GREAT FALLS — Linemen are the blue-collar members of any football team. They grind in the trenches, often times going unnoticed for doing the thankless job of clearing or taking up space.
They’re the kind of players that grab their lunch pail, strap on their hard hat, and go to work.
For Great Falls CMR center William Harr and Great Falls High tackle Daunte Janikula, that’s more than a metaphor.
They literally put on a hard hat and go to work every single school day.
Harr and Janikula are participating in the Great Falls Public School’s “High School House” program. It’s a partnership between GFPS and Great Falls Neighborworks, which provides new homes for residents with low or moderate incomes and gives high school students hands-on experience and valuable skills in the construction and carpentry trades.
“Sports and construction have a lot in common,” said project manager Pete Pace. “You got to work hard, you have to show up and you have to do things the right way. These kids are perfect examples of that.”
Their current project is located on the northwest side of town. Construction on the single-level home began at the start of the school year, will continue through the winter months and is scheduled to be completed in the spring.
Just like in football, Harr and Janikula know a solid foundation is important to lasting success.
“Before we started, this thing was just flat ground,” Janikula said. “We had to dig out the entire hole for the wiring and the plumbing and all of that. We had to get all the cement poured, and now we’re starting on the flooring.”
It’s a learning experience for all 24 students involved in this year’s project.
“It’s really cool to learn the process of how a building goes up,” Harr said. “Every step of the way we’re able to learn and help each other out, too.”
Building a house requires teamwork and camaraderie. And though Harr and Janikula go to different schools and play for different teams, they’ve found common ground sharing their experiences at the construction site and on the football field.
“We always report to each other on Mondays after our games,” Harr said. “We ask how each other did and how the games went. We tell each other good luck on Fridays. It’s nice to have someone to talk to about football.”
But this week is a little bit different. During the week the two are working together building a house, but on Friday they will line up directly opposite one another. Harr on the offensive front for the Rustlers and Janikula trying to get past him on the Bison defensive line.
“Usually during the school day we’re really good friends,” Janikula said. “But when it comes Friday night at 7 p.m., it’s our Super Bowl. We’re going to be game ready and ready to compete.”
Though both are soft-spoken leaders, they admit they might trade a few barbs while working at the site on Friday morning.
“It should be interesting,” Harr said. “I’m sure we’ll see each other and talk some smack.”
But no matter the outcome of the 59th crosstown game, the two will be back to working together on Monday morning with the same effort they put forth to beat each other on Friday.
“They’re definitely going to go at each other hard and they definitely want to win one for their teams, it’s important to them,” Pace said. “But William and Daunte are great students. It’s a true testament to both football programs, I know both coaches really preach the value of hard work, dedication, and it shows in these students in this program.”
Harr and Rustlers (2-7) will face off against Janikula and the Bison (4-5) in the 59th crosstown football game Friday at Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.
Reporting by Tom Wylie for Montana Sports