BILLINGS – The beard will be coming off.
Cameron Icenoggle has sported facial hair forever, it seems. Heck, he had a full beard during his playing days at Billings Skyview, prompting the easy joke of “Who’s that old guy playing keeper?”
He’s let his latest growth grow, though, having not trimmed it since June, when his girls soccer team made him a bet.
We win state, they told him, and we get to shave your beard.
As we said … the beard will be coming off.
“It’ll be liberating,” Icenoggle joked on Tuesday, three days after the Falcons claimed the Class AA girls soccer championship with a 6-0 win over Missoula Big Sky. “You forget how bothersome it is when the bottom of it rubs on your neck and your chest … you sleep on it by accident ...”
Devyn Ruff, Ashlyn Braun and Jordan Roe were the inspiration for the bet. But Icenoggle, in his third season as the girls coach at Skyview, said everyone on the team might get to take a shot at it when the beard comes off later this month when the school raises its soccer banner in its gymnasium.
“Maybe we’ll try to let everyone take a quick snip with a scissors and buzz it from there,” he said.
How else to celebrate the school’s first soccer championship, and a perfect 15-0-0 season to boot? Ruff, Braun and Icenoggle answered a few more questions on what it was like for the team to make school history.
You’ve had a couple days to process the state title. What’s your foremost thought?
Braun: “Just that we’ve made history. Our year is going to be up on a banner in the gym, and every time I look at that I’ll know that I made an impact here somehow. Every single time I’d go into the gym I’d point to the banners and say, ‘we’re going to be up there this year.’ And we did.”
Icenoggle: “It’s definitely special. In 2006 (as a freshman on the boys team), I had the same dream. It just took me a little longer to get it with this group. About 12 years.”
What was special about this group of players?
Icenoggle: “I think back, not even to this season, but the two years previous to this, what led us to this year? A lot of learning. I tell everybody this is probably the smartest, most intelligent group of players I’ve ever had. I’m just thinking back to day one (three years ago), what did we look like … What were we doing … until the end of this year. Who plays like that in a championship game? I mean, just calm and in control for 80 full minutes. The (6-0) result speaks for itself. The journey wasn’t one season, it was a lot of them.”
If you could use one word to describe this season, what would it be?
Braun: “I don’t have a very good vocabulary (laughs) … Um, I really don’t know. I can’t think of a word, just one word to describe it. We’re family. That’s what our whole entire thing was about. That’s our saying on our poster, is ‘Our family versus their team.’ I’ve never been so close with a team.”
Ruff: “Probably extraordinary. Because your senior year you always hope to get out with a bang. And this was my bang. Not playing college soccer, this was it. I went out with a bang and I’m really, really happy. Definitely an extraordinary moment.”
Search and replace
You know who else went out with a bang? Billings Central coach Didier Ndedi.
Ndedi guided the Central girls to their third Class A championship in his four seasons with the program with Saturday's win over title win over Laurel in penalty kicks.
Earlier this season, Ndedi announced he was stepping down (he’s also been with the Rams boys for seven seasons) and moving to the Washington D.C. area with his family. That leaves two coaching holes for the Rams to fill.
“At this point, we are going to enjoy the very positive seasons, wish Didier the best, and let the dust settle,” Central Principal Shel Hanser wrote in an email in response to what the school would do with the soccer positions. “After the first of the year we will begin the process, which will include applications and interviews, with the goal of hiring the perfect people to support the mission of BCCHS and its soccer programs going forward.”
Some (most?) AA coaches were less than thrilled about this season being the last for the state-tournament format. Instead, beginning next season, AA will adopt the Class A model, which features home sites in a single-elimination knockout format, just like the football playoffs.
Maybe opponents of the new format will be a little less apprehensive when looking at the numbers for the last four Class A girls title matches. Of course, all four of those have featured two teams less than 15 miles apart, so everything has fallen into place, but still it shows the potential of the format to raise the sport's profile.
In 2015, the first of four straight meetings between Laurel and Central, the gate receipts were $4,483.
In 2016, the gate was $3,848.
In 2017, it was $5,033.
And Saturday, $4,077. That’s a four-year total of $17,441.
Hanser estimated each match drew between 600 to 750 fans (excluding those fans who chose to stand outside the fences of Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College and not pay).