Thursday Apr. 17, 2014
A blog about sports in Montana, with an emphasis on Flathead Valley High Schools.
Montana Sidelines - Sports Around The Flathead ValleyMontana Sidelines - Sports Around The Flathead Valley

The state track meet is returning to Kalispell next year.

The Montana High School Association announced the sites across the state that will be hosting state tournament events in the next two years, and Kalispell picked up a few.

Legends Stadium will host the Class AA and B state track meets May 22-23, 2015. Columbia Falls will host the Class A state speech and debate tournament Jan. 30-31, 2015.

In 2016, Kalispell will host the Class AA state softball tournament at Conrad Complex, May 26-27. The Class B-C state softball tournament will also be in town that weekend, presumably at Kidsports Complex, May 26-28.

Click here to view all of the tournament sites between 2015-16.

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Struggling with persistent low enrollment, Libby High School’s sports teams, except soccer, will be moving to Class B in the 2015-16 school year.

The Libby School District board of trustees voted 5-2 Monday night to approve the transition from Class A despite a majority of administrators, coaches and students wanting to remain in the higher classification of athletic competition.

“The board felt strongly that they don’t see our numbers getting better and that this was the right move,” said Jim Germany, principal at Libby High School.

The Montana High School Association has determined the enrollment range for Class B schools to be 120-399 students. Class A enrollment ranges from 340 to 825 students.

Libby had a fall enrollment of 348 students and a spring enrollment of 338, making the school one of the smallest in Class A. Projections for the next few years show the school will remain around 340-350 students, Germany said.

Despite that, Germany said nine of the 13 coaches at the high school were in favor of remaining in Class A and 65 percent of students wanted to stay in the higher ranks. School administrators recommended staying in Class A to the school board.

The boys and girls soccer teams will remain in Class A competition similar to Bigfork.

The move will shake up the Northwestern A conference in an uncertain way while Libby will join District 7B, home to Eureka, Thompson Falls, Bigfork, Troy and Plains. Northwestern A is now left with only four teams: Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Frenchtown and Polson.

Libby’s move to the Class B ranks marks the second school in the state to have gone from competing in Class AA at one point to now dropping two classifications; Anaconda’s school board voted 6-1 earlier this month to drop to Class B.

Libby moved from Class AA to Class A in 1987.

Glendive, another small Class A school, opted to avoid the move to Class B.

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Beacon file photo

When Kyle Samson was an all-state senior quarterback at Helena Capital, one of the hardest teams he had to face was the Flathead Braves.

Now Samson is returning to Kalispell to rebuild the Braves into the powerhouse he remembers.

Samson, a former Montana Gatorade Player of the Year with seven years of coaching experience in the college ranks, has been selected as the next head football coach at Flathead High School.

Activities Director Bryce Wilson confirmed late Monday that Samson accepted the offer after emerging as the top candidate among three other finalists and 13 total applicants.

"As a player I remember how tough it was to play up in Kalispell. Back then it was always us and Kalispell and CMR and Billings West competing for a state title," Samson told the Beacon. "That's my goal: I want to bring back that tradition of Flathead being one of the top AA schools in the state."

A nine-person committee selected Samson after a series of interviews with finalists last weekend and will recommend him to the Kalispell School District board of trustees to finalize the hire.

Samson, 29, will replace Russell McCarvel, who resigned last month after seven seasons.

The Braves were 3-7 last year and have accrued a 23-50 record since 2007.

Samson has served on the football staff at MSU-Northern in Havre for seven years, including the past six years as the team's offensive coordinator under his father Mark, the team's head coach. Samson was Northern’s starting QB from 2004 -2006 and a three-year captain after transferring from the University of Montana, where he played as a true freshman.

At Helena Capital, he was the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2002. As a senior quarterback, he passed for 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 1,200 yards and another 17 TDs. He guided the Bruins past the Braves in the semifinal round of the Class AA playoffs and eventually cap an undefeated state champion season. He was also a standout basketball player and track athlete at Helena Capital and maintained a 3.6 GPA.

Samson said the opportunity to become a head coach appealed to him, especially at a school like Flathead that has such a rich tradition.

"Growing up in a coaching family with my dad and my grandfather being coaches, I've always wanted to be a head coach. That's been a long goal of mine," he said. "When the Kalispell job opened up — it's a school with a great tradition and I've always had great respect for them and how they ran their program — I couldn't pass up on that opportunity."

Samson said he plans to assemble his coaching staff in the next few weeks and hopes to be fully established in Kalispell by June. He and his wife have a young son and daughter and he plans to teach at the high school.

As far as what fans and players should expect to see on the field, Samson said his system is best described as a "power spread," featuring multiple schemes that are quarterback-based, similar to the high-octane teams he played for at Capital. But it will also depend on personnel, he said, and he looks forward to meeting the players and adapting to their skills.

"I can't wait to get over there and get going to work," he said.

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Joe Pistorese. Beacon file photo

Washington State University junior Joe Pistorese was named the Pac-12 Conference Pitcher of the Week for April 7-13, conference commissioner Larry Scott announced Monday.

Pistorese pitched his second-straight complete game in Washington State’s 4-1 win over No. 5 Oregon State, April 11. He outdueled OSU’s Ben Wetzler, who entered the contest with a 6-0 record and 0.38 ERA.

A native of Kalispell and former standout ace for the Kalispell Lakers, Pistorese limited the Beavers to four hits while striking out four. He became the first Cougar to throw back-to-back complete games since Adam Conley in 2011 and the first to have three complete games in a season since Chad Arnold in 2010.

