Carrying the torch for the Hi-Line in Montana's biggest rivalry
When you're a Class B football player, from a town the size of Harlem, you dream of days like Montana State sophomore Rick Haluszka is about to have.
In fact, it's something almost every kid in Montana, no matter the size of the town he's from dreams of.
But for Haluszka, the Cat/Griz rivalry isn't a dream any longer. He's already played in one of them, and on Saturday, he'll play a key role for the Bobcats as they travel to Missoula to take on the Montana Grizzlies in the 110th Brawl of the Wild.
Haluszka, a four-time Class B All-State selection in football at Harlem is now the lone torch-bearer for the Hi-Line in the storied rivalry, now that Havre's Marc Mariani is gone to the NFL. And it's a privilege and a responsibility the 6-4, 214-pound tight end and holder takes very serious, and with much pride.
"Honestly, it's a blessing to be a part of it," Haluszka said of one of the oldest rivalries in all of college football. "To think of the history of this game, to know what it means to the entire state of Montana, it's truly special to just be a part of it.
"It's possibly the biggest day of the year in Montana," he added. "Everyone looks forward to this game all year long, and then you throw in the fact that we have a chance to win an outright conference championship, and a playoff berth is on the line for them (Griz), it just doesn't get any bigger than that. To be a part of this game, it's almost hard to put into words."
And it's days like Saturday that were critical in bringing Haluszka to Bozeman.
He was recruited to play quarterback for the Bobcats, but now is settled at the tight end position, as well as being the Cats' holder for a second straight season. Haluszka even has a touchdown to his credit this season, as his number was called on a fake field goal against Eastern Washington, and the former Harlem Wildcat football and basketball standout took the ball in from four yards out.
But with all that Haluszka is doing at MSU and the dream season the Bobcats (8-2) are having, it's Cat/Griz which originally lured him to MSU three years ago.
"My recruiting trip to MSU was for the Cat/Griz game that year (2007)," Haluszka said. "And I just remember being down there and seeing all the players before the game and the crowd and all that was going on. I remember seeing guys like Lex Hilliard and Bobcat players talking and kind of flexing and stuff before the game to get themselves pumped up and wow, my adrenaline was pumping. Right away I knew I wanted to be a part of that, and the Cat/Griz rivalry was a big part of why I chose to come here."
Ultimately Haluszka did choose MSU over Carroll College and he's never looked back. And while he says being on one side of the rivalry is different to him, it's something he's very proud of, and will be even more so when his ninth-ranked Bobcats roll into Washington-Grizzly Stadium favored in the game for the first time since 2005.
"With the rivalry, there's a lot of things, like the fact that Harlem is maroon like the Griz and there are definitely a lot of Griz fans on the Hi-Line, especially with all that Marc (Mariani) accomplished the last few years, and that's totally understandable.
"But being on this side of it, I wouldn't change a thing," he added. "Coming to Montana State was the perfect fit for me. It's something I wanted to do and everything about it just felt right. I wanted the chance to represent my family, Harlem, all the people on the Hi-Line and ultimately Montana State. And getting that chance, and being able to do it in the Cat/Griz game is something that is very special to me. It really is a blessing."
The No. 9 Bobcats will take on the No. 11 Grizzlies Saturday at 12:07 p.m. in Missoula in the 110th meeting between the two teams. Look for more on the Cat/Griz rivalry in Thursday and Friday's Havre Daily News and online at http://www.havredailynews.com.