HELENA — The Carroll College football team has gone through a lot since its final game against Eastern Oregon last season.
Longtime coach Mike Van Diest retired and his successor, Troy Purcell, brought in a new culture the players had to get familiar with in a short time frame.
But at the conclusion of spring practices on Saturday that featured a scrimmage open to the public, it looked like everyone was on the same page.
“There has been so much improvement from day one and it’s been attributed to the coaching staff and players,” Purcell said. “Their dedication, wanting to improve and love for one another shows.”
Purcell kept the event informal, having the first and second team offense and defense run through a variety of scenarios with officials and a running clock as fans watched from the stands of Nelson Stadium.
All four quarterbacks on the spring roster got reps with the first and second teams to see how they performed in a game-like atmosphere.
Last season, the Saints started three different quarterbacks because of injury, but Purcell said earlier this spring that he didn’t look at any film from last season. He wanted everyone to be on an equal playing field.
Junior Kolby Killoy spent most of 2018 as the team's starting quarterback. He knows he is fighting for the job with teammates Hunter Bledsoe, Zach Leahy and transfer Devan Bridgewater, but at the end of the day, the competition is not personal.
“On the field we are all very competitive and want to earn this starting job but behind the scenes we are all friends,” Killoy said. “It’s a good group of guys.”
While Killoy and Bledsoe have the most playing time from last season, Leahy is also looking to show what he can do.
As the tallest of the quarterbacks, standing at 6-foot-7, the junior from Milton-Freewater, Oregon, arrived to Carroll after suffering a knee injury while playing basketball his senior season of high school.
During his first few years, he has been down the depth chart but, now healthy, he is looking to become more mobile and be able to exit the pocket if need be.
“We hold onto the ball if we think we can get somewhere,” Leahy said. “We are trying to put (pressure) on the defense. When you have quarterbacks that can run, it takes pressure off of the offensive line and running backs.”
Of course when the four quarterbacks did run on Saturday, the Carroll defense wasn’t far behind.
Purcell’s new defensive coordinator, Jared Petrino, made it known that he wanted his defense to play fast on Saturday.
“They played hard and they played with passion,” Petrino said. “I was happy with the energy and even though we had some missed tackles, our guys were flying around and we didn’t give up the big play."
The defense even got two important takeaways when Brian FauntLeRoy and Isazah King came away with interceptions.
At the end, Purcell kept his promised from earlier this week by not revealing any information about the depth chart, but said he has a lot of video to review before the team reconvenes in August for fall camp.
“After watching this, we will have our two deep ready; but whoever works the hardest this summer and into fall camp always will have an opportunity,” Purcell said.
As for the players, the culture might have changed but it’s something they are now familiar with and looking to grow within for the upcoming season.
“We want to create something new,” Leahy said. “We want to get back on track and come away with some winning seasons. Through this new culture, I know we will accomplish that.”
Carroll is coming off its fourth consecutive losing season, finishing with five wins last year.