Written by Jeff Tucker
There’s a new face on the Wolf Point High School gridiron, one capped with a crewcut resembling a Marine Corps drill instructor, and if his team’s intensity matches his own, the Wolves should be some hard-charging devil dogs this fall.
Head coach David Knerr, hired by the Wolf Point school board June 11, has wasted no time in acclimating himself as the new head coach of the Wolves’ football program.
Summer camp is in session and Knerr is calling for interested student-athletes to join the program. He said last week he had sent 63 invitational letters to Wolf Point students who might be interested in playing.
“I’d love to see 50 out, but 45 is a good, solid number to work with,” he said. “Anybody that wants to come out, I more than encourage them all to come out.”
Kneer, formerly of Thompson Falls and who is in the process of re-locating his sizeable family to Wolf Point, has several years of head coaching experience in both football and baseball.
Most recently, Kneer was the head coach at Noxon High School in western Montana, where he was also an assistant coach for two years.
Kneer said he would call the offensive plays at all levels of the football program, including the junior high and junior varsity teams.
“That’s my specialty, offense,” he said. “I will travel with every JV and junior high game. My name is on this program.”
The school board on June 21 approved re-hiring Ryan Helmer as an assistant football coach, and hiring David D’Ambrosio as an assistant football coach, pending a satisfactory background check.
Kneer said Friday that D’Ambrosio, his defensive coordinator coming from Boise, Idaho, had asked him to wait until D’Ambrosio arrives in town to start the work on the defensive side of the football.
“He’s been coaching for 15 years. He’s very, very good,” Knerr said. “He wants a defense that is more speed than size.”
Until then, Kneer said he’s been working on fundamentals with the offensive line, where Kneer played during his high school career.
“We’ve got about eight linemen. I’m very impressed by the line,” Kneer said. “The mules pull the plow. You don’t get any farming done if the mules don’t move the plow.”
While the Wolves finished the season 1-7 last season, capped with a 58-0 loss to No.1 - ranked Malta at Lowry Field, Kneer said he’s very impressed by the athleticism of those participating in summer camp, which runs through July 31.
“We’ve got a great group of athletes here, phenomenal athletes,” said Kneer, an owner of a concrete business who will not be a classroom teacher. “I like our chances. I like it a lot. There’s too many good athletes here not to have a good team.”
Kneer also said he’s impressed by the preparation of the players.
“We had 15 to 10 kids in the weight room all summer long,” he said.
Kneer said he was also impressed by the facilities at Wolf Point High School, including the weight room. He said activities director Mike Erickson runs the athletic department similar to a college program.
Asked about the quarterback position, Kneer said nothing had been decided.
The Wolves rotated then-junior Easton Copenhaver and then-sophomore southpaw Tukker Toavs at the quarterback position last season.
“I’m probably leaning more toward Easton, although Easton won’t handle the backfield bang as big as Tukker is,” Kneer said. “We may see Tukker Toavs at center.”
Copenhaver was also a second-team, all-conference cornerback last season.
Kneer said incoming senior wide receiver Mechiah Zilkoski “will be utilized” to maximize advantage.
Zilkoski was an all-conference wide receiver last year. The standout wide receiver had a career-high 202 receiving yards late last season during a frigid road game at Glasgow.
“I’m a play-action pass guy. We’re going to pound the ball,” Kneer said, adding senior Taylor Nygard would be a key component of the ground attack. “This offense is going to do good with that kid. He’s a bowling ball.”
Kneer said it was too early to make any predictions, but he said he likes what he’s seen so far.
“I’m not here to go 2-6,” he said. “I’m here to go 8-0.”
Following the season finale with Malta last year, Wolves’ head coach R.C. Page announced his retirement after five years at the helm.