HELENA — Another Carroll College football season ends this weekend.
With it, the emotions of playing football for the final time will hit the senior class.
For coach Mike Van Diest, it’s his 20th conclusion with the Saints. Each time, it’s difficult for him to say goodbye to the group of players.
Seniors leave a program once, but coaches endure their departure year after year.
“This class is phenomenal,” Van Diest said. “They are great young guys who are going to be successful in whatever field they go into. They are going to be great husbands and fathers. I just want to be around these guys.”
There are 13 seniors on the Carroll College roster. It’s the smallest class on the team because of the attrition of four or five years.
Players leave for various reason. Those who remained played a significant role for the Saints.
“When you are together that long, you bond with each other,” receiver Troy Arntson said. “We are very tight. I wouldn’t have asked to play with anyone but these seniors. We have a small group this year. It’s a great group of guys.”
Most have become starters such as Reece Quade, Eric Dawson, Drew Melton, McBride Galt and Arntson.
Some have been injured, such as Matt McHugh and Addison Vergara, but they stayed around to help any way they could, even if only in practice as student assistants.
“You get to see them grow from freshman year, or senior or junior year in high school when you start recruiting them, and go through the college process,” Van Diest. “It’s the ups and downs, and it’s not only in games, but in terms of what happens off the field. They may have a situation with family. Someone may have gotten sick in the family or there’s a divorce. There are all those things that take place. You go through the ride with them. People don’t understand that. You are not the parents, but you are part of the family.”
The group sat through 16-hour bus rides to Ashland, Oregon, for games. They got up for 5 a.m. workouts during the offseason, including times when it was cold and snowing out. Most of them spent their summers working out together to prepare for the season.
People only see the players on Saturday afternoons in the fall winning and losing, and the coaches getting in their face for mistakes or congratulating them for success. It’s the other times of the year that makes them a team.
“You go through so much with them,” Arntson said. “People don’t realize how much you are with these guys and how much you have to go through. That’s what you remember, what you go through with the guys. It will be emotional. I’ve played football my whole life. It will be something that will be difficult for me. But I’m not going to start thinking about that until after Eastern.”
Unfortunately for this class, they may not know what a winning record feels like. They are 5-5 after last weekend's win over rival Montana Tech on the road. They need to defeat Eastern Oregon in the final game to attain the first winning record for the Saints since 2014.
“You never want to have a losing season,” Arntson said. “The last couple seasons haven’t gone like we wanted. So it’s in the back of our mind to go out with a bang. As a senior, it’s coming to an end. We want to go out with a win. You want to remember having a good last week.”
The previous three seasons ended up 4-6. That’s tough for these players, since the Saints have a strong tradition of winning with six national titles.
“If that’s all you come to school for (winning), then their legacy won’t be what they want,” Van Diest said. “But their legacy will be what they accomplished on campus, in the classroom and community. The legacy is what left they on their coaches and teammates.”
Van Diest personally enjoyed coaching the group. The players loved playing the game and improving each day in practice.
He remembers the joy on their faces in the wins, and how they kept coming back the next day after a loss to improve for the next game.
They taught the younger players to keep coming back, which is a trait Van Diest expects to continue next season.
“It’s how much they love football,” Van Diest said. “I’ve run into people who are going through what we are going through, they don’t want to practice or play hard the next week. They can’t wait until the season is over. They made a great impact on Carroll College and they all made an impact on my life beyond tackles and catches.”
Carroll College Senior Class
|2||Ryan Beaulieu||DB||5-11||185||Las Vegas, Nev. / Palo Verde HS|
|8||Matt McHugh||QB||6-2||205||Missoula / Loyola Sacred Heart HS|
|11||Tony Madsen||DB||6-2||202||Missoula / Loyola Sacred Heart HS|
|14||Troy Arntson||WR||5-8||170||Helena / Helena HS|
|18||McBride Galt||DB||6-2||205||Helena / Helena HS|
|23||Drew Melton||DB||6-0||190||Lewiston, Idaho / Lewiston HS|
|32||Beaugh Meyer||DT||6-2||275||Boise, Idaho / Capital HS|
|44||Reece Quade||LB||6-3||232||Billings / Skyview HS|
|48||Eric Dawson||TE||6-1||235||Great Falls / C.M. Russell HS|
|55||Connor McGree||OL||6-3||275||Butte / Butte Central HS|
|68||Willy Clements||OL||6-3||295||Nederland, Colo. / Holy Family HS|
|92||Alex Thomas||LB||6-1||234||Great Falls / C.M. Russell HS|
|Addison Vergara||WR||6-2||210||Greeley, Colo. / Greeley West HS|