By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
There have been Havre High football games where Patch Wirtzberger's right arm is dog tired afterward. It's not from throwing passes, or throwing blocks. Patch doesn't wear any football gear.
Nope, it's because Patch has the unenviable task of being the Ponies' team statistician
"Basically, I write down every time they score, from how far and who scored," he said. "I don't worry about yards or anything like that."
Still, with the Ponies averaging more than 50 points per game and having scored 70 in last week's win over Browning, Patch's job is far from easy.
"I stay pretty busy," he admits.
Don't think for a moment that the reason he is on the sidelines instead of between the lines is by choice. He's not afraid of football or the contact. It's just that he's not allowed to played.
Do you remember all those times your mom told you to stop jumping on the bed when you were little? Well, like most of us, Patch didn't listen until it was too late. An errant jump and a not-so-graceful landing on his head left him with a broken neck.
Because of that, Patch had to endure two surgeries and twice had to wear one of those metal halos for six-month spans. You know those metal contraptions that look like the person has a basketball hoop around the top of their head, with the only exception being the hoop is screwed directly into your forehead.
The pain of the halo has to be worse than any hit on the football field, no matter how big the tackler.
"It didn't feel very good," he said sarcastically. "It was terrible to sleep in. I had to sleep on my stomach with the bars on a pillow."
Because he was predisposed to the neck injuries that occur in football, Patch's gridiron days were ended before they even started. Those damn doctors, they won't let a guy have any fun. Make no mistake, Patch would be out there if he could.
"I would probably play wide receiver and maybe defensive back," he said. "It sucks when all of your friends are out there playing and you can't."
Yet, he is still part of the team and makes every trip to every game. Yes, even to Browning last weekend when the weather was so cold a polar bear chased a caribou and a penguin across the field at halftime.
Since he spends so much time with the Ponies, it would be silly not to ask how he thinks they will do in the upcoming playoffs.
"If they play like they are capable of , they'll definitely win it all," he said. "We have both a good offense and a good defense. The only teams that we have to worry about are Sidney and Frenchtown.
"This should be the year."
Instead of playing football, Patch competes in noncollision sports like baseball, basketball and track.
He was a key reserve for the HHS basketball team last year, started every game for the Havre Northstars this summer and qualified for the state track meet.
However, it is probably baseball that is his favorite sport. He already gave us the scoop that he is foregoing track this year to focus on baseball. Maybe I wasn't supposed to write that, but, oh well. Baseball is way better than track. I will not argue on this point.
Even though he doesn't play football, Patch is still a very big football fan. His favorite college team, the Florida Gators, has been in the headlines this week with the firing of head coach Ron Zook.
Florida athletics director Jeremy Fowley fired Zook following the Gators' embarrassing 38-31 loss to Mississippi State. Let's see, Mississippi State lost to Maine and Maine lost to the Griz, so that means the Griz can beat Florida, right, Patch?
"Not hardly," he fired back.
Still, a Montana kid liking Florida? How does that work?
"I don't know," he said. "I always watched them play when I was younger and they were pretty good and they had cool uniforms. But they're not quite as good anymore. They'll be better now that they've gotten rid of Zook. He seemed like a good guy, just not a very good football coach."
Rumors have swirled throughout the country about Zook's replacement with former coach Steve Spurrier, Utah coach Urban Meyer and Louisville coach and Montana native Bobby Petrino.
"I definitely want Spurrier," he said. "He'll bring back some discipline to the program, which is what it needs."
Discipline, like not doing what you were told not to do, like, maybe, jumping on the bed?
As for Patch's picks, he showed some savvy in the extended prep picks, taking Stevensville, Libby, Billings Central and Miles City in Class A. In Class B and C games, he stayed with the favorites except picking Superior to knock off Missoula Loyola at home.
In college picks, Patch took MSU-Northern to upset Montana Tech. Having his brother Dan play wide receiver for the Lights may have had something to do with it.
"He said he wouldn't be mad if I picked Tech, but I know it would bother him," he said.
He took the Griz and the Cats (boooooo!!!) in Northern Arizona. He also stayed true blue and picked unranked Florida to upset Georgia in the game dubbed, "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." God, I need to go to that game someday.
In pro games, he picked Houston in a upset of Jacksonville and the New York Giants over the Vikings in Minnesota.
"Gary (Wagner) is going to give me a hard time for picking against them," he said. "But I had to."
Last week was not good for anyone but George and our guest Brett Gilman. Both finished 15-6. Harvey, Julie and I finished 13-8. Wells was 12-9 and Jim was dead last at 11-10.
George pulled into a tie with Julie for the overall lead. You know how I said I would end this column if I finish last? I will also end it if George finishes first. My mind can't be changed.