Jack Hathaway, now the head coach at Camas, isn’t surprised to see his former punter succeed at the next level. Hathaway oversaw special teams at Camas from 2014-20.
“Obviously he’s got leg talent,” Hathaway said. “But his work ethic is really what sets him apart. He puts in the time. That work ethic makes him trustworthy.”
Leighton is the latest in a string of Camas kickers to reach the next level. Andrew Boyle (Washington State), Michael Boyle (Hawaii) and Caleb Lightbourn (Idaho/Nebraska) have each kicked or punted at Division-I programs in the past five years.
“They get to spend a lot of time together,” Hathaway said of kickers. “It’s like the master and the student where the student becomes the master. That stuff gets passed down from one kicker to the next.”
For Leighton, 2018 all-state kicker Andrew Boyle was the model and inspiration to further hone his craft. One of the most important things he learned from Boyle was how to focus, especially during the long methodical hours of practice.
Leighton isn’t alone at Montana State when it comes to players who can handle pressure. The Bobcats (12-2) finished second in the Big Sky, earning the No. 8 playoff seed and a first-round bye.
Since then, Montana State has won three playoff games, each by no fewer than 14 points.
In North Dakota State (13-1), the Bobcats will face an FCS powerhouse that has won eight national titles since 2011.
“We’re all excited,” Leighton said. “We’re focused and prepared to play our best.”
Reimer steps up
Leighton isn’t the only Camas graduate to make an impact for Montana State. Offensive lineman Rush Reimer, who also capped his high school career with a Class 4A state championship in 2019, has stepped into a big role late in the season.
Reimer took over as the starting right tackle after starter TJ Session was injured Nov. 13 against Idaho.
That gave Reimer (6-foot-5, 300 pounds) his first collegiate start in the regular-season finale against rival Montana in front of nearly 27,000 hostile fans in Missoula.
“It was my first time being in that game, first time seeing the game, and it was wild for sure,” Reimer told 406MTSports. “It’s a whole different experience. I’ve never played a game anything like that.”
Appearing in 11 games, Reimer has helped the Bobcats consistently rely on the run. Montana State has averaged 275 rushing yards in three playoff games, more than the Bobcats’ Big Sky-leading 225 yards per game in the regular season.
“I think he’s got the jitter part out of the way, and so he can just go play football and focus on being a good football player,” Montana State offensive line coach Brian Armstrong told 406MTSports. “I do think he’s going to be a really, really good player here before it’s said and done.”