Billings Skyview vs. Great Falls CMR (copy)

Great Falls CMR quarterback Cole Taylor set a school record three weeks ago — and didn't even know it.

GREAT FALLS – It’s the dream of every football player who attends Great Falls CMR High School to someday get his picture posted on the Hall of Fame wall on the far end of the school’s cavernous fieldhouse.

And over the past 57 years, more than 100 Rustlers have achieved that goal, which can be attained only by earning first-team All-State honors in Class AA football.

But only eight of those CMR Hall of Famers have been quarterbacks, starting with Art West and John Leister in the 1970s, and ending with Jake Bleskin in 2009. In between, quarterbacks named Carman Campagna (1980), Tim Taft (1986), Dave Dickenson (1989-90), Justin Hartman (2001) and Brady Leaf (2002) led the Green and Gold to state titles, earning all-state recognition along the way.

The elite list is headed, of course, by the legendary Dickenson, who guided the Rustlers to 24 consecutive victories and two state championships in his career. He set numerous school records for coach Jack Johnson before taking his talents to Missoula, where he was an NCAA All-American while leading the Montana Grizzlies to the 1995 Division I-AA championships.

Dickenson left CMR with the school record for passing yardage in one game (366 in 1990), but that mark lasted only 12 years before Brady Leaf broke it with a 374-yard effort.

Leaf, the younger brother of former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf, saw his record snapped three weeks ago in Kalispell when current senior QB Cole Taylor threw for 401 yards on 23 completions in a 42-35 loss to Glacier.

It’s the only defeat this season for CMR, which is 2-0 in Eastern AA play, 3-1 overall heading into Friday night’s game at Billings Senior.

The record came as a complete surprise to Taylor and the coaching staff.

“Nobody realized he was even close to the record,” CMR coach Dennis Morris said. “We had gotten behind four touchdowns after a terrible second quarter … at the half, we basically told Cole and his receivers that they were going to have to bring us back … the receivers didn’t drop any balls and Cole got us into a tie before we lost.”

Through four games, Taylor is No. 2 among AA quarterbacks with 1,229 yards (307 per game), and has thrown 10 touchdown passes with only three interceptions. He’s also the Rustlers’ No. 2 rusher with 213 yards and three TDs.

“We’ve got a good O-Line and a good receiving corps, so we’re moving the football well,” said Taylor, a solid, 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who recently committed to playing college football at Montana State. He also had an offer from Montana, and was shown some interest by Weber State, but said the Bobcats “felt like the best fit for me.”

Taylor said the MSU coaching staff will give him a chance to play quarterback in the Big Sky Conference, but could move him to tight end or linebacker.

“They want to evaluate me after my senior season. I’ll do whatever they ask to help the team,” he said.

Taylor played wide receiver on the varsity as a CMR sophomore, and he also played quarterback in JV games. He started at QB last season for CMR (5-5) and was an adequate passer. His numbers this season are about 80 percent better than a year ago.

“Cole made great strides over the summer,” Morris said. “He became more confident in the schemes and what the field is giving him.”

Taylor credited “some good coaching this summer” as a reason for his improvement. He attended the Marty Mornhinweg football camp in Missoula, where Dickenson was one of the tutors.

“Cole seems like a natural leader,” Dickenson said Monday from Calgary, where he coaches the Stampeders after a prolific career as a CFL quarterback. “It looks like the weight room and Cole get along well. He has a strong arm and it looks like he would be a major problem running RPO’s (run-pass option).”

Taylor’s statistics through four games would be even more impressive if he had thrown more frequently in the last two games, routs over Belgrade (63-6) and Billings Skyview (63-0). His responsibilities will get tougher the next few weeks as the Rustlers meet conference powers Bozeman, Billings West and Great Falls High.

“We won’t ask any more from Cole, but he’ll face more pressure and he’ll have to make quicker decisions,” said Morris.

If Taylor continues his improved play, he might get his photo up on the Hall of Fame wall, alongside Rustler legends he never saw play.

Not that he’s thinking about individual honors.

“We’ve got some big challenges coming up on our schedule, starting Friday in Billings,” said Taylor, also an outstanding basketball player for CMR. “We’ve all got a lot to play for the next few months.”

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