By Bill Foley
Montana Tech fans who showed up at Alumni Coliseum looking to see star running back Nolan Saraceni run wild Saturday were sorely disappointed.
The Oredigger receiving corps, however, made sure those fans were also thoroughly entertained as the defending Frontier Conference champions put on a show during the Green and White Game on the Bob Green Field.
A handful of remarkable catches highlighted the practice game that brought a close to a month’s worth of spring drills.
“The receivers came out and balled out today,” Tech junior quarterback Quinn McQueary said. “They came out and made plays.”
The first big catch came when McQueary rolled right and hit senior receiver Mitchell Keeton for a touchdown pass of about a 45-yard touchdown. Keeton dove to haul in the pass ahead of a pair of defenders.
“I don’t even know how he caught it,” McQueary said. “I thought he juggled it three times, then he came down with it.”
Senior tight end Kolby Kansala went up high for a spectacular catch to the 5-yard line on a pass from junior Dawson Reardon. That set up a 26-yard field goal by Derrick Holt.
Redshirt freshman Dion Williams added a couple more highlight-reel grab from McQueary.
He burned the defense for a TD pass of about 45 yards from Reardon. Later, Williams went up high to haul in a pass, then made a couple nifty moves for a long gainer to the 5-yard line. A couple of plays later, McQueary hit Williams in the corner for a 5-yard TD.
McQueary said the big plays were a sight for sore eyes.
“We’ve kind of been up and down throughout spring ball,” the quarterback said. “We finally made some plays today. We needed this today.”
Even Tech head coach Chuck Morrell, who came to town with a defensive background, loved Saturday’s explosive plays.
“The quarterbacks did a great job of putting the ball on the receivers on some deep balls,” Morrell said. “Even as a defensive coach I love to see that. Those weren’t bad plays by the DBs, those were great plays by the quarterbacks and receivers.
“Those are the type of plays that define the conference.”
Tech also got a short touchdown run from sophomore running back Hunter Gappmayer.
Other offensive standouts included Butte senior Zach Bunney, senior tight end Andrew Loudenback, senior receiver Carols Martinez and redshirt freshman receiver Zeb Bloom.
Freshman Danny Peoples, a Butte Central graduate, also saw time at quarterback and kicker. He booted a 27-yard field goal.
Defensively, the Orediggers held out several players, including Butte junior Drew Schleeman. The Butte High grad missed the entire spring recovering from shoulder surgery. Schleeman said he will be ready for when the Orediggers open the season Sept. 3 at Carroll College.
“There’s certainly some spots where we feel pretty comfortable at this point,” Morrell said. “A lot of our top-tier guys have played a ton for us last year. We kind of gave them the day off today.
Defensive highlights included junior defensive lineman Tyler Sanders making a thunderous tackle for a loss on junior running back Zach Winfield.
Sophomore Danny Mannix and sophomore Jacob Yedica picked off passes in seven-on-seven drills that kicked off the day.
“We didn’t run our first group a ton today,” Morrell added. “With our defensive line, I feel like we’ve got some really nice of depth up there with some guys that are pretty explosive and physical. We’re still working out a few things with our linebacking corps, and we’ve got a veteran crew back in the secondary.”
Morrell said he and his coaching staff were taking an extra peek at some young offensive linemen and linebackers. The team has to figure out a way to recover from the graduation losses of David Meis and Tyler Gavlak.
“Really, today is about evaluating our younger guys that our coming up,” Morrell said. “This is our last chance to get a look at those guys heading into fall camp. We’ve got to see if those guys can help us or not.”
Overall, Morrell called the Green and White Game “awesome.”
“Were much further along at this point right now than we were 12 months ago,” Morrell said. “To me, that’s exciting.”