A Belgrade player takes down a tackle wheel during a drill Saturday at practice.
Belgrade head coach Steven Hunter gives instructions Saturday at practice.
Senior quarterback Diego Casas throws a pass at practice Saturday for Belgrade.

A Belgrade player takes down a tackle wheel during a drill Saturday at practice.
Entering the program’s fourth season in Class AA things look a little different for Belgrade’s football team this fall, and it’s all by design.
The Panthers were sporting black chrome helmets and implementing some new drills under first-year head coach Steven Hunter Saturday at practice. The goal is to create a new vibe and positive culture, and Hunter believes it’s already happening.
“Intentionally some things are looking different and feeling different,” he said. “We want kids to feel fresh and new, so we are doing some things intentionally.”
Hunter served as a longtime assistant coach under Eric Kinnaman (who stepped down after 15 years at the helm following the 2021 campaign) and was hired in March to take the reins. Belgrade has won just two games since moving up from A to AA in 2019.
Belgrade head coach Steven Hunter gives instructions Saturday at practice.
“I was with Eric 14 of his 15 years as head coach and I appreciate everything that I learned underneath him … he’s an awesome guy and a fantastic guy to have around our program as long as we did,” said Hunter. “But we’re trying to get some different looks on how we look in our uniforms with our helmet change and then also just the format of our practices is changed up a little bit. Again, just trying to get a new feel, a fresh feel on things.”
Belgrade has gone just 2-21 in its first three seasons in AA and was shut out in five of its nine games a year ago. But with a turnout of 80 athletes this fall, and the addition of a freshman team, Hunter feels the program is finally on the right trajectory.
The Panthers will field freshman, JV and varsity squads for the first time in a decade after a lack of players had limited the program to just froshmore and varsity teams.
“For development that’s kind of hindered us and by no fault of anybody. It’s just the numbers thing that was a factor in that,” Hunter said. “So being able to have the three teams, we’re going to have a lot of development with our freshmen because they’re going to have 10 games and the JV team is going to have 10 games. That’s a ton of development.”
Hunter also noted it will help his upperclassmen. There tends to be a big jump by players from their junior to senior seasons, but that hasn’t been the case recently due to a lack of playing time for some of those juniors.
“We’d see them drop off their senior year,” Hunter said. “Well having that JV squad should help with retention and keeping our numbers up as they come into their senior year.”
Expectations were high, and maybe a bit too much a year ago, with 21 seniors. This year, Belgrade enters the season with just nine, but boasts more than 30 freshmen and around 20 sophomores and juniors, each.
But, the Panthers won’t be quite as inexperienced as one might think.
“We had a lot of juniors taking reps last year regardless of the size of that senior class. We still had a lot of juniors that were mixing in,” Hunter said. “So we probably have, out of all the starters that are back, maybe 10 that had some starting positions last year.”
Senior quarterback Diego Casas throws a pass at practice Saturday for Belgrade.
Among those returners is all-conference standout Asher Feddes. The senior outside linebacker earned first team honors after leading the team in tackles.
Feddes is expected to anchor the defense along with Wallace Baldwin, a senior defensive end/tackle.
“We’re looking for him (Baldwin) to hold down one of those D-end spots and maybe some inside linebacker as well,” said Hunter.
Offensively, senior quarterback Diego Casas returns along with Isaac Stock. Casas threw for 326 yards and rushed for 392 a year ago.
“He was our starting guy for us last year for most of the season and he just finished up his baseball season. So we’re excited to have him around us,” said Hunter. “He’s a great athlete. He can move, he can throw the ball, he’s smart, but he’s got some good competition around him right now.”
Casas helped the Belgrade Bandits, an American Legion program, earn a top four finish at the state tournament this summer. While he was occupied with baseball, Stock took charge of the offense during team camps and workouts.
“He’s been putting in a ton of time. In fact, most of the stuff we did this summer he was present for it. He was there at MSU camp, he was at our team camp, and any of our 7 on 7 stuff Isaac was the guy. So he got a ton of experience this summer,” said Hunter. “It’s fun to see how that’s going to shake out.”
That’s not the only position battle ongoing during fall practice. Hunter said plenty is up for grabs and that his junior class will be pushing the seniors for playing time.
“With this junior class that we got,” he said, “there’s so many guys there that they’re going to give those nine seniors that we got good competition to see who’s going to come out on top for the number one spot.”
Fans will get their first look at the team during Belgrade’s Green-White scrimmage Aug. 19. The Panthers kickoff the season hosting Glacier Aug. 26 at Bobcat Stadium on the campus of Montana State University.
“I think we’re all pretty jacked about it. It’s going to be fun,” Hunter said of playing at MSU. “Being in that big stadium, and most people around here are Bobcat fans anyway, just to have that running through their blood and to be able to be in the stadium and be a part of that is going to be a cool experience for everybody.”
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