Fourteen local AA football players – eight from Capital High and six from Helena – have been selected as first team All-Conference gridders. And topping the list is HHS record-setting running back Ryan Arntson, who was chosen as the Western AA Offensive MVP.
Helena finished the year at 8-4, Capital wound up 7-5, with both clubs advancing to the state playoff semifinals after upset wins on the road in the quarterfinals.
Capital’s first team selections include inside linebacker Seth Schneider, Connor Quick at offensive guard, Marcus Welnel at outside linebacker, defensive end Caelen Cummings, Justin Jenks on the D-line, safety Colin Sassano, punter Bradley Haller and Shamus Bartmess at long snapper.
Bengals chosen are Arntson, Kendall Johnson at inside linebacker, tight end Taylor England, Daniel Stockton at offensive tackle, wide receiver Derrick Olsen and Matt Rispens at cornerback.
All are seniors except for juniors Quick, Schneider and Jenks.
The West’s Defensive MVP is Patrick O’Connell of Glacier, a senior inside linebacker.
Arntson, the state’s leading rusher at just 5-foot-7, 165 pounds, literally rewrote the school’s rushing and scoring record books. This year he established HHS’ game records for carries (48), rushing yards (290) and touchdowns (six, tie); and season marks for rushing yards (1,810), rushing TDs (30), total TDs (33) and all-purpose yards (2,661).
He leaves the school with at least three career records as well, including rushing TDs (35), total TDs (42), and all-purpose yards (4,446). Arntson was also named second team at KOR, returning 12 kickoffs for 311 yards and a 25.9 yard average.
Schneider, at 5-11, 200-pounds, led the Bruin defense in six categories, amassing 382 defensive points, with 104 total tackles, 93 solo tackles, three interceptions, three defensive touchdowns and 11 assisted tackles (tie). He was No. 2 with six tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries (tie).
Schneider, who paced the offense with 963 yards rushing and nine TDs, was chosen second team running back as well.
Johnson, at 6-2 and 190 pounds, is a two-time first team all-conference selectee. He leaves HHS with seven defensive records, consisting of 390 season defensive points, 944 career defensive points, 410 career total tackles, 58 career tackles for loss, 36 total tackles in a game, two safeties in a game and five sacks in a game.
Johnson also ranks No. 2 on the school’s list with 167 season total tackles and 196 career solo tackles.
Quick is also a two-time first team All-Western selection. At 6-3, 270-pounds, he anchored an O-line that helped CHS to 3,371 total offensive yards for the season.
Welnel, a 6-1, 220-pounder, ranked No. 2 on the Bru-crew defense with 347 points. He recorded two caused fumbles, two blocked kicks and nine tipped passes (tie), and stood No. 2 at 94 total tackles and 91 solo tackles. He was named second team at fullback as well, averaging 8.7 yards on 17 carries.
Sassano, at 5-10 and 175 pounds, was third on CHS’ points chart on that side of the ball, with 307. He tied for most assists (11) and fumble recoveries (two), shared second at two picks, and was No. 3 with 93 total tackles, 82 solos and seven tipped passes (tie).
Olsen, a 6-4, 170-pounder, posted 51 receptions for 743 yards and seven touchdowns for the Bengals.
Cummings, at 5-11 and 185 pounds, compiled 276 points, while pacing Capital’s defense with 10 sacks and tackles for loss. Jenks, at 6-2, 225 pounds, also posted 276 defensive points. He led the brown-and-gold with nine hurries, and was No. 2 at nine sacks.
England, a 6-6, 210-pounder, missed three games due to injury, but was generally regarded as one of the best blocking tight ends in the state. Stockton, at 6-0, 220-pounds, was part of an O-line that helped HHS’ offense rank fourth in the state in scoring, averaging 29.3 points.
Haller, a 6-4, 185-pounder, averaged 37.3 yards per punt, with a long of 69 yards. And Bartmess, at 5-10, 185-pounds, was voted the league’s best at snapping the ball to his punter and (kicker’s) holder.
Rispens, a 5-8, 155-pounder, led the red-and-white’s defense with 11 deflected passes. He finishes his career No. 3 on the school’s all-time list, with 20 deflected passes.
Helena’s second team All-Conference players include cornerback Keair Adgerson, Dallas Long at O-guard, Joel Clark at defensive end, outside linebacker Conner Nash, Caden Suaro on the D-line, and punt returner Matt Rispens.
Making the second team for Capital are Bartmess at center, Haller at wide receiver, kicker Brian Buschini, Alaric Griel on the D-line, and offensive guard Carson Shuman.