If you’re a college football fan, born in Montana, at some point you’ll have to choose. At some point, you have to make a choice between the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats.
No matter where you live, whether it’s a metropolis like Billings or a small Hi-Line town line Joplin, if you like football, at some point in your life, you must decide which side of the fence you will take a stand. If you love football in Montana, you’re either a Bobcat or you’re a Grizzly. You’re never both.
And that’s how it is right here in Havre. Each and every year, Cats and Griz fans in Havre take a stand, and with the annual brawl of the Wild taking place in Bozeman on Saturday, Havre’s college football fans are once again divided.
Once again, Havre is one of the many battle grounds in this annual rite of passage.
Here's what different fans of The Brawl had to say about Saturday's upcoming game.
Erickson knew at a young age what colors he was going to wear. After all, his dad, Max Erickson is a Bobcat for life. And so is Michael. He shined on the Blue Pony Stadium turf before going on to Montana State as an offensive lineman for the Bobcats.
Erickson played for MSU from 2007 to 2010 and participated in three Cat-Griz games as an offensive lineman and on special teams.
“It’s something a person can’t understand unless they suit up in that game,” Erickson said. “There’s nothing else like it. The jets flying over, the pregame, there’s no need for extra motivation. That’s a game unlike any other.”
And of course, there’s no real need to ask Erickson who he thinks will prevail Saturday. He has no doubt the Blue and Gold will triumph behind senior quarterback DeNarius McGhee.
“I had the privilege of playing with (DeNarius) McGhee,” he said. “He’s going to take over that game on Saturday.”
Prediction: Cats 26, Griz 21
Montana State University-Northern offensive coordinator Kyle Samson knows a thing or two about football, too. Not only was he an All-American quarterback for the Lights, but he was also part of the Cat-Griz rivalry as a freshman at Montana in 2003.
Samson didn’t see much action for the Griz in the Cat-Griz game that year, but he was a big reason why Montana was as successful as it was heading into that game. With starting QB Craig Ochs out, and backup Jeff Disney injured, Samson was thrust into duty in a game against FBS rival Idaho late that fall, and running the option, Samson led the Griz to a stunning victory.
“It was a great experience to play for the Grizzlies as a freshman and my first college game as a QB against Idaho was a great memory for me,” It was amazing to play in Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the first time and be a part of the great tradition of Grizzly football. Always great to have your first game as a college QB be a big win at home.”
Samson moved on from Montana to MSU-N, but he’s always remained a loyal Grizzly. He’s always cherished that season in Missoula, and he remains a huge Griz fan.
Prediction: Griz 27, Cats 21
Miller grew up a Bobcat fan, thanks in large part to his dad, a Montana State alumn. Kirk Miller, the former Havre and Bozeman public schools superintendent certainly passed on his love of the Bobcats to his son.
Miller, who played football, basketball and tennis at HHS, and is now an assistant tennis and football coach for the Blue Ponies, doesn’t miss the chance to root for the Bobcats. And he certainly sees MSU pulling out a much-needed win Saturday in Bozeman.
“The game is going to be a shoot-out,” he said. “Neither defense is very good. But I think the Cats will win because their receivers are better than the Griz’ DBs. That will be the difference.”
Prediction: Cats 38, Griz 34
Slonaker has not one, but two degrees from the University of Montana. So there’s never been a question of where his loyalty lies in the Cat-Griz rivalry.
A die-hard Grizzly fan, who makes many trips to Washington-Grizzly Stadium, year-after-year, Slonaker was the former director of Special Education at Bear Paw Cooperative for many years, before retiring in 2010.
Slonaker is confident the Grizzlies can win Saturday in Bozeman, and he’ll be wearing his maroon and silver while watching the game and cheering on the Griz as he’s always done.
“I think that both teams will score in every quarter,” he said. “But the Griz will take it over in the third quarter, and even though the Cats will score in the fourth, it will too late for them.”
Prediction: Griz, 27, Cats 24
Playing wide receiver for the MSU-Northern Lights the last five years, Montelius hasn’t had the opportunity to see many Griz games in person. But his connection to the program has remained strong. A Missoula native, Montelius played high school football at Big Sky with Griz’ star linebacker Jordan Tripp, and their friendship has flourished even though they have played college football far apart from each other.
Like Tripp, Montelius is also good friends with Bobcat running back Cody Kirk, but when the Cat-Griz game rolls around, Montelius doesn’t hide which way his support goes.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Montelius said of Tripp. “He’s been able to come watch a few of my games at Northern, and I’ll be there in Bozeman watching him this Saturday. He’s a great player. He’s a great talent.
“Playing on the road, the Griz have to stay poised, they have to take the crowd out of the game,” he added. “With both of those offenses, I see a shoot-out happening. But the Griz have to set the tone early. That’s really important on the road.”
Prediction: Griz 31, Cats 17
In the Boles’ family, Montana State reigns supreme. But longtime Havre resident Tammy Boles likes MSU for more than the standard reasons most choose one team or another in the rivalry.
Although Boles said a big reason why she became an MSU fan was her husband, Dave, there’s more to it than just that.
“When we moved up here, it was a time when they (Cats) were always the underdog, and I’ve always kind of rooted for the underdog,” Boles said. “So I just continued to like them, and I’ve watched them fight and fight to get better, and now they have been the superior program to the Griz the last few years. I respect that about their program. All the kids who stuck with it and stayed committed to the program. As a parent, that’s the kind of commitment and dedication you want your kids to have and to see in a favorite team.”
Prediction: Cats 38, Griz 32
Sedhal is a sports fanatic. He plays football, basketball, baseball and tennis, so he’s always busy. But he’s never too busy to root for the Griz. A diehard Griz fan, the Havre High freshman even traveled to Chattanooga, Tenn., to watch the Griz in the 2009 FCS national championship game.
“My dad loved the Griz so I did, too,” Sedhal said. “I think the Griz are going to win because the Cats have lost two in a row and the Griz’ defense is getting better and better.”
Prediction: Griz 35, Cats 24.