SUPERIOR – William Buchanan’s teammates sang ‘Happy Birthday’ after it was announced at halftime of Superior’s game that it was the elder’s birthday on Friday.
Buchanan is one of three starters, along with Lucas Kovalsky and Jaxson Green, who is the brother of a standout player on the 2019 team who was the state runner-up. Those three players, and several more on a deep roster with nine seniors, have the Bobcats dreaming of similar success.
Superior is ranked No. 8 in the state and improved to 8-0 with a 56-20 home win over Darby. The Bobcats, led by head coach Jeff Schultz, play for the Western 8-Man title on Friday when they travel to No. 4 St. Ignatius for the regular season finale.
“It was a fun flashback,” Schultz said, “because the 2019 team was very special.”
Buchanan played a key role in steering the ship. But he didn’t even plan to play until his brother Wesley, a senior wide receiver and linebacker in 2019, got him to join.
Buchanan now starts on the offensive and defensive lines. He also competes in wrestling and track during the offseason.
“I really didn’t want to play sports going into my freshman year,” he said. “My brother, it was really boring at first, but he was like, ‘I really want you to try.’ I was like, ‘Fine, I’ll try.’ When the football came, the first two days, I wasn’t sure, all these guys, they rallied around me and they started screaming and screaming, and I was like, ‘I love it so much. that. ” “
Green is another integral part of Superior. He brings physicality to the quarterback position as a 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior. He can throw the ball when needed, but excels as a hard-to-tackle runner and punishes the defending tackle himself.
His tenacity is perhaps no surprise as he was born in Butte and comes from the Anaconda line. Growing up with his older brother Trey, the main running back for the 2019 team, helped prepare him for football, wrestling and the track.
“He was really tough on me,” Green recalled. “I would upset him and get booed for it. He was definitely tough on me, but he definitely pushed me to be who I am.
Kovalsky is a versatile junior who plays wide receiver, the same position his brother Isaiah held in 2019 when he led the team in all three major receiving categories as a senior. He can also run the ball in attack and starts at defensive back.
Kovalsky is also a tri-sport athlete who does wrestling and track in addition to motocross outside of school. The time spent with his brother in his younger years was crucial for him to develop a love of the sport and see what it takes to succeed.
“We were dating every day,” he said. “We were playing wrestling. Whatever, you name it, we did it. It was so much fun.”
Shades of 2019
With an 8-0 record, Superior is off to its best start since 2019. The Bobcats are chasing their third state title to partner theirs in 2008 and 2012.
Buchanan was a freshman in 2019 and spent the season at junior college as Superior made his third trip to the title game. He learned from his brother and this team about the hard work it took to get there.
His brother, along with brothers Green and Kovalsky, will review matches on Hudl and provide commentary to Schultz and current players. Schultz sees the same level of dedication from the younger generation of brothers.
Buchanan even writes his brother’s jersey number on his cleats every game because his brother can’t attend many games because he plays football at Montana Western.
“I like to think he’s here with me when he’s not,” he said. “I looked up to him and those guys a lot. They brought this different level. They were all brothers. They all bonded. Even against bigger and probably better teams than us, they were like, ‘We’re not going to let that stop us. We’ll come back after and smash it.
Green was in eighth grade during the 2019 season, but he still followed the home team, which was then a co-op between Superior and Alberton called the Clark Fork Mountain Cats. He remembers seeing a group of players who were tight and together.
He sees similar traits with this team, which has had many key contributors for several years. The Bobcats have only graduated one senior from the 2021 team that went 5-3, and they haven’t lost a starter when co-op with Alberton ended this year, though three freshmen that Schultz very much appreciates no longer being in the top program.
“I think the relationship with all these boys stands out,” Green said. “It’s a strong bond. We were all pretty tight. This 2019 team also had an important and strong bond. This made it a powerhouse.
Kovalsky was also in eighth grade during the 2019 campaign. He followed the team, watched games and got to know some players well.
The one game that still stands out is the loss of the state title, a 70-6 loss in which Superior never recovered after giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff. He would like to rewrite that.
“I really loved them all,” he said of the 2019 squad. “They were all there for each other, just like us. But the first play, they all stopped after that and I wish they hadn’t done that, had a fight. This is our year to prove it. It’s great that we rebuilt what we had.
Finish the job
It’s poetic that Superior has a younger sibling of 2019 stars in their resurgence, but the Bobcats need more than those three to have the success they’ve had and hope to have.
Senior Orion Plakke leads the two-QB system with Green playing center when not taking snaps. Senior Decker Milender has been the top rusher, but is also a capable receiver and a powerful threat as a special teams returner.
Seniors Wyatt Haworth and Chandon Vulles bring big bodies to the offensive and defensive lines. With a combination of size and speed, Schultz switched to a fast physical style to fit his staff.
“Our only senior was a leader last year, but the D line, the O line, nobody wanted to interfere,” Buchanan said. “I think the main difference this year is we have guys like Wyatt. He’s outside, he’s screaming. We have everyone there to motivate each other.
Running a two-QB system and skill point depth led to an anomaly in which Superior didn’t run a player more than 100 yards until his sixth league game and didn’t still haven’t had a quarterback pass for over 150 yards or a player eclipses 100 receiving yards in a game.
Those stats could be a sign of a struggling offense, but the Bobcats are averaging 60.25 points per game, while their 482 points scored are the most in the state, regardless of ranking. They allowed just 148 points, or 18.5 per game, for a plus-334 point differential.
“I think the difference this year is the relationship but also the willingness to work hard,” Green said. “We work harder than any other team, I strongly believe in that. I think we are playing very well. We know we have to go and play hard every week.
Schultz has been focused on making sure he has a team that has the mental toughness to match his physical strength. They take a training break equivalent to the duration of half-time. A different staff coach gives a culture or mental toughness talk every week. Thursday’s team dinner includes a talk from a former high school or college player or coach.
The Bobcats know there is still a lot of work to do to reach the title game. They have players who have seen firsthand that it is possible to make it happen. Kovalsky would like to complete the trip that the 2019 squad couldn’t complete, which might lead them to sing a different song: “We are the Champions.”
“Last year we weren’t there, our mindset. We were underground,” he said. “We are all here for each other now. We are tied to the state and bound to earn it. We work as one machine and we are doing very well. I really believe in our team. I know we can do it. We all know we can do it.