By Bill Foley
Kameron Moreno was going to score on that run. There was absolutely no doubt about it.
Moreno broke one tackle, spun out of another one, and then he carried two Missoula Hellgate defenders with him into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown run late in the first half of Butte High’s 60-13 Senior Night Victory over the Knights.
Moreno ran like a man possessed because he was running for more than himself and his Bulldog teammates.
On that particular carry, Moreno was running for his twin brother.
Kobe Moreno had carried the ball the three previous plays. He gained 6 yards, then 22 and 3 to the Hellgate 14-yard line.
On the last run, Kobe Moreno did not get up. He stayed on the ground in agony as trainers examined him. For the second straight season, he had torn ligaments in a knee on the Naranche turf.
“I saw he went down and it was just flashbacks to last year and all the work he’s put in over the summer,” Kameron said. “It sucks to see something like that go down, but I knew he’d get back up.”
In the first quarter of the first game of his junior season, Kobe tore the ACL in his right knee. He missed football season and the wrestling season. He had to stand on the sidelines and watch his brother emerge as a star running back for the Bulldogs before he won a state wrestling title.
Now, to the horror of the Bulldog fans, coaches, teammates and his brother, Kobe was down again. This time, they were looking at his left knee, and it did not look good.
After the Knights jumped offsides to move the ball up to the 9, Kameron found his way into the end zone for his 15th — and perhaps most personally meaningful — touchdown of the season.
“It’s tough to see him go down like that, but they called ‘muscle package,’ and I thought, ‘I’ve got to punch this one for him,’” Kameron explained.
The Moreno brothers have that special bond that only twins could possibly have. They have been best of friends from Day 1, and they had already made a name for themselves as football players and wrestlers for the Bulldogs heading into the 2018-19 school year.
Their junior year was going to be their year.
Instead, Moreno’s knee went out on him as he planted to lunge toward Kalispell Flathead receiver Anthony Jones, who is now a contributor for the Montana Tech Orediggers.
“Last year I didn’t think it was that bad,” Kobe said of the injury.
He ran, stretched, jumped and rode an exercise bike on the sideline as he lobbied, unsuccessfully, to get back in the game.
“Then the next Monday I was fine for practice,” Kobe said.
However, as he warmed up with teammates at the beginning of practice, Kobe noticed something was terribly wrong.
“I jumped, my leg like caved in, like popped a little more, and I just went down,” he said. “Then on the sideline I was running and it went out again. And I was like, ‘Oh, I better go to the doctor.’”
Dr. Nick DiGiovine delivered the bad news. His ACL was gone and he needed surgery.
That was news that was, in a way, harder for Kameron to swallow than it was for Kobe.
Butte High wrestling coach Cory Johnston knows the Moreno brothers about as well as anybody.
“That’s the thing people don’t know about those two,” Johnston said. “When Kobe was hurt, he was consoling Kameron, telling him things are going to be OK. When it’s the other way around, Kameron is the first one in Kobe’s corner.”
Kobe and Kameron were supposed to be starting linebackers for the Bulldogs. They were also supposed to score touchdowns as part of a crowded group of running backs.
As the football season went on, Kameron became the featured back for the Bulldogs. He thrived in the role, too, running for 670 yards and 10 touchdowns as the Bulldogs closed the season with three straight wins to qualify for the playoffs.
On the wrestling mat, Kameron dominated. He posted a 35-4 record on his way to the title. He stuck Bozeman’s McCade O’Reilly in 2 minutes, 45 seconds in the Class AA championship match at 205 pounds.
Along the way, Kobe was mat side to cheer for his twin.
“Watching him succeed was awesome, just knowing how hard he works,” Kobe said.
It was also a reminder of what the injury took away from Kobe, who also expected to be wrestling late on Saturday of State, too. As a sophomore, Kobe reached the semifinals before placing fourth at 170 pounds.
Kobe actually finished slightly better than Kameron, who lost out a match short of the third-place battle at 182 pounds that year.
