As a junior, Chester/J-I’s Erik Kelly had a great football season for the Hawks. But this season as a senior, Kelly has led his Hawks to a Northern C 8-Man conference championship, home field advantage through the state playoffs, as well as an undefeated season that has led to the Hawks to be considered a favorite for a Class C state title.
Kelly has been crucial for the Hawks thus far. C/J-I currently sits with a record of 9-0, alone at the top of the Northern C.
Last season Kelly burst onto the scene. He has been a part of the Hawks’ program all four seasons, but saw limited varsity time as a sophomore. But as a junior, he earned Second Team All Conference honors as a tailback, while was also named the KSEN Bozeman Trophy athlete of the week, and the Great Falls Tribune athlete of the week. Kelly has had several big games in the running game this year, including a number of games with 200 plus yards rushing and multiple trips to the end zone. He has propelled an offense that has earned wins like 40-0 over simms, 52-12 over Fort Benton, 44-6 over Belt, 74-0 over Sunburst, 74-0 over Cascade on Tuesday night.
Kelly is also a standout outside linebacker for the Hawks’s defense. His presence there is also key, as the Hawks of recorded two shutouts this season, as well as allowed over 20 points just four times.
Here's five questions with Kelly just after the Hawks clinched the Northern C title on Tuesday night.
HDN: Are you looking to continue your football career at the college level?
Kelly: “It would be awesome to play college ball, but I am just keeping my options open right now. Wherever I could get a scholarship, I would go, I am not picky at all, I just love it (playing football).”
HDN: What has made the Hawks’ offense so strong this season, and how have you personally, been able to dominate on the ground?
Kelly: “We are like a family. Everybody is so close and tight, we have been playing together for so long, and we have a great offensive line. And my fullback, Jordan Oraw opens it up every time, I always have huge holes. I just keep my legs driving, look for a lane, and go, just go.”
HDN: What kind of shot do you think you and the Hawks have at become state champions this season?
Kelly: Well, having home field advantage all the way through, and becoming conference champs will be huge for us. And this is the year for us to do it, we have all of the weapons and all of the options to do it, so this should be our year to take state. Hopefully week 13 will be here, on our home field playing for state.”
HDN: You were able to beat Chinook this season, something nobody has been able to do in the conference for a long time, what kind of accomplishment was that for you as a senior, and for the team overall?
Kelly: “It was huge. Last year we lost to them in triple overtime, and that was devastating. We were so close and almost had it, but coming back this year and beating them was huge for us, it really was.”
HDN: Sometimes teams that put up a lot of points don’t have the defense to stop opposing offenses, but how have the Hawks been able to lock teams down this year?
Kelly: “We have some really hard hitter, Jordan Oraw blows everything up, and so does Kody Ramberg, a young junior linebacker. But we just have solid defense, everybody flows hard, stays home and plays their position. Again, we are like a family and are so close in everything that we do, and that keeps close as a team. We trust and believe in our team, and that is what we are preached and taught, and that is what we know.”