POY Potential: Montana football contenders

Sentinel High (Missoula, MT) quarterback Riley King entered the season within reach of some all-time passing marks, but he went down with a knee injury on the first series of the season and missed the first five games. Though King threw for 254 yards and two TDs in his return against rival Big Sky, the Spartans fell to 1-5 and King likely doesn't have enough time to build a Player-of-the-Year worthy campaign. That leaves things wide open for other contenders.

Billings West High (Billings, MT) boasts Class AA's leading rusher in returning All-State running back senior Clay Compton and also has the leader in passing yards in senior quarterback Brady Gustafson.

Chad Newell, who joined Compton in the First Team All-State backfield as a junior, is posting another strong season for Billings Senior High (Billings, MT), trailing only Compton in yards rushing.

The state's top college recruit is Butte High (Butte, MT) senior standout Cody Carriger, who has committed to Oregon. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Carriger -- who moonlights as anchorman on the school's 4x100 relay -- plays defensive end, linebacker and tight end for the Bulldogs.

A potential candidate who has come almost out of nowhere is Glacier High (Kalispell, MT) junior quarterback Taylor Hulslander. Hulslander, who had to win the starting job in the preseason, tops Class AA in passing efficiency and touchdowns (18), and has led the Wolfpack to a surprising 5-1 start.

In Class A, returning All-State signal-caller J.T. Linder has started his season off strongly, sparking Dillon to a 5-0 start and the state's No. 1 ranking.

A dedicated POY team at ESPNHS manages the Gatorade Player of the Year program selection process and oversees all research, reporting, comparative analysis and criteria-compliance on the award program’s behalf. Candidates are judged upon athletic production and impact in the current season. Contenders must also demonstrate high academic achievement and exemplary personal character, including volunteerism, sportsmanship and community leadership. Any class year is eligible, senior status has no bearing on a candidate’s merit and selections are made independent of ESPNU's recruit rankings.

To nominate a student-athlete for Player of the Year honors, contact the POY team at poy@risemag.com.