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There were stops and restarts, and it wasn’t easy, but the 2021 Montana high school football season was completed with state championship games late last month.

And now it is time for SBLive to release its all-state football team — spanning all classifications — including individual awards.


Player of the year: Zac Crews, QB, Missoula Sentinel

Quite simply, the Spartans senior quarterback is referred to as a "Dude." That compliment comes unsolicited from opponents, other coaches and virtually anyone because Crews can do about anything he wants on a football field – defensively and offensively. As a senior, Crews willingly moved to quarterback and led his team to a second consecutive undefeated season - and back-to-back ‘AA’ state titles. The Montana signee threw the ball for 1,771 yards and 20 touchdowns. He ran it for 869 yards and 11 more scores. "It’s an accurate description," Sentinel coach Dane Oliver said. "He’s just such a phenomenal athlete that can play so many positions. He’s the ultimate competitor."

Offensive player of the year: Taco Dowler, WR, Billings West

If there was an all-purpose award, the Golden Bears' senior wide receiver would also be the guy. Electric with the ball in his hands, Dowler made 60 catches for 949 yards and nine touchdowns. Add in his return efforts (special teams and defensively), the Montana State University signee averaged 118.3 yards per game to lead his team to a second consecutive appearance in the state championship game. Recently, he was named the Gatorade state player of the year.

Defensive player of the year: Riley Bergeson, DB, Billings West

The Naval Academy signee was the field general from his safety position, helping the Golden Bears to consecutive state title-game appearances. Oh, and he had 63 tackles for a team with a dominant front seven. "Our defensive coordinator used to be at Rocky Mountain College,” coach Rob Stanton said. “And he says he’s able to do things here that he wasn’t even doing there because of Riley Bergeson. He’s kind of the brain of our defense."

Lineman of the year: Charlie Kirgan, DE, Missoula Sentinel

A cog in a very talented defensive front for the two-time state champions, most opponents tried to stay away from his side of the field this season. The senior refused to let that happen in the state title game against Billings West, however, and had his best showing in the biggest game (13 total tackles. 3.5 TFL). The Montana Tech signee finished with 40 tackles and 11 TFL overall this season.

Breakout player of the year: Jarrett Wilson, QB, Polson

He had success throwing the ball as a sophomore, but took his game to a whole new level this fall with a state-record 48 touchdown passes.. His assault on the record book started early and continued throughout the season as he set the season mark for completion percentage (71.0) and tied the record for most touchdowns passes in a game (seven). More Montana career marks are on the horizon.

Coach of the year: Pat Duchien Sr., Florence-Carlton

There were several coaches who could have won this honor this season, at all levels. A former college quarterback, Duchien has been frank about the fact that he didn’t coach a good game a year ago during a playoff loss, but rectified that in November to lead the Falcons to a 12-0 season and the Class B state title with his junior son at quarterback.


Quarterback: Kaden Huot, Helena, sr.

The Montana signee’s dual-threat ability was on full display with 2,249 passing yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for another 752 yards and nine more scores.

Running back: Kade Boyd, Billings Central, jr.

Boyd came out of nowhere this season to lead the Rams with 1,440 yards rushing, including the 204 and a touchdown he gained in a quarterfinal loss to Polson.

Running back: Jake Rendina, Glacier, sr.

Despite a slew of injuries, including one in the state quarterfinals, he still managed to rush for 1,377 yards and 24 touchdown on 244 carries this season.

Wide receiver: Ian Finch, Hellgate, sr.

His team won just two games, but that didn’t stop the Knights' offensive leader from posting another stellar season (64 catches, 1,003 yards, 14 touchdowns).

Wide receiver: Colton Graham, Polson, sr.

Breakout player of the year Jarrett Wilson’s favorite target made 69 catches for 1,108 yards and 16 touchdowns in helping his team reach the state semifinals.

Wide receiver: Bryson Zanto, Bozeman, sr.

Caught 64 passes for 942 yards and six touchdowns as the Hawk's primary receiving target.

Tight end: Rylan Schlepp, Bozeman Gallatin, sr.

Caught 41 passes for 568 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Raptors made the playoffs for the first time, and was also a blocking presence on the perimeter.

Offensive lineman: Jacob Anderson, Billings West, jr.

Near-unanimous choice of the coaches who already has an offer from Baylor and is being courted as well by Nebraska and Notre Dame.

Offensive lineman: Ramsey Knowles, Sentinel, sr.

A mainstay for the past two undefeated seasons, Knowles opened the way for Spartans' runners who gained 2,418 yards over the course of the 2021 season.

Offensive lineman: Burke Mastel, Red Lodge, sr.

The Montana State commit anchored things up front for the past few years, including a 2021 season that ended with a 7-0 loss to Jefferson in the playoffs.

Offensive lineman: Jamey Michelotti, Helena Capital, sr.

Blew holes open for a running attack that averaged 188.9 yards a game in 2021, while protecting junior brother Joey (starting quarterback) from taking the big hits.

