Each year, right about this time, the biggest rivalry in Montana sports splits the city of Havre right down the middle.
Saturday will be the 112th Brawl of the Wild in Missoula. This year, the annual meeting between the University of Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats has the makings to be pretty lopsided affair of you ask some. The Bobcats enter the weekend as the No. 1 team in the Big Sky Conference with an overall record of 9-1, while the struggling Grizzlies are far less impressive with 5-5 record overall.
But with fans as dedicated as the ones found right here in Havre, records and standings get thrown out the window when these two teams take the field and line up across from each other.
Here’s a look at how a handful of Havre fans see the Cat-Griz game turning out on Saturday.
As a University of Montana alumni, and the former sports editor at the Havre Daily News, Ryan Divish knows a thing or two about the Cat-Griz rivalry. He was able to cover the Brawl as a reported for Kaimin, UM's student newspaper, while receiving his journalism degree from Montana.
But it's been a while since Divish has gotten to experience the game first-hand, since he has moved to Washington where he's now the Seattle Mariners' beat writer at the Tacoma News Tribune, while also covering Washington Husky and Seattle Seahawks' football. Still, Divish is as die-hard Griz as they come, and though he's firmly entrenched in the sports world, as one of the most respected sports journalists in Washington state, he says Griz football is the on time he gets to be a fan, even if it is from afar. And when it comes to the Brawl of the Wild, his heart and his loyalties never waver.
"I don't get to be a sports fan much anymore," Divish said ahead of heading to Boulder, Colo., to cover Washington and the Colorado Buffaloes this weekend. "As journalists, we are expected to be unbiased and just sit there. But Griz football is one time when I can be just be a fan, sit back and still have some fun. And Cat-Griz is as fun as it gets when you're a fan of Griz football."
Divish has intently followed the Griz all season long, watching games on TV or the Internet when and wherever he can. And in year's past, he's been able to attend Cat-Griz satellite parties in Washington. And though he won't be able to see the entire game on TV this weekend, he still has confidence that the Grizzlies can upset the Bobcats in Missoula, citing the Griz winning on a last-second Chris Lider field goal.
Prediction: Griz 31, Cats 28
Young Montana Grizzly fans may not have the full understanding of the annual Cat-Griz rivalry. But that's not the case for Havre High senior Jennifer Cichosz. Cichosz and her older brother Zach are die-hard Griz fans and have no qualms about where their loyalty lies. And for Jennifer, a standout tennis player at HHS, like so many other youngsters around the state, her love of all things Griz comes from her family. In fact, she was born into it.
“I have to cheer for the Griz,” she said. “My family has always been Griz fans. So that’s how I became a Griz fan.”
And like many other Griz fans, Cichosz has no problem in predicting a Griz win Saturday in Missoula.
Prediction: Griz 35, Cats 28
As a University of Montana graduate, local business owner Rick Sedhal is a Griz football fan through and through.
And just like a diehard fan always does, he is also passing the following of his beloved Griz to the next generation. Graduating from the University of Montana is what united Sedhal with Griz football, but getting to share the experience of watching games with his son is what is making passion for the team even stronger.
“My son and I love going to the Griz football games,” Sedhal said. “And I just really enjoy the atmosphere of the stadium, and the entire game day atmosphere itself.”
Sedhal, the owner of The Athletes Foot in Havre, has never veered from his Griz. Even through this up-and-down season, he thinks the Griz are overlooked and underestimated, but still have what it takes to get the win in Missoula on Saturday.
“I think it is going to be a close game, but I think people are underestimating how good this Griz team actually is,” Sedhal said. “They just haven’t played to their potential, but really, after losing the head coach, the athletic director, the defensive coordinator, the offensive coordinator, and the starting quarterback, they have played very well this year.
Prediction: Griz 24, Cats 21
You would have to search high and low to find a more dedicated, and longtime fan of the Grizzly football program.
