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Testing the knowledge of my freshman football coach

I remember being at freshman football practice - all five feet, 120 pounds of me back then - listening to our coach Tom Reynolds preach to us about the unacceptable number of "grassers" we had in our last game.

He talked for at least two minutes about the subject before I turned and looked at the guy next to me and whispered, "What the hell is a grasser?"

"A grasser, Mr. Divish, is a missed tackle" Reynolds said overhearing my query. "After last game, grassers are something you should be fairly familiar with."


The cliche is supposed to be you learn something new every day. It was very true especially during that year. I learned more about the game of football in my freshman year than I would ever learn again.

But it wasn't just plays and strategies. Sure, Reynolds taught us the wishbone offense, the 46 defense and pretty advanced stuff for a bunch of scared little freshman. He also taught us small details like the way your uniform should be worn, the superstition of the broken shoelace, to how a helmet and shoulder pads should fit properly.

It was the only year that Reynolds coached football at Havre High. The school was in a pinch for a freshman coach and with his son Tommy playing on the varsity, Reynolds agreed to coach our freshman class along with Jerry Vandersloot.

If a guy that coached college football for then - Northern Montana College from 1965-1971 is willing to coach a bunch of 14-and 15-year-olds, you gladly take him up on his offer.

It was perhaps one of the most enjoyable times I had playing sports at HHS. Not only did we learn a lot, we played pretty well, never losing a game and winning by enough of a margin for people like me to get in the game.

But if there's one thing I took away from that year, it was how much fun football could be. Going into high school when you are barely bigger than a fire hydrant, you wonder whether playing football is a good idea. I even considered not playing. But after my freshman year, I wasn't leaving that field unless they carried me off of it.

So, out of respect to my freshman football coach, who put up with me parking on his sidewalk during high school, taking naps on his favorite couch, ruining his backyard lawn playing wiffle ball and since his alma mater North Dakota State will be making headlines in Montana this week, we have selected Tom Reynolds, who serves the executive director of the MSU-Northern Foundation, as our first guest in our new Thursday feature, "Armchair quarterbacks."

Basically, this will set up like any other football picks contest. The Havre Daily used to run it for years, but last year being my first year I didn't do it because I was in a little over my head at first.

But with the success of our "Bracket Ball" and my shameless appearance in the Great Falls Tribune's "We pick the Winners" section, we've decided to renew the tradition.

Besides Reynolds, we will have five so-called "experts," who will pick each and every week.

The experts consist of myself along with partner-in-crime George Ferguson, Havre Daily News publisher Harvey Brock, long-time local sports aficionado Wells Lamey and Havre Middle School director of student services Barry Zanto.

George considers himself a guru in just about all sports, but football in particular. However, he is very loyal to certain things. So don't expect him to pick against the Grizzlies or the Minnesota Vikings, ever.

Harvey is still trying to convince people that he won the Bracket Ball contest because we never ran the final results. Well, there were a couple of reasons those results were never run. One reason was because Harvey won and Gerry Veis finished second. And two, because I finished second to last and George finished last.

Wells probably watches more sports and games than six sports writers combined. We may have made a calculated mistake bringing him in. I know he actually studied a little for making his picks.

Study for picks? I never studied once in seven year of college.

Wells also did the unthinkable and dropped his picks off when we weren't in the office (imagine that) leaving us without a picture of him. According to people, pictures of Wells are harder to come by than pictures of Sasquatch and the Lochness Monster. But fear not, he stopped back and we got a picture, against his will.

Zanto, who along with partner Dan Sheppard, have called more football and basketball games, than most people have watched, was brought in not only for his knowledge of high school and college but his allegiance to MSU.

With three die-hard Griz fans on the panel, Harvey was feeling a little alone as the only Cat fan. However, Zanto readily admitted he is a Montana fan for every other game except Cat-Griz. Zanto's picks were pretty easy this week considering he is a native of Geraldine and although he doesn't follow the NFL much, he is Packers fan.

As for our guest, he readily admitted that his heart outweighed his head in two picks.

With UM facing NDSU, Reynolds decided on the Bison after initially choosing the Griz. Although, he asked for points in the pick, which he was denied. He still went with his old school out of respect and also knowing that Wells would needle him if he didn't take NDSU.

"If Wells in it, I have to change to NDSU or I'll never hear the end of it," Reynolds said.

Besides taking the Bison, Reynolds stayed true to his roots and took the Minnesota Vikings over the Green Bay Packers.

"The guys on ESPN picked the Vikings," Reynolds justified.

So along with Reynolds, George and the guys on ESPN that makes up the seven people in the entire world outside of Minnesota picking the Vikings to win in Green Bay.

Reynolds is also taking the Ponies over Columbia Falls after having watched both teams practice this year.

"(Daine) Solomon could be a horse carrying the football, and (Gary) Wagner is looking like he is reading his patterns," Reynolds said. "Columbia Falls had some good players. It could be a pretty good game."

As for other picks, Reynolds stayed with his employer choosing the Lights over one of my many former schools, Dickinson State.

As much as I wanted too, I really wanted to put the Florida State-Maryland game on the picks because Reynolds has little lover for FSU head coach Bobby Bowden.

"I wouldn't have done this if you put Florida State on there," he said.


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