2009 football opener honors former Bulldogs

UMW News Bureau

Michael Guelff and Zac Marold

The families of Michael Guelff and Zac Marold are honoring their sons' memories with the creation of scholarships to aid Montana Western students. The scholarships will be awarded at the Bulldog football season opener at 1 p.m., Vigilante Field, Dillon.

By Wally Feldt [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Former Montana Western students and football players Michael Guelff, left, and Zac Marold, right."]Memorial[/caption] In the past seven months two off-season tragedies rocked the University of Montana Western football program. Former linebacker Zac Marold took his own life in January and former wide receiver Michael Guelff died in an auto accident one day before the start of fall practice. In the wake of these tragedies, the Guelff and Marold families created memorial scholarships to honor them and keep their memories alive at Montana Western. The scholarships will be awarded at halftime of the Sept. 5 Frontier Conference game between Montana Western and Montana Tech at Dillon’s Vigilante Field. Guelff was a 5-foot-seven inch wide receiver while Marold was a 5-foot-10 linebacker. They were two players playing different positions but sharing an important personal quality, according to Montana Western football coach Rich Ferris. “The thing that made both Michael and Zac unique was their passion for the game of football and their competitiveness,” Ferris said. “They were both high-spirited people who wanted to win at all costs. It wasn’t that they were bad sportsmen if they lost, it was quite the opposite. It was the fact that the fire of competition continued burning in them.” Montana Western linebacker Chad Schira still remembers the first time he saw Zac Marold on the football field. “At first look, Zac was intimidating,” Schira said. “He came from a D-1 school and he didn’t say much, but it wasn’t long before he was friends with everyone on the team. Zac was one of the biggest hitters on the team and definitely the guy with the biggest heart. He was the one guy on the team you didn’t have to motivate; he was always ready to play. Zac really loved the game.” “Zac was more outwardly intimidating than Michael was,” Ferris said. “He would go against the biggest guys without fear. He was also a bit more intimidating to the younger guys. At first, they didn’t know if he was joking or not with some of the things he said. He had good results with it. When people got to know him, they knew he was joking. But because of his beard, long hair and tattoos he just seemed a little more intimidating.” Marold transferred to Montana Western from the University of Utah where he was part of Utah’s 2004 Fiesta Bowl Championship. “Zac knew football,” Schira said. “He loved football and I learned so much from him in the short time I played with him. Coming from a D-1 college he brought so much in and we all learned a lot. He was one of those guys who really motivated you to play better when he was on the field with you.” Michael Guelff came to Montana Western as a true freshman in the fall of 2004. While many freshman spend their first year in redshirt status, the graduate of Billings West High School played and contributed his freshman season. He earned all-conference honors after his junior season. “From a football standpoint, we referred to him as the quarterback of the receiving  corps,” junior Colton Woods said. “He knew what everybody’s routes were and where they were supposed to be on the field ... He knew exactly what was supposed to happen on every play for every position. He knew how it all fit together. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to play with Michael. He was always uplifting and positive. He would definitely get on you if you messed up your route, but it was in a positive way. Whenever you did something right he always made sure to let you know.” Marold’s jersey No. 51 will not be worn this season while Deryk Van Zee, also a graduate and former wide receiver at Billings West, will wear Guelff’s No. 3. Saturday’s game against Montana Tech is the season opener for the Bulldogs. “I like to say there was a way we can control our emotions for the game,” Ferris said. “I can’t say the players will and I know I am not going to be able to control mine. It is going to be an emotional pregame and it will be an emotional game. I don’t know how I will react and how the kids will react. I would like to say that I would treat it as just another football game, but it’s not. It means more to me than that. Both those guys were great guys and we loved them a lot and they’re gone. Hopefully we can stay focused, do our jobs and win the game.” Chad Schira is also feeling the impending emotional weight of the season opener. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Schira said. “There are so many emotions. It will be the most emotional game I have ever been a part of. Losing Zac, then losing Michael and then the game is against Tech, our biggest rival. Then we will be coming out in our new red jerseys and the fact that we want to make a statement after being picked last in the conference. There are just so many different emotions building up.” Kickoff for the Bulldog football season opener is Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1 p.m., Vigilante Field.