MISSOULA — A year ago, Campbell Rolston-Clemmer was playing left wing, a forward position for the Missoula Hellgate boys soccer team.
On Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. on the Fort Missoula Regional Park turf field, he will be pretty far removed from that spot as the Knights prepare to host the Class AA state championship against Bozeman. Now playing a defensive position on the team’s back line, the senior captain’s play has been a key part of Hellgate’s success.
Not to mention its three straight shutouts to start the playoffs.
“He bought into it right away during the preseason and decided he would do it,” Knight head coach Jay Anderson said of Rolston-Clemmer’s defensive play. “He’s just been a catalyst in the back, he’s just been fantastic for us in the back.”
Part of the reason Rolston-Clemmer is helping hold down the back line is because the group is almost entirely new. Hellgate graduated nearly its entire group of backs off of last year’s state runner-up squad and Anderson needed some players to step up.
After a few bumps to start the year, the unit has gelled nicely. Hellgate allowed just 15 goals this season and has registered nine total shutouts through the state semifinals.
As the players have become more comfortable with what they’re doing, they have improved tremendously — their senior captain included.
“(Moving to back) was out of the blue. It’s just a lot more of a formulated position, I guess,” Rolston-Clemmer said. “If you just learn the basics, most of it us just effort.”
In goal, Brendan Oberg has been tremendous as well. The junior has been consistent in his goal keeping throughout the year and that comes in part from the competition he faces in practice every day.
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Senior Ben Vetter and Oberg have been competing for the better part of the last three seasons and as Oberg has gained more experience and gotten older, he has been more vocal with his leadership as well.
The competition has certainly benefited the entire team.
“Ben pushes Oberg to be a better goalie,” Anderson said. “In fact, as far as Brendan is concerned, his greatest attribute is his communication and being able to help communication, so he’s really stepped up his game lately.”
With two fairly evenly matched teams vying for the title, the winning squad just might be the one that can break through the opposing defense first. Anderson is hoping his players come out strong, which is something they were not able to do against the Hawks in 2018.
Bozeman scored the first two goals of the game and held off a multitude of Knight attacks to win the game.
The Hawks are led by senior Zach Springer, a senior who totaled 46 points during the regular season — 16 goals, 14 assists — and has scored twice during the postseason. Fellow senior Jackson Coles (39 total points) has also been strong during the postseason, grabbing two assists and a goal.
Bozeman allowed just seven goals during the regular season and two during its playoff run. A tall task for the Knights to overcome, but they are certainly hoping to extract a little revenge on the Hawks.
“I’m definitely really excited,” Rolston-Clemmer said. “I know it’s going to be a good game and it’ll be nice to have another shot since last year was kinda tough.”