Beaver football reloads at the top

Longtime assistant Rick Nordahl takes over from Hall of Fame coach
Rick Nordahl (left), called the defense while Hall of Fame coach Terry Thomas called the offense through multiple state championship seasons. Thomas resigned in the spring and Nordahl has taken over the reigns of the successful football program. The coaches are pictured above during the 2011 state championship win over Billings Central. J.P. Plutt photo


As always, the Dillon Beaver football program opens the fall with the intent on reloading and making yet another run at a Montana Class "A" football championship.  This year though, the reloading reaches all the way to the top.  Hall of Fame coach Terry Thomas resigned in the spring and his longtime assistant Rick Nordahl has taken the reins of one of Montana's most successful high school football programs.

"It is exciting," said Nordahl.  "We all knew that day was coming, we just hoped it wouldn't come along this fast.  Now we're there and it has been all go since February."

Thomas resigned with a career record 211-76, including a 189-65 mark at Dillon.  Since 2000, the Beavers have played in seven state championship games, winning five titles.  The Beavers were runner-up to Billings Central last fall.

There will not be a major redesign of the program.  Nordahl and assistants Brett Carver, Steve Vezina and Gary Ferris have all been in the program for 20 years or more and they were all instrumental in the past Beaver success.

"The majority of what we're doing now is what we collaboratively worked on," said Nordahl.  "A lot of it was from Terry, so a majority of what we're doing is still Terry's football.  Over the years we took the hard knocks and we learned and eventually reached the pinnacle where we were with the upper echelon of teams. 

"It took a lot of hard work and Terry was the mastermind behind it.  We're looking forward to carrying on that tradition."

Nordahl has made his bones over the championship stretch coordinating a defense that evolved almost weekly through season after season.  He will still keep his finger on the defensive play-calling trigger.

Carver has 24 years on the Beaver football staff and has coached the offensive and defensive lines.  Vezina has over 20 years with Beaver football, coaching wide receivers and defensive backs.  Together, they worked with Thomas during game day, relaying the offensive play calls to the players on the field.  They will work together calling the offense.  Vezina will focus on the passing game and Carver the running game.

Nordahl will continue to work with linebackers and running backs as a position coach, with Ferris helping out with both groups so Nordahl can work with quarterbacks and other aspects of the team.

Dillon will continue the beat.

Starting in the spring, Dillon has maintained the game plan that turned the program into the success that it is known for.  Before school, the Breakfast Club drew 30 to 35 players for throwing work in the gym.  In June, 35 players attended the Montana Western team camp and 60 players attended the July Beaver Football Camp.

In additino, quarterbacks and receivers got together one night a week through the summer for a passing league.

"I'm optimistic," said Nordahl.  "We've got a lot of kids that have put in a lot of time preparing for the season and we've got a great group of 15 seniors.  They have put the time and effort in the weight room and camps.  We're preparing to go after another championship."