Future Digger Justin May gets taste of new home

By Bruce Sayler

The athleticism of Justin May will be on display for Butte football fans soon enough.

The Bob Green Field at Montana Tech will be a second home.

The Chester-Joplin-Inverness standout will be on the field Saturday for the Bob Cleverley All-Star Game on Saturday, then will be back in The Mining City in mid-July to play in the East-West Shrine Game before joining the reigning Frontier Conference champion Montana Tech Orediggers team in the fall.

The testimony has already been told. He was a four-year starter in the C-J-I program in a career that culminated with the quarterfinals round of last fall’s state Class C eight-man football playoffs. The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder also starred for the Hawks in basketball and, less than a week ago, became the state Class C champion in the boys’ long jump.

Conditioning hasn’t been a problem. So, this week of Blue Team practice in anticipation of the Saturday 7 p.m. kickoff at Bob Green Field has been more fun than not, May said.

Dare we say “relaxed.” Probably not.

“It’s been really fun to play with all the boys one last time out,” May said during a Thursday afternoon practice. “I think it will be a real good game on Saturday. And, it’s been all good here. The Montana Tech facilities are top of the line.

“But, it will be a little bit different suiting up for 11-man ball.”

It will. More guys will be on the field, which will be longer. May will get a little taste of the length on Saturday as the game will be played as an eight-man contest, but on the 100-yard field, as opposed to the 80-yarder on which Class C teams regularly compete.

The artificial turf at Bob Green Field doesn’t allow for relocating goalposts for one game, which would require drilling holes in the nicely kept carpet.

May was catching passes on Thursday. Some of the routes were deep, but he also pulled a couple over the middle. His frame should allow him to take on the bulk needed to absorb college hits expected to arrive in such patterns.

The speed, too, would seem to make May a natural in the passing game offense. Likely, he is one of the Oredigger recruits that cause Montana Tech head coach Chuck Morrell and staff envision touchdowns when they’ve seen him, seen his videos.

“I played receiver, slash, running back at C-J-I,” May said. “I think I’ll be playing receiver, or maybe safety, at Montana Tech.”

May seems to have changed the gears suddenly and successfully from spring sports to fall, enough to bode well for a June game, anyway. Remember, it was only last weekend that he won the boys’ long jump at the State Class C track meet with a leap of 20 feet, 11 inches. He added to the effort a third-place 300-meter hurdles time of 40.02 seconds, a fifth-place javelin throw of 172-0 and a sixth-place triple jump mark of 42-3 ¾. May also qualified in the 200-meter dash to round out a grueling slate of events, but did not place. The field was pretty fast — much like the company he’s keeping this week in camp.

“It’s definitely been worth the trip,” he said. “There are a lot of good players here.”

He has known a number of them for many years. Brandon Richter is also from C-J-I while state champion Chinook lists seven players on the Blue Team. Hi-Liners fill at least five other spots on the roster.

May said he has known most of the fellows from his neighborhood since they were all pretty little. He said he is enjoying lining up with them — for a change.

“Oh, there’s rivalries,” he said. “But, all’s good. We get along. I think we play pretty good football in the north and good basketball, too.”

The C-J-I Hawks lost just twice last football season — to Chinook in their conference finale for the league title, and to Twin Bridges in the quarterfinals.

Veteran coach Jeff Bertelsen of Wibaux is putting the Blue Team members through their drills with assistance from Jim Vinson of Chester-Joplin-Inverness, Scott Friede of Chinook and Greg Hardy of Fairview. All have enjoyed successful careers.

A chance at a successful career played a part in luring May to Montana Tech, the prospect said.

“I’m thinking about a major in business,” he said, adding that he is from an agricultural family and that business points seem to be entering deeper into the production. “We’re dryland farmers. We grow wheat.”

With techniques and technology changing so rapidly in maybe all professions and vocations anymore, the hard work and toughness May learned and developed on the farm near Joplin should serve him well.

May, Montana Tech, the Cleverley All-Star Blue Team and the East Shrine Team are all hoping so, too.