MISSOULA — While Montana and coach Bobby Hauck will be playing for the state football championship on the college level Saturday, two of his former players will be trying to coach their teams to high school state titles this weekend.
Dane Oliver has Missoula Sentinel (10-0) hosting Billings West (10-1) in the Class AA championship contest at 7 p.m. Friday at Missoula County Stadium. He was a wide receiver for the Griz on the 2001 national title team and played his senior season for Hauck in 2003.
Oliver has the Spartans on a 20-game winning streak as he guided them to their first state crown since 1972 and the first undefeated season in school history in 2020, when Hauck's team was sidelined by the Big Sky Conference because of the pandemic. He’s in his 10th season at the helm of Sentinel and has the most playoff wins in program history.
Bryce Carver has Hamilton (10-0) traveling to Laurel (10-0) to play in the Class A title tilt at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Laurel Sports Complex. He played wide receiver for Hauck in his freshman season in 2009.
Carver has led the Broncs to a pair of state runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018, and to back-to-back semifinal appearances in 2019 and 2020. He’s in his fifth season and is trying to lead the Broncs to their first championship since they went back to back in 1997 and 1998.
“I think the fact that they mimic some things we do in terms of how they run their programs is pretty flattering,” Hauck said of Oliver and Carver, who were among the former UM players-turned-coaches who talked about Hauck's impact in shaping them in 2018. “Obviously, we like to see our guys having success.”
Sentinel and Hamilton are places Hauck has gone to on the recruiting trail.
The Griz have six Sentinel alums currently on their team: junior wide receiver Mitch Roberts, freshman linebacker Geno Leonard, and freshmen safeties TJ Rausch, Jaxon Lee, Soren Syvrud and Jace Klucewich. Hauck signed five members of the 2020 state championship squad, although one of them later decommitted to join the Washington Huskies.
UM also has one player on its team from Hamilton: freshman linebacker Carson Rostad. He was recruited by Hauck as a quarterback, moved to linebacker in fall camp and has played in all 10 games on special teams on kickoff coverage.
Oliver and Carver are both sending more players to the Griz this recruiting cycle.
Sentinel’s Zac Crews has committed to UM as a defensive end. He’s played on both sides of the ball in high school, also lining up at quarterback this season after playing tight end last year.
Hamilton’s Tyson Rostad made his commitment to the Griz as an athlete. He played quarterback and defensive back in 2020 and 2021 after being an all-state receiver in 2019.
“Good luck to those guys, certainly, this weekend,” Hauck said about Oliver and Carver. “Those are guys that we see throughout the year, though, so they know we wish them well.”
When Hamilton plays at Laurel, the game will feature two Griz commits. Locomotives running back Beau Dantic committed to UM this week.
The Sentinel game will feature a Griz commit, Crews, facing off against two Cats commits, Taco Dowler and Caden Dowler. Taco is a receiver, defensive back and returner, while Caden is a defensive back and receiver.
When Sentinel hosts the title game on Friday, it’ll mark the first time a Class AA Missoula school hosts the championship contest since 1994. That year, Missoula Big Sky beat Missoula Hellgate, 39-13, at Missoula County Stadium on Nov. 18 in the first all-Missoula football state title game.
The day after that game, Montana crushed Montana State, 55-20, on Nov. 19 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. This year, the Griz (8-2) host the Cats (9-1) at noon Saturday at Wa-Griz.