Dawgs dominate to spoil Oredigger homecoming

By Bruce Sayler 

 If Montana Western’s large win over Montana Tech Saturday was a win heard throughout the world Saturday, it was because a good-sized chunk of it was there at the stadium. 

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 23 in the NAIA national, dominated Montana Tech 45-21 in a Frontier Conference college football game on Bob Green Field at the Montana Tech campus. (Stats)

The Montana Western win spoiled the Orediggers’ homecoming. 

It also made a believer out of Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson. 

“We missed too many opportunities on both offense and defense,” the first-year coach said. “You can’t miss those opportunities against very good football teams like Western. Even after the way we started the game, we were not at our best, on offense or on defense. We have to find a way to get better.” 

The Orediggers were coming off a 31-29 on-the-road upset of then 24th-ranked Rocky Mountain and held the first lead in the set-to with Montana Western. So, confidence surfaced until the Bulldogs took over the game. 

An overflow crowd of likely more than 6,000 spectators were in attendance, including a full bleacher section of Montana Western backers. The crowd bathed in the sunshine of an early autumn afternoon honored with temperatures nearing 80 degrees. 

“It was electric,” Butte Central high school grad and Montana Western linebacker standout Kyle Schulte said. “The crowd showed up from Dillon and supported us.” 

The Bulldog offense was steady and deliberate on a seemingly constant forward march. Their defense was stifling. The Montana Tech offense was without leading receiver Trevor Hoffman because of an injury. 

The pullaway didn’t start until the second period. A competitive first quarter ended in a 7-all tie before Montana Western went onto a 28-7 halftime command. 

The Montana Tech defense forced Montana Western into a three-and-out on the first series of the game. The Orediggers followed up with a 53-yard drive that ended with running back Blake Counts finding the end zone from 4 yards out behind a good line push. Jared Griffith’s kick made it a 7-0 Montana Tech edge. 

It had been three years, or two seasons, since the last time Montana Western defeated Montana Tech,  in 2018. Both teams sat out last season because of the covid-19 pandemic. The last Bulldog victory over the Orediggers in Butte had taken place on September 21, 2013 when the Bulldogs prevailed 29-22 to christen the Montana Tech artificial turf installed that year. The last game between the rivals took place on October 12, 2019 when the Orediggers crunched the Bulldogs 35-12 in what was also a Montana Tech homecoming game. 

Schulte said Montana Tech’s touchdown to take a 7-0 lead caused little worry with Montana Western, if any. 

“We were taught as a ‘D’ not to let anybody faze us,” he said. “We’re to respond and think only about the next play.” 

The Bulldogs offense responded, too. 

A missed short-range field goal cost the Orediggers three points, but gave a start for the Bulldogs to use. The 80-yard drive ended with Reese Neville scoring on a 7-yard run. John Mears kicked the extra point and the teams were tied 7-all. 

The second quarter belonged to Montana Western. 

“We didn’t execute and they made plays on us,” Samson said. “We’ll look at the film. We know there were plays to be made, and we know we can do it.” 

Colton McPhee scored the go-ahead TD on a 4-yard run before Montana Western quarterback Jon Jund tossed touchdown passes of 50 yards to Jamison Hermanson and 28 yards to Trey Mounts.The Montana Western defense kept the Orediggers to a TD through halftime. 

Jund wound up with 381 yards passing on 22 completions out of 35 attempts in the game. He threw for four touchdowns and suffered one interception. 

“Things are starting to click,” Schulte said. “It’s clicking for all our teams – defense, offense and special teams. We’ve put in the time together.” 

The Bulldogs lost one potential scoring drive at the 8-yard line when the Orediggers’ Jordan Washington recovered a fumble. Montana Tech was unable to capitalize on the turnover and had to punt away. A penalty occurred on the return and set up Jund’s TD throw to Hermanson.  

Jund hit McPhee for a 28-yard scoring pass in the third quarter for a 35-7 bulge heading into the last quarter. Mears booted a 29-yard field goal before the Orediggers scored for the first time since the first quarter. Campbell scampered around between sidelines many yards behind the line of scrimmage for several seconds before completing a 4th-and-10 predicament pass to Kyle Torgerson for an 11-yard touchdown. Campbell had returned to the game after being relieved for 11 plays by backup Blake Thelen. An injury forced Thelen back to the sidelines. The seriousness of the injury was not yet known after the game. 

The Bulldogs answered the Torgerson TD catch with a 17-yard scoring pass, Jund to Elijah Benedick, for a 45-14 lead. 

Montana Tech had one last scoring drive left and completed it on a 1-yard burrow by Counts. 

“That we had scoring opportunities was a positive,” Samson said. “That we didn’t execute them is on me. I thought our boys played extremely hard. We have to do better. We especially have to play better when we play very good teams.” 

The Orediggers are 1-2 in conference and for the year, and will play Montana State-Northern in Havre next Saturday. Their lead over the Bulldogs in their rivalry with Montana Western 63-54-2. 

“I believe in our team and I believe in our staff,” Samson said. “We’re still all together.” 

Campbell completed 19 of 37 passes for 282 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Thelen was 5-for-10 for 105 yards. Butte High grad Kiley Caprara was their top receiver with 12 catches for 188 yards. Torgerson and Mark Estes each caught four balls for 83 and 52 yards, respectively. Counts led the ground game with 70 yards on 17 carries. 

Blake Allred and Cole Wyant both collected nine tackles to lead Montana Tech’s defense. Keyshawn James-Newby had the team’s only sack while eight tackles, six of them solos. Brandon Morley was also in on eight tackles and Naoli Hamer broke up two passes. 

Schulte starred in high school on the same Bob Green Field he was on Saturday. Since he’s a senior, Schulte might’ve been playing his last game on the field. 

“I was going out with a bang with a win on my old high school field,” he said.  

He wound up with seven tackles, including teaming with Joe Caicedo on a sack. Braden Swank and Caicedo both had 10 tackles Latrell McCutcheon finished with nine. Caicedo had a solo sack, as did Kaden Bankhead and Brandon Aimsback.  

Schulte said he plans to go to chiropractic school after graduation from UM Western. 

Neville led the Bulldogs’ offense on the ground with 102 yards on 17 carries, and McPhee had 67 yards on 12 packs. Former Dillon high school star Nate Simkins led the Bulldogs’ receiving corps with 131 yards on nine grabs. Trey Mounts had 63 on four, Hermanson 62 on three, and Benedick 59 on three. 

Montana Western is 4-1 this season, 3-1 in the Frontier Conference and will play Rocky Mountain in Billings next Saturday.