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Mark Samson era begins at Great Falls High School - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Mark Samson era begins at Great Falls High School

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GREAT FALLS -

After six consecutive losing seasons, Mark Samson knows the past few years have taken their toll on the Bison of Great Falls High School.

So the first day of fall camp under the new head coach was about establishing routine and structure.

“That’s the way football has to be,” Samson said. “You just have to learn how to do a certain routine everyday. You have to be good at what you’re doing, but you have to follow a certain pattern. That’s the biggest challenge I’m facing as a head coach right now.”

And the Helena native has had plenty of experience building programs and installing a culture. He won state championships at Helena Capital in the 1990s, orchestrated a playoff run at Montana State Northern and led Havre to the Class A semifinals last year. Could the Bison be the next success story?

“The enthusiasm is there,” Samson said. “We have a good group of kids, they have worked hard. I think they’re hungry to get something done, something on the positive side. But there’s a lot of work to be done.”

The work started this off season with summer lifting and conditioning – and it was clear to the players that things will be a lot different than they were used to.

“Everything’s more organized,” said center Zak Ray. “He’s a hard coach and it’s a lot tougher. But we need it, it’s making kids better. He’s ready to win and so are we.”

Samson won’t lead the turnaround on his own. After he was hired in February, he set to work assembling a talented staff with names that should be familiar to Bison football fans. Guys like former Bison and Griz star Rob Schulte and Conrad Duffy who played at Northern under Samson.

“I thought long and hard about a lot of these people,” said Samson. “I was trying to find the right mixture of people who can work with older kids and younger kids. These guys have done a lot for me this summer. I’d say our staff is pretty darn good right now.”

“I like all of them, they’re young,” said junior quarterback Kevin Boes. “They have belief that we can be good. And that makes us believe it too.”

Great Falls High won just two games last year under coach Matt Krahe, and graduated many of their stars including quarterback Kaden Sukut, receivers Jamison Hermann and Max Sitzmann, as well as top two tailbacks Walker Ferda and Austin Dess.

Many on the 2016 roster will earn their first varsity experience when the season starts. Despite the hurdles, there’s nothing but optimism for the young squad.

“The level of commitment from a lot of these kids has been tremendous,” Samson said.

He points to Boes, Ray, Mahoney, Kody Torgerson and Ryan Hammer as upperclassmen who will lead the team this year.

“The hunger is there, these kids want to be successful. They love the game of football,” Samson adds.

“He knows we can be good and that’s what matters,” said Ray. “Now that we believe that we’ll have a great season.”

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