Winning for Luke Thompson Falls football team rebounds from tragedy

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LUKE COMERFORD (# 63), his coach, and his teammates at the summer training camp. Comerford passed away in June, but has inspired his team to win. (Photo Credit Katherine Comerford)

Despite a tragic event earlier this year, the Thompson Falls High School football team has stayed together, enjoying a strong to the 2019 season.

Luke Comerford was a member of the Blue Hawks for the last three years after he and his family moved to Thompson Falls from Westcliff, a small town located in Southcentral Colorado.

They came here to help Luke’s younger brother, Jacob, who had chronic lung disease and had difficulty breathing in the high desert environment of their home state.

After Luke and his father took a trip to the Falls area, they fell in love and decided to move to Montana.

Luke was a good student, averaging a 3.6 grade point average or higher, was on the honor roll and had a wonderful relationship with everyone he met.

His teachers were able to talk to him on an adult level and often he would assist his fellow classmates wherever they needed it.

“A lot of kids came forward to let us know how much he helped them,” said Luke’s mother, Katherine.

He was described as a fantastic athlete and a hard worker. His father mentioned how artistically gifted he was. Luke’s father, Joe, is a carpenter and taught his son from a young age. He said that Luke could cut and build as well as many of the other men that Joe hired, and even at 12 years old he showed great prowess.

One of his teammates, Jack Jacobson, said that “he was great at math and was really great on the wood lathe in the shop.” He could sculpt and do numerous other artistic tasks quite well. He also loved to hunt, and fish. Joe said that Luke was steady and sure with his shooting; “A crack shot.”

Another of Luke’s qualities was that he could relate to anyone and made friends quite easily. He had no prejudgments of anyone he met and could often find common grounds.

He used this ability to bring his friends and teammates up, rather than down. He was in track, as well as football. One of his passions was weightlifting and he was described by several as being quite intense in the weight room.

Another of his teammates, Justin Miller, described him as “a hard-working kid” and that he was strong for his size. In football he played a lineman and was the right guard. His coach, Jared Koskela, said that he was and undersized lineman and took on much bigger receivers without fear.

In 2018, the Thompson Falls team was an 11-man team because of their enrollment. Unfortunately for the football team many of these enrolled students weres from out of state, meaning that they have to wait a year to join football. Many of these kids don’t stay long enough for that to happen.

This means that though on the books Thompson Falls is considered to fit the guidelines for an 11-man team, they actually have difficulty collecting the real numbers for that kind of membership.

In fact, this hindered them so bad that last year they went 0-9. Fortunately, this year they were able to bump back down to an eight-man team. They also went to football camp with several of their players, including Luke. They were able to come out on top in the final skirmish, something that added some needed momentum to their stride.

This year Luke was going to be a senior and a starter on the football team.

But fate ended up having a much harsher plan for the community of Thompson Falls, and especially Luke’s family.

After an incident, and some questionable occurrences, Luke drowned in the river near Missoula. He passed on June 18 at 7:30 a.m.

The tragedy hit the town hard, especially his family and his team. The team, however, is not letting this horrible thing hinder them this season and have been inspired to work better and harder this year.

They are pushing to take advantage the opportunities, and even this windfall, to come out on top. One of their first games of the season Thompson Falls beat Victor, 62-0.

Luke’s jersey number was 63, so this became even more fuel for the team. They have a tradition of ringing a large bell near their home field. They ring it once for every point scored at a home game they have won.

They rung the bell once extra for Luke, to let him know that they knew he was there with them as they rolled out a great victory.

“They were his true friends,” said Luke’s parents, and “the team honoring him has helped us in healing.”

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