And when it comes to the Brawl of the Wild, Wells Lamey has seen his share of Griz wins, as well as Griz losses. But even with the less than stellar season thus far, Lamey hasn’t even thought twice about who is going to come away on top this weekend in Missoula.
“I am going with the Griz in a big upset,” He said. “I have only watched one game live, but I have watched as much as I can on the TV. It is tough watching them at times, but I am still picking the Griz in a very close game.”
And if anybody knows what the Griz can do to pull off the upset, it has to be Lamey. He has seen more Griz games than a lot of local fans combined, and knows the teams strengths and weaknesses better than most.
“They just have to play really, really good defense,” Lamey said. “I am not sure if the passing defense can play well enough to keep the Bobcats from scoring, but they did have an extra week, so maybe that will help.”
Prediction: Griz 24, Cats 21
Not everybody who has evolved into a hardcore Cat or Griz fan has been around the rivalry forever.
Dave Boles is a perfect example, as he got hooked on football in Montana after moving here from Florida. But Boles has always loved college football, and his many years of SEC dedication smoothly transferred over to the Big Sky Conference and the Montana State Bobcats. The Bobcats were one of the first Montana teams Boles was able to see, and after seeing the way the program was ran, how they played, and the overall atmosphere of their games and other Cats fans, Boles has been hooked ever since.
“Moving here,” Boles said. “And being around different people who are also Cats fans, I just really liked them as a Montana football team and stuck with them. But this rivalry is fun. You go through the trials and tribulations to get to this point, and Cats fans get to see things that we have been waiting for. We’ve seen things like the renovations to the stadium, and maybe that has boosted the kids’ confidence too. But when you wait long enough, good things happen, and it looks like everybody has bought into the program, and man, it’s fun now.”
Prediction: Cats 31, Griz 14
If you have ever met a local fan too timid to express their love for Bobcat football, you did not meet Brittnee DeLarosa.
DeLarosa is a Cats' fan, there is no denying that. And she and her family love the Cats so much, they even attempt to convert local fans at a young age, when it comes to cheering on the Cats, the more the merrier I am sure. Her and her husband have been coaching youth sports for several years now, and they have derived a fun and humorous way to make sure they recruit as many Cats fans as possible.
“My husband and I coach most of the youth sports in Havre for our sons,” DeLarosa Said. “And we actually use the rivalry between the Bobcats and Griz as an ice breaker during our first practice. First, we ask the kids which team they root for then we explain our rules. No. 1 rule is, if you wear Griz attire to practice you have to run extra and we will confiscate it for our end of season’s party and have a big bonfire. I have to laugh because in seven years of coaching hundreds of kids, we have only had one kid say he would rather run than be a Bobcat fan (we are still working on getting him turned around).”
And her strong love for the Cats has also resulted in a bold and confident prediction for this weekends game.
“I truly believe that the tables have turned,” DeLarosa confidently said. “For a number of years, the Griz were the force to be reckoned with, but the Cats have climbed their way to the top and we plan to stay there. I will be watching the game surrounded by Griz fans (and friends) at my house this week, but you better believe our Blue Solo Cups will be raised for a loud cheer at the end of the game.”
Prediction: Cats 35, Griz 14
Dane Warp, a freshman at Havre High, knows a good quarterback when he sees one. After all, Warp just wrapped up an All-Conference season at quarterback for the Havre Blue Ponies. A season in which he set several HHS passing marks. And quarterbacks are one of the reasons why he's cheering for the Montana State Bobcats in Saturday's 112th Brawl of the Wild.
Warp enjoys watching MSU quarterback DeNarius McGhee, having said "He's a really good player, who does a lot of different things really well."
Warp is also a Bobcat fan because of what he's seen in several trips to Bobcat Stadium, and he's supremely confident the Cats will top the Grizzlies in Missoula Saturday.
"I've been to a few more Bobcat games there now," Warp said. "They are just really fun to watch and I really like the way they play."
Prediction: Cats 28, Griz 10