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HELENA — The Carroll College football team’s defense is looking for leaders this spring.

The Saints graduated mainstay safety Tucker Johnson, linebacker David Anderson and defensive end Alec Basterrechea from last year’s team. The trio led with their voices and play-making on the field, each taking charge from a different level of the defense — defensive line, linebackers and the secondary.

This spring the Saints have identified some new leaders, and with the graduation of second-team all-Conference linebacker Anderson, coach Mike Van Diest identified the next leader of his position group: senior-to-be Reece Quade.

"We don't have a ton of linebackers with playing experience so we need our leaders to step up," Saints head and linebacker coach Van Diest said earlier this spring. "We need emotional leaders on the defense we need to have those leaders in practice.”

Out of Billings Skyview, Quade started alongside Anderson the past two years, finishing fourth for total tackles last season with 53. Quade said playing without Anderson will be hard, but thinks the linebacking corps has a brotherhood that bodes well for the upcoming season.

“The chemistry that well have together is pretty crazy,” Quade said. “Me and Chase (Bowen) and (Dylan) Kresge and Alex Thomas and all them, we’re pretty much like brothers.”

The group is emphasizing toughness this spring, as if Van Diest would have it any other way. Quade said it’s important for the younger players to see how the defense conducts itself when it attacks the offense.

“We’re just out here having fun, bringing the intensity and being the leaders on defense,” Quade said.

And Quade sees a depth at linebacker, partially because the coach of the team has a knack for bringing in a slew of linebackers each season.

“He’s always recruiting linebackers,” Quade said. “We got a deep position. It’s fun to have it that way. You bond with more guys. It makes practice a lot more fun this season, too.”

Quade’s seen Bowen develop since coming into Carroll, and now sees the linebacker out of Idaho as the heir to Anderson’s starting spot.

“It’s cool to see him stepping up and taking that No. 1 spot right now,” Quade said. “It’s cool to see the way he’s developed from his freshman year to now. Fun to see those guys grow.”

While much of spring ball is about getting repetition in drills and creating a two-deep ahead of fall ball, Quade’s enjoyed seeing leaders emerge throughout the defense.

“Since we lost Tucker, Basterrechea and David, they were all huge vocal leaders last year,” Quade said. “It seems like McBride, Drew (Melton) and myself have been leaders at our positions. To see the leaders come out. We’ve had ‘chea forever… we’ve had Tucker and David forever too. It’s cool to see new guys come out and be those leaders.”

Carroll hasn’t voted on team captains yet, but some of the players written about in this space could be favorites when the time does come.

The Saints will close spring ball on Saturday, which will also be a kid’s clinic beginning at noon at Nelson Stadium. It’s free to attend and is open to boys and girls, grades K-5.

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