For Kameron, the state championship season was something he dreamed about. Still, something was missing. That something was his brother.
“I lose a wrestling partner for practice. I lose a lifting partner every morning,” Kameron said of the injury to Kobe. “He pushed me every morning, so I need him there. It was weird last year. I didn’t practice with him at all.”
While the Bulldog wrestling team practiced, Kobe worked out every day with Mayce Grant, a classmate who also lost his junior season to an ACL tear. He worked and worked and worked.
“If I couldn’t lift legs, I hit arms pretty hard, like five times a week,” Kobe said. “I would do like morning stuff, and do one of my own workouts after school. Or the trainers would make one up for me.”
While they were always naturally strong, hard work has been the key to the Moreno brothers’ success in everything they do.
“They literally never take a day off, which is phenomenal for kids these days,” Johnston said. “Kids anymore are trying to fit in workouts around Friday night. They’re rare that they never miss a workout. It’s work ethic. They refuse to get outworked.”
Butte High football coach Arie Grey has the same assessment.
“They only know to work hard. They don’t know anything else,” Grey said. “They would work out every day if they could. We have to tell them, ‘Hey, your body needs a break.’”
In fact, when filling out questionnaires for Grey, Kameron said the No. 1 thing he will miss about playing football at Butte High is the lifting.
“There’s not a lot of people who would say that,” Grey said. “The workouts. The getting up at 6 a.m. They thrive on them, both of them.”
Without question, their Bulldog teammates and coaches will miss the laughter the Moreno brothers bring.
Earlier this season, Kameron tried to convince defensive coordinator Bryan Arntson to switch the Bulldogs to the 46 defense, which was made famous by Buddy Ryan and the 1985 Chicago Bears.
He drew up a diagram on the team board, explaining how the defense works. His coaches laughed while pointing out that his diagram only included one safety. The 1985 Bears notably had two star safeties in Dave Duerson and Gary Fencik.
Why the 46?
“Because it kicks butt in Madden?” Kameron said.
He was referring to the video game named after former coach and announcer John Madden. That is the game of choice for the Moreno brothers.
They do not fight with each other much, but they talk a ton of trash when it comes to playing Madden.
“I can’t imagine what they’re saying when they’re playing Madden,” Grey said. “Really what they should do is make a YouTube video. It would blow up. It would go viral.”
Kobe, who was born first, refers to Kameron as his “little brother.”
“They’re a lot of fun to be around,” Grey said. “If they find something they are interested in, they are the most passionate human beings that they can be on that subject. They have probably watched every video of Arnold Schwarzenegger working out that has ever been made.”
The brothers also watch videos of old running backs. They can name off all kinds of NFL legends.
Their favorite running back of all time, though, is Zach Bunney, a star on the 2012 state championship Butte High team.
That is why Kobe wears No. 25.
“He was like the first running back I ever watched. He was awesome,” Kobe said of Bunney, the Bulldog who overcame leukemia and went on to play for Montana Tech. “Then he came here and helped us. It was awesome. I got to know who he was and stuff.”
Kameron also wanted to wear No. 25.
“He was in the room first, so he took it,” Kameron said of his brother. “I like Earl Campbell from the Oilers. That’s why I picked 34.”
Both brothers’ eyes light up when talking about highlights of Campbell running over defenders.
“I like the old-time running backs,” Kameron said. “I just study what they do because I’m not very shifty. I can’t watch the new guys.”
“Roger Craig. He was awesome,” Kobe said. “He’s my favorite running style. He runs through everything.”
“I like Nick Chubb now,” Kameron added. “He’s a power runner.”
Kameron’s power-running style has been good to the Bulldogs. So has Kobe’s.
Through 10 games, Kameron has racked up 1,125 yards and 18 touchdowns. With just eight yards in Friday’s semifinal game against Billings West, Moreno will pass up Si Timberman (1,132 in 1977) for third place on Butte High’s single-season rushing list.
With 1,824 yards on his career, Moreno is No. 5 on the Bulldog career rushing list. Brad Fuchs (1,892) and Matt Pelletier (1,987) are within striking distance.
