MISSOULA — Committing to play college football is much more of a unique feat than Twitter might have you think. Committing from Valley Christian high school, which plays 6-man football, is rarer still.
So when that college recruit, who also happens to be your brother, asks you to train with him in the offseason, you do it.
"I followed his workout regime that was given to him by his college," Branson Becker said of the workout program he and his brother Colton — now a freshman at Dakota College at Bottineau — used. "... The precedent that my brother had set for me throughout the summer, I was able to step into this role a little better than I think I would have been able to without him."
The work Branson put in with his older brother has paid off.
Aside from giving the younger Becker more confidence in the weight room with his team, the gains in training have directly contributed to big gains out of the backfield. Through four games, the junior running back has 650 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, according to the team's maxpreps.com page.
The stats really started to pile up when the Eagles entered conference play. Of those 14 total rushing TD's, 11 have come in the last two games, as Valley Christian (2-2 overall) has opened Western C 6-man play with two straight wins.
The Eagles will try to make it three in a row against a Noxon team that third-year Valley Christian coach Shane Sander says looks tougher on film than the Red Devils' 0-4 record would appear.
"They've had to play White Sulphur Springs and West Yellowstone off the bat," Sander said of Noxon's front-loaded schedule (three of the Devils' four games this season have been against 2016 playoff teams and Valley Christian makes four of five). "No. 37 on their roster looks like a solid player. They throw to him a lot, and on the defensive end he crashes hard on film."
That No. 37 is Noxon's Rylan Weltz, who will most likely be the biggest person, let alone kid, on the Eagles' field in Alberton on Friday. The sophomore stands at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds.
"He plays tight end for us and has good hands and will be a big part of what we do," Noxon coach Bart Haflich said.
But the Red Devils will have their hands full with Valley Christian's big threat as well — Branson Becker.
With Missoula Sentinel topping Butte 41-30 Thursday, the attention of Class AA football fans in the Garden City turns to Hellgate and Big Sky. The Knights travel to take on upstart Great Falls CMR (2-2), which lost 36-16 last week against defending state champion Billings Senior. The Rustlers employ a balanced attack on offense, according to maxpreps.com, where they've thrown for 521 yards and rushed for 437, although they've run the ball nearly twice as many times as they've passed (123-70).
The Knights, meanwhile, fell to 0-4 with a 45-8 crosstown loss to Missoula Big Sky last Friday. Hellgate did outscore Big Sky 8-6 in the second half, as senior quarterback Gage Haran scampered for a long rushing touchdown. The Knights, though, have been outscored 216-33 this season and they'll be playing a Rustler squad that dealt Big Sky (3-1) its only loss on the year.
Two weeks after that defeat against CMR, the Eagles draw Great Falls High (1-3) at the friendly confines of Missoula County Stadium. The Bison are in a bit of a rebuilding process under second-year head coach Mark Samson. Great Falls High won two games a season ago (2-8 overall), one coming against Billings Skyview team. Those Falcons account for Great Falls' only win again so far this year.
There's no surprises in how Big Sky is going to attack the Bison — a steady dose of the run game with quarterback Levi Janacaro and running backs Tyler Flink and Kadin Lahti. Janacaro was held to 58 yards rushing against the Knights, but he still managed three touchdowns on the ground as the Eagles played with a short field for most of the evening. Lahti couldn't eclipse the century mark either, but mustered 88 on the ground and another three total touchdowns.
Flink added a rushing touchdown as well.
Big Sky wide out David Gibson put it eloquently after the Eagles' win against Hellgate last week — even though teams know what's coming at them, it's still hard to stop.
"I don’t know how people game plan for it; it’s pretty deadly," Gibson said.
Loyola Sacred Heart (1-0 in conference, 2-2 overall) takes on Eureka next Friday in a rematch of last season's epic Class B state championship game, meaning they'll need to be careful not to overlook the task at hand this Friday at Rollin Field: Thompson Falls.
The Bluehawks' 2-2 schedule (0-1 in conference) is difficult to decipher. They've split in two games against nonconference Idaho opponents and lost 45-0 to undefeated Eureka still riding its victory tour.
But Thompson Falls has an impressive 19-13 win on its ledger against Cut Bank, a playoff team last season. That makes the Bluehawks' Western B matchup against Loyola a good measuring-stick game for each team.