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Montana isn’t relying on past wins entering Badlands Bowl

Team Montana hasn’t left the field on the losing end of the Badlands Bowl too many times.

In fact, only five times out of the 20 games. The last time Team North Dakota won was in 2010.

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Yet, Bozeman’s Troy Purcell — the head coach of Team Montana — isn’t thinking too much about the previous victories.

“You can’t pay too much attention to that, because every game is a different game,” he said. “In the past, if they won that’s great, but this is a whole different team. They got the best kids in North Dakota and we got the best kids in Montana. They aren’t just going to lay down. It’s going to be a battle for all four quarters.”

Team Montana plays Team North Dakota in the 21st annual Badlands Bowl at 6 p.m. today at the Biesiot Activities Center.

With a week of preparation, Purcell had plenty of help on the sidelines and on the field. There are two assistant coaches — Matt Clark and Levi Wesche — and nine players from Bozeman.

“We got nine other coaches out there that know what we’re supposed to be doing and when we’re supposed to be doing it,” Purcell said. “It’s huge. We wouldn’t be where we are no, if I had to teach another coach our system and then try to transfer that over to the players.”

The team captains for Team Montana are also from Bozeman — Will Weyer and Grant Collins.

Weyer — a 6-foot-5, 225-pound quarterback — is signed to play at the University of Montana in the fall. Collins is a 6-4, 210-pound linebacker and will play college football at the Montana State.

“We can coach up other players and they listen to us just as much as the coaches,” Weyer said. “They take our advice, because we are really good friends and it has been a big help.”

Collins added: “It’s always nice to come out one last time, play with your buddies that you know and that you’ve played with for so long.”

Though there’s plenty of Bozeman players on Team Montana’s roster, Collins said it has been special to compete with the players from other schools.

“What’s also great is to come out here and meet some of the new kids,” he said. “You get to build some new friends and put faces with names.

“At first, you are like, ‘I used to not like this kid on the field or I had this rivalry against this team.’ It’s nice to come out, put that aside and get to know the people as who they are. I personally found out that a lot of guys are cool and a lot of them are my friends now.”

Kole Swartz of Missoula Hellgate said there’s a little pressure for the team to do well. The 6-5, 225-pound defensive lineman will join Weyer at the University of Montana in the fall.

“We want to keep that going and maintain that dominance in this game,” Swartz said.

As a majority of the players for Team Montana will continue their football careers in college, Swartz said this game is a good stepping stone.

“I’m pretty sure about 95 percent of our guys are going somewhere to play college football,” Swartz said. “Getting to play and practice against the best guys in the state is getting us prepared for that next level.”

Team Montana consists of 32 of the best football players from the state. Collins said playing in this game is an honor, but it’s also an experience he can look back on years later.

“It’s really fantastic,” he said. “Every time I think about it, I get goosebumps. It’s really special.”