Montgomery Red Raiders
Before he even watched his players perform, first-year coach Christian Diggs was impressed.
What he witnessed seemed like something small, but powerful. And he knew that a strong foundation already was being laid down.
During offseason workouts, players almost always beat Diggs and the assistant coaches to the field. They were not playing around either during that time. Players were working and preparing. Montgomery has knocked on District 4 Class A’s door the last four years and they are putting in as much extra time as possible to try knocking it down this fall.
“They’re committed. They’re out there before the coaches are and the leaders are stepping up,” Diggs said. “They’re ready to roll once practice starts. They hold themselves accountable which is important.”
Montgomery has never won a district championship but reached the 2017 final. The Raiders beat eventual champion Muncy the next year but just missed districts as they did again in 2019. Montgomery would have been the No. 3 seed in what normally is a four-team field last season, but because COVID-19 condensed the season only the top two teams qualified and the Raiders again just missed the cut while finishing 3-6.
Fourteen seniors return from that team which is tired of coming close and is eager to challenge Muncy and Canton for district supremacy. Diggs was impressed with offseason numbers at workouts and the Raiders feature some promising newcomers they can mix in with the veterans.
“We have freshmen and upcoming sophomore and juniors to go along with the seniors who are very talented and hungry. We’re just putting the work in and they’re going to be ready to showcase it coming out in the fall,” Diggs said. “My staff and I are setting the bar really high but that’s because the kids want to go really high and have great results.”
Montgomery certainly has the potential to do so. The Raiders could be especially dangerous offensively where three-year starting quarterback Logan Almeida returns. A strong leader, Almeida has topped 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and effectively spread the ball around last year with five players catching at least 17 passes. Two of those Raiders are back. Running back Colby Springman caught 34 passes and Maurice Walters 24. Keep an eye on players like Nevin Beachel and Austin Kuhn as well.
“One of the biggest things he (Diggs) has helped me with so far is he brings a quarterback perspective to the head coach position,” Almeida said. “It helps break down the game such as reading defenses and going through progressions.”
Springman could be poised for a big year running and catching the ball this season and his combination of speed and strength could make him tough to bring down. Like Springman, Walters is a three-year starter and has progressed well each year at Montgomery. The Raiders have some good linemen to pave the way for the offense with Bradley Leon, Thayden Miller Gavin Strouse and Cameron Bryson all starting at times last season. Strength and conditioning coach Ryan Solomon has done a fantastic job with the Raiders and their increased size could provide quite an asset up front.
Many of those who will make an offensive impact also could do the same defensively. Springman and Devon Deem form a strong linebacking tandem and Walters is tough in the secondary. Leon and Miller are potential difference-makers along the defensive line and will try setting a physical tone on both sides of the ball after Montgomery struggled some against the run last fall.
Montgomery also possesses one of the area’s premier special teams weapons. Kicker Gabe McNear has been nearly automatic on extra-point and field goal tries the last two seasons. The junior has missed on just three kicks during that time and made all three field goal tries last season. Any time Montgomery is in the red zone, McNear gives it the hope of at least coming away with three points. He also often booms his kickoffs and can force the opposition into having to navigate long fields.
Montgomery has started slow the last three years, having to try and rally from 0-3, 0-4 and 1-3 starts each time. The Raiders are hoping to reverse that trend and will open the this season where last year’s ended, getting another chance at Hughesville who defeated it in that finale. Montgomery played well at times in its defeats but struggled at times to put four consistent quarters together.
The goal is creating that consistency and breaking through the wall which has blocked its district path the last three years. Montgomery has shown through its offseason grind that it is not afraid to work and fight. Now it wants to take that fight to the opposition.
“We just want to be extremely efficient in everything that we do,” Diggs said. “We just want to keep applying pressure the entire game offensively and defensively. We want to give our athletes opportunities to make plays and hopefully everything else will fall into place.”
Montgomery Players to Watch
Logan Almeida, QB/DB:
Devon Deem, LB/RB:
Colby Springman, RB/LB:
Maurice Walters, WR/DB:
–by CHRIS MASSE
Montgomery 43, Bucktail 15
Montgomery 10, Northwest 21
Montgomery 13, South Williamsport 33
Montgomery 17, Muncy 34
Montgomery 48, CMVT 14
Montgomery 43, Wyalusing 19
Montgomery 7, Athens 35
Montgomery 7, Wellsboro 42
Montgomery 7, Hughesville 26
Aug. 27–at Hughesville
Sept. 10–Warrior Run
Sept. 24–at South Williamsport
Oct. 1–at Wyalusing
Oct. 15–at Muncy
Oct. 22–Cowanesque Valley
Oct. 30–at CMVT