Football runs deep for Billings West’s Ashmores, Billings Central’s Traftons | high school football

BILLINGS – Though the high school football season typically ends in late October, the offseason for coaches Luke Ashmore and Nolan Trafton doesn’t hit until family reunions during the holidays.

That’s when the two cousins ​​- Ashmore coaches the Billings West boys, Trafton coaches the Billings Central boys and girls – can really analyze their seasons.

“We have something of a post-season download when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners,” Ashmore said with his trademark laugh. “At this point we’re just looking at our game times, alright here’s all our 14 games, here’s what happened. We just go through the details.”

Football has been a family gathering for the Traftons and Ashmores for some time.

Be it the holidays, a BBQ or whatever, whenever there was a group of them around — and growing up there were 17 cousins ​​living in Billings — there was a football game to play. Could be in a park next to Trafton’s house or even on the street.

“I only have fond memories of growing up together,” Trafton said. “We were cousins, but we were good friends. We spent a lot of time together, always competing against each other.”

Ashmore played at West and graduated in 2013 while Trafton competed at Billings Central and graduated in 2014.

A year after graduating, Trafton was a spectator at a Rams game when principal Shel Hanser approached him about becoming a coach on the program. Didier Ndedi coached both teams at the time and Hanser said Ndedi could use a few helping hands.

Trafton agreed to give it a try and when Ndedi moved on, Trafton were handed the reins of both programs for the start of the 2019 season.

Ashmore became West’s head coach that same season. Both coaches have brought brothers to their roster: older brother Kyle is an assistant to Nolan, while younger brother Eric assists Luke, further deepening the family’s football coaching tree.

Both coaches also have teams hoping to make deep postseason runs this year. Trafton’s Central girls are a consistent contender for the Tier A championship and are going into the playoffs this season as the top seed in the Eastern A’s.

As for West, the Golden Bears battled for the top spot in the Eastern AA all season before eventually settling in second place and earning a bye in the first round.

“It’s really cool to see our progress,” Ashmore said of the parallels between his program and Trafton’s at Central. “We all loved our respective schools and programs. I’m sure Nolan has the same mindset, but I think of it as a really cool way of just giving back and making sure that some of those great moments that I had as a high school student and as a player in general, come down to some of them (player) back.

In fact, Trafton is of the same mindset. Nolan credits Kyle, who is seven years his senior, with encouraging him to look past the wins and losses and to help players develop in other areas of their lives.

“One thing I’ve really loved about coaching is that it’s just not about football,” said Trafton, whose double practice days typically run from around 3:30pm to 7pm. “It’s about getting to know the players, building that relationship, and then continuing that relationship after graduation.”

Busy schedules prevent the cousins ​​from watching each other’s games during the season. Ashmore and Trafton are hoping a hectic schedule remains for the next three weeks as the playoffs continue.

There will always be time to catch up. Football is always on the plate when the Ashmores and Traftons get together.

“I’m thinking back now to BBQs…birthdays…everything…and I realize how fortunate and unique it is because we’ve all been here at Billings,” Ashmore said, before continuing with a giggle, “Nevertheless, I’m sure all ours.” Parents We’ve had headaches at almost every family barbecue or birthday party, but we’ve had a blast.”

What a difference a tiebreaker makes

The Billings Central boys open the playoffs Saturday in Columbia Falls. It’s a game that features the only undefeated teams in Class A: the Wildcats, winners of the North, are 12-0-0 while the Rams are 9-0-3.

How did such a matchup in the quarterfinals come about?

Well, Billings Central and Livingston held the top spot in the East with 6-0-2 records. The Rams and Rangers both played their games to a tie, leaving the next tiebreak against third-placed team, Lone Peak.

Livingston and Billings Central both defeated Lone Peak, with Rangers coming out on goal difference plus 8 and Billings Central on plus 7. That tipped the scales for Livingston and sent Billings Central to Columbia Falls.

It’s that time of year

It has now been almost a decade since both boys and girls programs at Billings Central were coached by one person. Previously it was Didier Ndedi and for the last four seasons Nolan Trafton.

So the school is very adept at tackling two playoff games 430 miles apart and under 24 hours.

Trafton will practice in the Rams’ girls game against Stevensville at Billings on Friday at 6 p.m. Immediately following this game, Trafton will get in a car with a Central family who volunteered to drive him, and they will spend the night in Butte before continuing to Columbia Falls, where they will join the Rams in front of their Kick-off will follow at 1 p.m.

The boys team will leave for Columbia Falls on Friday morning.

“I have an incredible group of assistant coaches who make my life easier,” Trafton said.

These coaches: Kyle Trafton, Jaelene Flynn, Josie Snyder, Fr. John Panktratz, Dusty Reno, and Sean Flynn.

And in class AA

The Eastern AA finally ended its regular season on Thursday, with the playoffs scheduled to begin on a Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, and Saturday schedule.

The top two-ranked teams in each league receive first-round byes, while the bottom two teams are eliminated from all postseason games after the regular season.

So the guys said goodbye to Eastern AA, Bozeman and Billings West. Billings Skyview and Great Falls CMR have been eliminated. For the girls, Bozeman Gallatin and Billings Skyview get the byes while CMR and Belgrade head home.

In the Western AA, the Missoula Hellgate boys and the Helena Capital boys are still battling for the top two spots with a head-to-head match scheduled for Saturday. Missoula Big Sky and Helena occupy the bottom two places, bringing their season to an end after playing each other on Saturday. The Hellgate girls have secured the top spot while Helena and Missoula Sentinel are still battling for second place. Kalispell Glacier and Butte won’t see a postseason game.

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