Coach of the Year

Weight room reopening served as turning point

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor

Mike Ludwig didn’t feel like much of a football coach in the spring despite the fact that his talented Laurel squad had eight or nine starters returning on both sides of the ball.

That’s because the eventual Montana state champion coach was communicating with his staff and players on Google Classroom and via group text messages.

“The scary thing when everything shut down was we didn’t know if we’d have a football season,” Ludwig said. “I coach track too, and there was no spring season. We thought we could make another run if we could just get the season underway.”

Ludwig eventually led Laurel to the school’s first state championship in 18 years when the coach, a Laurel alumni, led his squad to a 2002 crown in his first year as head coach. Ludwig said the turning point in the season came when the players got back in the weight room in June.

“That was huge,” Ludwig said. “They were chomping at the bit. That was the turning point. The weight room was completely full all of the time.”

Although Laurel achieved the ultimate goal of winning a state title, Ludwig did feel as if something was lost due to the pandemic.

“It was business as usual, for the most part, but the team chemistry suffered because we weren’t able to do the things we normally do,” Ludwig said. “Luckily, we had some good chemistry in place and some super players.”