Helena High Bengals Conner Nash

Conner Nash led a Helena High defense that allowed an average of 17 points per game in seven defensive categories this season as the Bengals advanced all the way to the state championship game.

John Smith, for 406mtsports.com

Helena High linebacker Conner Nash is not the biggest or strongest guy on the football field. Although at 6-feet, 175-pounds, he’s not the smallest or weakest, either.

What the senior Bengal possesses most is quickness (4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash), an understanding of angles that would make a geometry professor jealous, and a tireless work and study ethic.

He also has the dichotomy of being a fun-loving guy with an intensely fierce, competitive side.

Those qualities have aided Nash in writing his name in HHS’ record books -- becoming the school’s leading tackler in the modern era -– in addition to helping the Bengals to the State championship game, while earning this year’s Western Conference’s Defensive Co-MVP and a first team All-State selection.

And now, Conner Nash is the IR All-Area Football Defensive Player of the Year.

“Thank you for recognizing not only me but the Bengal team as a whole, because I couldn’t have done it without the guys who played next to me,” Nash texted, “and also the guys you never hear about in the headlines -- the scout guys that prepare us all week for the games.

“I’m honored and extremely humbled to be recognized at something that wasn’t even a focus of mine until my last snap.”

Nash led a red-and-white defense that allowed an average of 17 points per game in seven defensive categories, and helped hold two-time State champion Billings Senior to 16 points below its season average in the 21-12 loss in the chipper.

He recorded team highs in solo tackles (90), tackle assists (68), blocked kicks (three) and fumble recoveries (four), along with breaking Kendall Johnson’s 2016 HHS records with 184 total tackles and 395 defensive points.

Nash also tied with Conference Co-MVP Caeden Suero for the team’s sacks lead, at 10.

“Connor is the biggest goofball I know, but at the same time is able to lead our team with what seems like very little effort. And he was one of the players that without a doubt was going to give his all every play,” said all-state Bengal defensive back Alex Johnson. “He was never the biggest linebacker, but he leveraged by using his speed so well it didn’t matter.”

One of Nash’s best games took place in the Bengals' 42-7 playoff quarterfinals win over Billings West. He amassed 54 defensive points against the Bears, with 14 solo tackles, eight assists, 23 total tackles, a forced fumble and a school-tying three fumble recoveries.

Among his other top rankings in Helena’s record books, Nash stands No. 3 in career fumble recoveries (seven), fourth in season solo tackles and career total tackles (295), and tied for No. 4 in season sacks.

Nash credited his parents, Rick and Chantelle Nash, and Helena defensive coordinator Scott Evans as having the biggest influences on his career.

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“My dad was my small fry coach, he came to every game and made me eat enough at lunch, and my mom gave me the right tools to stay mentally focused and hugs after the game,” he related.

Nash said that Coach Evans “scared the crap out of me when I was a freshman,” but taught him “everything there is to know about AA football” and more importantly maturing into manhood.

“I’m no longer scared of him, now he’s family,” Nash said.

Head coach Tony Arntson said that Nash is one of HHS’ “great” football guys.

“Conner has a very disciplined work ethic, he works hard and studies the game,” Arntson said. “His knowledge of the game and relentless effort make him a great football player.

But mostly, he’s an incredible young man. Conner’s a leader on and off the field in all aspects of our school and our community.”

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