By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech has been a home away from home in a more literal sense this week for recent Flint Valley Titans quarterback Colton Grange.
The Oredigger football recruit has been a frequent visitor over the years with grandparents having spent their youths in the Bute-Anaconda area, and a great-grandmother residing in Butte. Grange grew up in not-so-far-away Philipsburg.
“I will be playing at Tech and I’m excited about it,” he enthused during a photo session Thursday for the 35th annual Bob Cleverley Classic Class C 8-Man All-Star football game. “It’ll be super fun and I’m ready to step up for it.”
The all-star game for Class C high school programs will kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday on Bob Green Field at Montana Tech. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM or online)
The annual event showcases top Class C eight-man football seniors from last fall’s season. Grange certainly qualified. He quarterbacked the Titans to the state championship.
Familiarity with Butte and Montana Tech made for an easy sale to Grange, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder recruited as an athlete, meaning no decision yet on where he’ll fit into the grid program, position-wise.
“The education is great here and I like the coaching staff,” the easy-talking Grange said while as a cool breeze threatened to carry in ominous-looking clouds from the northwest. “The field is super, super nice. And, the big screen? Heck yeah, really sweet. Everything about that field is nice.”
He’s gotten to practice on the turf of the Bob Green Field a couple of times as his Blue Team and the opposing Red Team alternate between the game and practice venues for their week’s drills in preparation for the Saturday classic renewal.
The Blue Team this year features players from the Class C Southern and Western Divisions while the Red Team is made up of standouts from the Eastern and Northern C conferences. The week has had its competitive moments already, Grange said. He told about a pool game in the dorm “the other night” that saw the fires spark as three Blue Team players and a Red Team member participated. It wasn’t nasty, Grange said, just all in back-and-forth fun.
Grange said he has been a spectator for “The Clev” game in recent years, rooting on alumni from the Flint Valley. His stay at Montana Tech will find him to be a regular haunt at the venues. It will also help him pursue a future career.
“Some kind of engineering,” Grange said of his probable course of study. “Maybe petroleum, we’ll see. I will go to the freshman seminar and maybe figure that out.”
Grange is fresh off a seventh-place finish in the javelin at the state Class C track meet held last week. He seemed disappointed, but maybe because of his bulging numbers in football. The All-Stater passed for 33 touchdowns among his 83 completions last fall. Grange threw for 1,626 yards and his 83 completions were from 138 attempts (60.1 percent). He was intercepted only four times. He rushed for 944 yards, He totaled 52 touchdowns.
The championship game win, 44-30 over Forsyth, saw Grange pass for three touchdowns and run for one. Throwing the ball, he was 17-for-39 for 282 yards without a pick. Running, he carried 25 times for 109 yards.
He was also a standout at middle linebacker and was All-State and All-Conference at both positions. He was the Player of the Year, both ways, in the Western C Division. He totaled 101 tackles, including 77 solos, his senior year. Eight tackles were for loss of yardage. Grange also forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and broke up 20 aerial attempts, He was named Academic All-State seven times, and has also been selected to play in two other All-Star games this summer — the Badlands Bowl and in the Montana East-West Shrine Game.
The Orediggers don’t know yet what they’re going to do with him, but the wheels are certainly turning on where Grange’s abilities will help most.
“I’m not sure,” Grange said. “I was a quarterback and middle linebacker for the Titans and we won the state chipper, so that was pretty sweet. I signed as an ‘athlete,’ so I’ll probably be a safety or receiver. I’d have to put on some weight to be a linebacker.”
Grange was also a starter in basketball, for the Philipsburg Prospectors team. Philipsburg co-ops with Drummond to form the Flint Valley football team, but the schools compete separately in other sports.
Combining with Drummond for football might have tempered the introductions this week for Grange as he finds himself sharing dorm, locker room and meal table space with former Western C rivals. Some of those rivalries extend lifelong.
“Toby Odom and I are buddies,” Grange said, laughing while Odom, from Western C member Charlo, poked his head into the interview. “Toby is going to kill it.”
“It’s nice getting to know rivals and being friends,” Odom said, still smiling.
“I’ve been competing against Charlo kids all my life,” Grange noted. “It’s nice to get to know them.”
Grange said he expects to see duty as both a quarterback and a linebacker for his Blue Team on Saturday night. It might be his last action and either position. The probability doesn’t seem to faze him. He’s staying in Montana.
“I’m an outdoors guy,” Grange said. “Living in Philipsburg, there’s not a lot to do except the outdoors. I’m a born-and-raised Montanan. My favorite (activity) is bowhunting.”
Grange said he was born in Missoula, but moved with his parents to Philipsburg when he was quite young. He grew up in the pretty little town situated near Georgetown Lake.
“I might have to leave the state someday as an engineer,” Grange said, wistfully. “But I wouldn’t mind staying in Montana if I can.
“I’m not about that city life.”