up to the weekend, Chapman has thrown an amazing 7,148 pitches wearing the Blue and Silver, and 4,396 have been strikes (61 percent of the time Chapman is in the strike zone). She also has allowed a nice ratio of walks to hits allowing 216 walks and 457 hits during her four years. This year, she’s almost cut her walks allowed in half from any other year, allowing just 32 free passes this season versus a career high 58 as a freshman. All told, her school record 433 strikeouts to date is a mark that may never be approached again.

Her work ethic is like no other, giving up other sports (such as basketball, where she was a team leader in points and rebounds) in order to focus on the game she thought would correlate into a college playing career. And that extensive work has paid off.

“It is extremely fulfilling to see her achieve the goal she set when she was 8-years-old,” said her father and lifelong coach,Tod Chapman, who also doubles as her pitching coach for the Copperheads. ”Her work ethic has earned her the opportunity to play collegiately.”

And knowing that his daughter can parlay her ability on the diamond into getting a quality education like the one offered at Hamline is just the icing on top of an already flavorful cake.

“With Brooke, education was always the primary driver,” Tod said. ”When she was looking at colleges, she would only look at schools that were rated academically selective. It did not matter how they ranked in softball.  It made picking a school much easier for all of us.”

Hamline is an NCAA Division III school and member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). It is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is the oldest and first established university in the state according to the Web site.

Because of the distance from home to Hamline, some 1,098 miles according to, not being able to watch Brooke play – something which has never been called into question as her coach and confidant - is going to be a bit of an adjustment.

“It will be difficult, but Hamline University is working on webcasting all their home games, so that will help,” Tod said. “This summer, as they did last summer, both Brooke and her younger sister, Delanie, will be playing for a team that travels all over the west.  While they are playing out of state, I coach my youngest, Erin, around the state. So I only get phone updates on how the games went. Hopefully this experience will help make the transition easier, but I am not counting on it.”

Still, seeing his little girl blossom into the school’s best ever chucker and now a collegiate player due primarily to his dedication to teaching her every aspect of the game – both mechanically and fundamentally - is extremely fulfilling, even if he and his wife, Shawna, will lose a bit of the day-to-day interaction.

“Shawna and I believe she is ready to move on to the next adventure in her life,” he said. ”She has always been mature beyond her years and after our trip to Hamline, we are comfortable with her decision. We expect great things for her, both academically and athletically, but more importantly we believe this is a great opportunity for her to grow.”

Below is a timeline of photos from Brooke as a freshman through her junior year. Congrats on the accomplishment kiddo! We know you will make us extremely proud in Anaconda. Once a Copperhead, always a Copperhead!


Brooke pitches to a Havre batter in the 2010 Class A State tournament in Billings









Brooke as a sophomore for the Copperheads in 2011









Brooke tosses a pitch during the 2012 State tournament at Charlotte Yeoman Martin Sports Complex against Livingston. Photo courtesy R. Dean Hendrickson