This is Pistorese’s first-career Pac-12 Pitcher of the week honor and the 34th all-time for Washington State. In combination with WSU junior Yale Rosen’s Pac-12 Player of the Week honor for March 31-April 6, this marks the first time since 1996 that two Cougars have won back-to-back conference weekly honors. In 1996, Jim Horner (Player), Jered Fowler (Player) and Robert Ramsay (Pitcher) earned the awards in three consecutive weeks.

The Cougars are 16-16, 7-5 Pac-12 and tied with UCLA and Oregon for fourth in the conference standings. Washington leads the Pac-12 with a 12-3 conference record followed by Oregon State at 11-4 and Arizona State at 9-6.

RELATED: Big League Prospects

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The Kalispell Lakers American Legion Baseball Program is offering a baseball camp on Saturday, April 12, for
8- to 15-year-old boys and girls. The camp will run from noon to 4 p.m. at Lakers (Griffin) Field. The camp will cover all baseball fundamentals such as throwing, catching, fielding, hitting, and more. The camp fee is $40, which includes a T-shirt, pizza, and instruction of the fundamentals of the game from Lakers players and coaches.

For more information or a registration from, check out the program's website or contact head coach Ryan Malmin at 253-2232.

The Kalispell Lakers are also holding their annual benefit golf tournament April 26 at Village Greens. The tournament format will be a best-ball, four-person scramble. The tournament includes range balls, team and hole prizes, including a $10,000 hole-in-one prize, a Calcutta, refreshments and a hot lunch.

Entry forms are available on their website or at Village Greens or Buffalo Hill Golf Club or by calling Marc Liechti (261-4810) or Tim Obermiller (253-2439).

Registration deadline is April 23.

New this year, the Kalispell Lakers will host an evening social at the Buffalo Hill Golf Club on April 25 in appreciation of golfers, fans and supporters of the legion baseball program. It will begin at 7 p.m. and will include hors d’oeuvres, a no-host bar and a live auction.

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Ryan Billiet has been named the new boys soccer coach at Glacier High School, administrators announced this week. The hiring is pending approval of the Kalispell School District Board of Trustees.

Billiet has been a varsity assistant the past eight years at Whitefish High School and served as a leader within the Flathead Rapids community organization. He replaces Cody Fierro, who stepped down after one season at Glacier.

"We are extremely excited to have Ryan leading our program," Glacier Activities Director Mark Dennehy stated. "He brings a passion for soccer and an energy to position that will be welcomed as he hits the ground running to get ready for the upcoming season."

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Flathead players practice during a preseason drill. Beacon file photo

Four finalists have emerged to take over the head football coaching position at Flathead High School.

A nine-person committee that includes school administrators and former Brave standout Lex Hilliard has whittled down the list of potential candidates from 13 applicants, and the finalists will be interviewed this weekend.

The four finalists are Emmett Dougherty from Lewiston, Idaho; Jon Helmandollar from Wendell, Idaho; Mark Kessler from Alamo, Calif.; and Helena native Kyle Samson.

"The finalists selected all have quality experience coaching at the high school or college level," stated Flathead activities director Bryce Wilson. "Each was able to show how they would move the Flathead football program forward."

Russell McCarvel stepped down after seven seasons at the Braves' helm last month.

Further background and reference checks will be conducted leading up to Saturday's interviews.

Dougherty most recently served as head football coach at Lewiston High School in Idaho, a school with roughly 1,000 students that competes in Class 5A, the highest level of athletics in the state. Dougherty coached for 13 years before stepping down in 2011 to reportedly spend more time with his family. He was a finalist for the head coaching position at Missoula Hellgate.

Helmandollar is a former running back at Boise State University who has served as the head football coach for three seasons at Wendell High School in Idaho, a Class 3A school.

Kessler most recently served as head coach at San Ramon Valley High, a school in Danville, Calif. with an enrollment of roughly 2,100. Kessler was head coach from 2009 to 2013 and was abruptly fired before the Wolves' playoff game last November for unexplained reasons. The school has not released further information.

Wilson said the Flathead committee would make sure to find out what was behind Kessler's firing.

"We'll certainly address that topic," Wilson said.

Samson is a former Class AA all-state quarterback from Helena Capital and was the Montana Gatorade Player of the Year in 2002. He attended the University of Montana on a football scholarship and played quarterback for the Grizzlies as a true freshman. He transferred to MSU-Northern in the spring of 2004 after his dad was named the new head football coach. He was Northern’s starting QB from 2004 -2006 and a three-year captain. He has served on the football staff at MSU-Northern in Havre since graduating, including the past six years as the team's offensive coordinator.

Flathead's search committee hopes to have a top candidate tabbed after Saturday's interviews and would offer a recommendation to the school district board of trustees early next week, Wilson said.

The school assembled an interview committee to find McCarvel's replacement and the members include: Wilson; Hilliard; Pat Reilly, the current sub-varsity coach and former Brave; Dan Zorn, assistant superintendent; Peter Fusaro, Flathead principal; Joel Robinson; current varsity coach and former Brave player; Tom Clark, school board member and current Brave parent; Becky Toelke, past Touchdown Club president and former Brave parent; and Mike Thiel, the current KEA president and Flathead staff member.

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Two upcoming boxing events are slated for the next two weeks, starting with this Thursday’s annual Crosstown Smoker.

Up to 15 bouts are scheduled for the fifth annual boxing event featuring students from Glacier, Flathead, Columbia Falls, Whitefish and Bigfork high schools. The popular event is Thursday, April 10, at the Flathead County Fairgrounds and begins at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available at ProBuild, University Athletics, Twisted Bliss or at the door. The family friendly event is a fundraiser for youth and high school wrestling programs across the valley.

A separate event, the Rumble in the Flathead II, is April 12 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kalispell. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and bouts start at 6 p.m. The USA Boxing sanctioned event will support the local amateur boxing program, Flathead Boxing. The event will have upwards of 15 bouts.

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