Kenneth Eiden needed a few practices to figure out how to approach his new role this season. Bozeman’s defensive end, tight end and running back didn’t initially know the best way to prepare for games.

But once he found the solution that worked for him, Eiden blossomed in his junior season.

“I love it. I’m going to try and play every single down I can because I love playing the game,” Eiden said. “I’d rather be on the field than off it, doing whatever I can to help the team win. If that’s on offense, great. If that’s defense, great. If it’s both, then that’s awesome. I definitely like playing both ways.”

At the start of the year, Eiden tried resting in practice to save his energy. But as a sophomore last season, Eiden just played defensive end. So he practiced hard and played hard, and it worked.

With increased responsibilities on both sides of the ball, Eiden quickly recognized resting wouldn’t suffice. He returned to practicing hard, on both sides, regardless if it made him tired.

“I realized that if you go hard every single play in practice,” Eiden said, “and you work hard every single play in practice, then when you get to the game, it’s easier.”

Eiden’s practice routine paid off. He’s helped anchor Bozeman’s defense all season and has emerged as a key offensive weapon. The 6-foot, 235-pound Eiden has received interest from several FBS programs. His role will remain significant when the Hawks (8-1) host Helena in the Class AA quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday at Van Winkle Stadium.

After recording a school-record 21 sacks last year, Eiden has received more attention from opponents. Still, he’s recorded 10 sacks this year to go along with 348 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 21 catches. He’s rushed for six touchdowns too.

“In my opinion, Kenny’s the most dynamic football player in the state of Montana. I don’t think anyone else can talk me out of that,” Bozeman head coach Levi Wesche said. “He has an impact every time he touches the ball. He has an impact every time he’s on the field on defense. If you don’t know where No. 7 is or you don’t give him the respect he deserves, he can really ruin your night fast.”

Last year, Eiden enjoyed playing alongside then-seniors Ryan Lonergan and Ryan Simpson, who went on to play in college. Even then-junior McCade O’Reilly, who played linebacker, helped take pressure off Eiden. That allowed him favorable matchups, and he maximized the opportunities.

Though Eiden’s stats this season haven’t matched what he produced as a sophomore, he’s comfortable with it because he understands why. Opponents have keyed on him, on both sides, which has opened up more opportunities for teammates.

“What I realized this year is that I have other guys on the team that are really good players, and it’s been really fun to get to see that and realize you don’t have to do everything,” Eiden said. “You can take on three guys and know the other two guys they aren’t blocking are going to make the play. I think that’s really cool.”

In practice, Bozeman may work on 40 offensive plays in a row against the scout team before working on 40 defensive plays in a row.

Eiden is involved in all of it. He’s often tired, but he knows in games he’ll get more rest because of special teams plays, halftime and breaks between quarters.

And he’s embraced the idea that the best players in games are the best players throughout the week too.

When the Hawks concoct a game plan each week, they try to involve Eiden as best as possible. As the season’s continued, opponents have shifted defensive coverages to guard him. And offenses have adjusted their protections to account for him.

As a result, Eiden has played in several spots on both sides of the ball whereas last year he played almost exclusively boundary defensive end.

“Just trying to make sure our game plan uses his skills to the best of his ability and gives offenses and defenses fits,” Wesche said. “That’s the most important thing.”

During a game against Billings West two weeks ago, Eiden took the ball from the 8-yard line and rushed toward the goal line. He met a pack of defenders halfway there. Wesche began thinking of what play he wanted to call next.

Instead, Eiden kept moving his feet, kept fighting and exploded into the end zone.

“That was the play for me that really popped,” Wesche said. “Like, ‘Dang, that’s special.’”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.