Bulldog teammate Tommy Mellott, by the way, passed Jay LeProwse (2,286) for No. 1 all time with 2,387 yards. Mellott, who last week became the first Butte High quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards in a season, is only 89 yards behind Kameron on the single-season list.
“I know. I don’t like that one bit,” Kameron said with a laugh. “Coach, give me the ball a little more.”
Kobe has 201 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He has become even more of a downhill runner after the injury. He wears a bulky brace on the repaired knee.
Both brothers have been a force on defense for the Bulldogs. Kobe ranks fifth on the team with 43 total tackles. Both have gotten in on multiple sacks.
The undefeated fall of 2019 has been a magical one. The players get more recognition in school and in the community. There have been incidents of strangers picking up the check for the players’ post-game meals at Buffalo Wild Wings.
The best part of the season, though, just might be seeing Nos. 25 and 34 out there together again.
“It’s fun,” Kobe said. “We get to push each other and stuff. We like to see each other succeed.”
The Moreno brothers have drawn attention from college coaches in wrestling and football. At least one school wants them to do both.
They are leaning toward Montana State or Montana Tech. Kameron said he wants to study occupation safety and health. Kobe is looking at criminology.
Well, the answer goes back to another old running back.
“O.J. Simpson,” Kameron said, answering for his brother.
The brothers are big fans of the show “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
So, the conversation turns to Simpson, whose alleged double murder occurred almost seven years before the brothers were born.
Simpson was acquitted, but he did it, of course. Right?
“What?” Kameron said. “The glove didn’t fit.”
That is the kind of talk that keeps their coaches smiling. They master references old and new as they banter with anybody willing to listen.
That banter will carry on in college because the Moreno brothers will sign as a “package deal.”
“Yeah,” Kameron said of sticking with his brother in college. “Definitely. For sure.”
Johnston laughs at the mere mention of the Moreno brothers.
“They make practice a heck of a lot more fun than it could be,” Johnston said. “You give them crap and they give it right back. It’s a rare thing they’ve got going.”
“As big as they are and as strong as they are, they’ll both melt your heart,” Johnston added. “They’re the nicest kids and the sweetest kids. That’s the character you get from them. There’s not a person in the school they wouldn’t do anything for. If I ever asked them to do something they did it right away.”
“They are tremendous young men that are respectful, hard-working, tough as nails, huge hearts,” Grey said. “They love their team, they love their community, they love their school, and it’s special to see what they’ve created and what they’ve done.”
“We are lucky to have them in our program.”
With at most two games left in the football season, Kobe is already looking forward to wrestling again. Actually, he has been eyeing a return to the mat since before his knee was surgically repaired.
Watching Kameron’s success only fueled that fire.
“I just wanted to be out there so bad, and that’s what kept me motivated, too,” Kobe said.
“I’m excited,” Kobe said about wrestling again.
“You’re not going to be excited after the first practice,” Kameron answered. “The only fun part of wrestling is the winning part.”
Watching just one Moreno brother on the mat was bittersweet for Johnston, too.
“It makes our lineup so much more versatile,” the coach said. “We can move guys around. It just gives our lineup a whole different dimension. There’s no telling what could have been if we had him, but we’re glad to get him back.”
That is why Johnston’s heart nearly stopped when he saw Kobe on the ground with yet another knee injury.
Unlike last year, Kobe knew it was bad from the start because the pain was much worse. Luckily for him and the Bulldogs, he was wrong.
Kobe suffered a Grade 2 MCL tear. That might put an NFL player out for a few weeks, but not Kobe. He was back in uniform when the Bulldogs knocked off Kalispell Glacier in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
When the Bulldogs take on West, both Moreno brothers will again be in uniform for Butte High.
Kobe is as determined to play out the string as his brother was to score that touchdown against Hellgate.
“I told DiGiovine I couldn’t miss another game,” Kobe said. “There’s no way I could miss another one.” 2 comments