FLORENCE — The last time the Florence football team topped its longtime rival Loyola Sacred Heart, Colby Kohlman still hadn't been born.

Kohlman, now the Falcons' quarterback, is young for his grade — he turned 17 on July 31, just before his senior Class B football season got underway. Coincidentally, 17 years ago in the fall of 2002 was the start of a Loyola winning streak against Florence that has remained unbroken ahead of Friday's matchup between the two teams.

That 17-year streak has held on even as Florence has reached the postseason nine times over those years, even when the Falcons would finish with a better record than the Rams in that span.

And even as Kohlman, a three-year starter for Florence, has developed into a hard-throwing and big-bodied playmaker under third-year head coach Pat Duchien.

"It'd be really special to win," Kohlman said just before practice Wednesday. "After 17 years, being a senior... We've been focusing on ourselves. It's our week."

Win, lose or draw at Rollin Field in Missoula against No. 6-ranked Loyola, though, Kohlman and his No. 8-ranked Falcons have grown quite a bit since 2017, Kohlman's first year as a starter.

***

Three years ago, back when Loyola's winning streak was just 15 games, The Falcons were fresh off a 2-6 season and hiring a new football coach. Duchien, a former college quarterback himself, took over the reigns and tabbed Kohlman, then a sophomore, as the starting signal caller.

Florence went on to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in five seasons, and the Falcons — who have already secured a playoff berth this season — have qualified all three years with Duchien at the helm and Kohlman under center.

"We've enjoyed having him be able to start for us for three years and being able to coach him for four. It's been big," said Duchien, who was an assistant at Florence before taking over the head job in 2017. "We talk about it with our schemes a whole lot, there's gotta be a yin to every yang and I think Colby brings some of the yin to some of the other guys' yang."

Coach Duchien was describing Kohlman's cool, calm and maybe a tad carefree demeanor. The senior, who periodically sports diamond studded earrings, likes to have fun on the field.

"He definitely has a little bit of a flair about him," Duchien said. "Sometimes it's (toes) the line, but sometimes it brings a smile to the coaches faces. Every kid is going to lead a little bit differently.

...You got somebody like Colby, it's a flashy type of leadership, it gets the other guys to laugh and smile and take it into a lighthearted, stay-relaxed role."

That's not to say Kohlman doesn't take winning seriously. Coach Duchien, after all, has trusted the college-athlete prospect for three seasons to run an offense designed to be a quarterback-read system. 

And while playing baseball for the Bitterroot Bucs, Kohlman is often employed as the team's closer, tasked with shutting the door for a win. Kohlman's fastball on the pitching mound, serves him on the gridiron in the form of a hard-thrown spiral that fits into some tight windows.

His completion numbers this season — sitting at just above 48% —shows he may actually throw the ball too hard at times.

"On some of the (short) slant (routes), he'll throw it way too hard," deadpanned senior receiver Jacob Round.

"He's way accurate," lineman and senior captain Nikolay Shved countered, though. "But he still has that cannon."

Kohlman's racked up 854 total yards in essentially four and a half games, though, and he doesn't need the ball in his hands to make plays, either. Kohlman is an all-conference safety and an all-state punter to go along with his all-conference quarterback play.

But Kohlman hasn't been on the field for a game now in over two weeks. An injury early against Deer Lodge back on Sept. 27 sidelined Kohlman for Florence's Western B matchup against Eureka a week later. Florence then fell to No. 2 ranked Eureka 34-14 on Oct. 4.

Florence's outside weapons still had some big plays, as Cadence Waller scored two long touchdowns from backup quarterback and coach Duchien's son, whose name is also Pat.

Kohlman pointed to those weapons, and his offensive line, as making his job easier this season and upon return to the lineup Friday against Loyola.

"I've gotta give credit to the line, they're everything, they start it," Kohlman said. "And then the guys outside, Levi Posey, Round, Waller, (Blake) Shoupe, (Luke) Maki with their speed, they can burn DBs."

It's a talented team that Kohlman hopes finally has the pieces needed to orchestrate a win against Loyola this week.

"Going into this week, it could start something special that we haven't had around here for a while," Kohlman said. "Loyola comes out ready to play every year we play 'em, and it's going to be a good game to get ready for the playoffs and what we'll see in the future."

That future will be impacted by Friday's outcome, too.

At stake for both Loyola (4-3 overall, 2-1 in conference) and Florence (4-2, 3-1) is the conference's No. 2 seed and a home playoff game.

Sign up for our high school sports newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
Load comments