Offensive lineman: Shel Osborne, Laurel, sr.

The fourth-ever Locomotive to wear the special No. 51 jersey ended his career in another state championship game as a four-year starter.

All-purpose: Jase Applebee, Bozeman, sr.

Filled the stats sheet in multiple categories - rushing (933 yards eight touchdowns), receiving (20 receptions, 263 yards, TD), returns (440 yards) and tackling (40).

Place kicker: Casey Kautzman, Butte, sr.

Made 13 of 17 field goals and 24 of 25 points after touchdowns, while booting 27 touchbacks on kickoffs during the season.


Defensive lineman: Braunson Henriksen, Polson, sr.

The Eastern Conference’s co-defensive MVP was a constant threat and stopper on the end of the line for the Pirates defense that advanced to the state semifinals.

Defensive lineman: Talon Marsh, Helena Capital, jr.

The standout defensive tackle put his wrestling acumen to use with 18 tackles for loss and 69 tackles overall for the Bruins.

Defensive lineman: Caleb Romero, Billings Senior, sr.

In a defense that funnels a lot of tackles to the linebackers, Romero still had 48 stops and six tackles for loss.

Defensive lineman: Forest Suero, Helena, sr.

Consistent stopper up front for the Bengals finished with 69 total tackles and 17 tackles for loss.

Linebacker: Marcus Evans, Helena, sr.

Made 130 total tackles, had three sacks, an interception and even blocked two punts this year for the state semifinalists.

Linebacker: Peyton Morton, Billings Senior, sr.

Had 63 solo tackles, 96 total, and seven tackles for loss to lead the Broncs defensively.

Linebacker: Liam O’Connell, Hamilton, jr.

Led a defense that never gave up more than 20 points in a single game with a team-high 74 tackles and 12 tackles for los.

Linebacker: Chase Williams, Missoula Sentinel, sr.

Earned defensive player of the year honors from the ‘AA’ coaches. Had 39 total tackles, 20 solos, and six TFL while directing traffic for the state champs’ defense.

Defensive back: Caden Dowler, Billings West, sr.

Coach Rob Stanton put his senior cornerback on an island most of the year and said, "See you after the game.’" He did just fine on his own.

Defensive back: Chase McGurran, Helena, sr.

A true threat on both sides of the ball, he caught 58 passes for 829 yards and 10 touchdowns while recording 20 tackles and grabbing three interceptions.

Defensive back: Raef Newbrough, C M Russell, sr.

Leader on both sides of the ball, he rushed for 596 yards and five touchdowns. Had eight interceptions and a fumble recovery to go with his 46 tackles.

Defensive back: Tyson Rostad, Hamilton, sr.

Led the state champs on both sides of the ball, as Hamilton’s quarterback and in the defensive backfield where he had four interceptions.

Hybrid: Reed Harris, Great Falls, jr.

This 2,000-yard total-offense quarterback also had 22 tackles from his safety spot as the Bison overcame an 0-4 start to rally and make the playoffs.

Punter: Patrick Rohrbach, Glacier, sr.

His 20 punts netted 838 yards for an average of 41.9 yards per punt. He buried nine within the 20-yard line and had a long of 65 yards.


QB: Pat Duchien, Jr, Florence-Carlton, jr.; QB: Isaiah Claunch, Missoula Sentinel, sr.; RB: Adam Jones, Sentinel, sr.; RB: Michael Deleon, Billings West, sr.; RB: Jacob Miller, Billings Senior, sr.; WR: Noah Dahlke, Gallatin, sr.;  WR: Blake Shoupe, Florence-Carlton, sr.; WR: Cameron Gurnsey, Butte, sr.; TE: Joe Weida, Sentinel, sr.; TE: Lucas Lant, Hamilton, so.; OL: Josh Goleman, Helena, sr.; OL: Andrew Burrows, Hamilton, so.; OL: Connor Hangas, Missoula Sentinel, sr.; OL: Dylan Morris, Lewistown, sr.; KR: Kash Goicoechea, Glacier, so.; PK: Spencer Berger, Billings West, sr.


DL: Zack Newton, Great Falls, sr.; DL: Gus Elwell, Mountain View, sr.; DL: Axel Sanchez, Emmett, sr.; LB: Luke Maki, Florence-Carlton, sr.; LB: Joey Lauerman, Helena Capital, jr.; LB: Alex Allred, Billings Senior, sr.; LB: Ryan Krahe, Great Falls, sr.; LB: Tim Zohner, Hamilton, sr.; DB: Connor McCarthy, Sentinel, sr.; DB: Jaxsen Schlauch, Whitefish, sr.; DB: Tyler Nansel, Gallatin, sr.; DB: Drew Klumph, Sentinel, sr.; Hybrid: Dylan Snyder, Butte, sr.; P: Bridger Polk, Great Falls, sr.

(Featured photo by Dave Poppenger)