By Bruce Sayler
Heavyweights are entering the arena Saturday for a Frontier Conference college football game in Caldwell, Idaho.
NAIA 19th-ranked Montana Tech will be challenging No. 9-ranked College of Idaho in a league mountaintop joust, beginning with a 1 p.m. kickoff in Simplot Stadium.
Montana Tech goes into the clash with a 4-1 record in Frontier and overall play while the homestanding Coyotes, or ‘Yotes, are undefeated at 5-0. The game will also mark College of Idaho’s Homecoming.
“They’re a good team and our guys are excited about it,” Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson said. “It will be two good football teams competing against each other. And, it is a chance for us to get on the road and earn a big win.”
Samson said both teams should be well-readied for the contest, having already experienced success this fall in a rugged league schedule. The Oredigger mentor said Saturday rises as one more stop on the obstacle course.
“There are a lot of good teams in this conference,” he said. “Our kids haven’t been on a long road trip since EOU (Eastern Oregon University) the first week of the season. So, they are excited to go on a trip and stay overnight. We’ve had good success on the road.”
The Orediggers have, with wins over Eastern Oregon and Montana Western. They’ve also defeated Carroll and Montana State-Northern. Their only loss was to Rocky Mountain in Butte.
They are coming off a 73-0 rout of an MSU-Northern program in the beginning stages of reconstruction.
“This is why you work hard in practice and in the offseason,” Samson said, “to put yourself in this position – playing in big games.”
Samson said the victory over MSU-Northern saw 84 Montana Tech players get into the game. Starters played little more than a half if after intermission at all.
“It was really cool last week for all the young guys,” he said. “It was cool for (Butte High grad) Christian Vetter to have his first college touchdown in front of a home Butte crowd.”
Certainly, no rout is expected for Saturday’s action.
“C of I is very good at running the ball,” Samson said about an offense averaging more than 400 yards a game for second in the league, but leading the conference.
Junior Allamar Alexander has carried for more than 100 yards in each of the last two ‘Yote games. Hunter Gibson backs him. Quarterbacks Andy Peters and Ryan Hibbs are both capable in what has been a run-first attack.
“On defense, Keagan McCoy (end/linebacker) is a very good player,” Samson said. “They’re solid all the way around. They have a lot of guys who have played a lot offootball in this league.
“Coach (Mike) Moroski does a really good job.”
McCoy is the Frontier’s reigning “Defensive Player of the Week” after collecting nine tackles, four sacks and forcing a fumble in a 31-20 win last Saturday over Carroll. The College of Idaho held Carroll to minus-15 yards rushing.
The Coyotes won last year’s matchup, 28-23, in Butte. Montana Tech returnees Naoki Harmer, Jet Campbell, Blake Allred, Cole Wyant and Keyshawn James-Newby all played well in the 2021 game. Harmer had a pick-six, Campbell passed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, Allred and Wyant registered nine tackles each and James-Newby had four tackles and a sack, according to information provided by Nick Bowsher of Montana Tech Sports Information.
“That four teams from the Frontier Conference are in the (NAIA) Top 20 rankings shows the strength of conference week-in and week-out,” Samson said, noting that Rocky Mountain is No. 17 and both Carroll and Montana Western have been ranked this season and draw poll votes. “It’s always an all-out battle. This is a cool opportunity for our team. The guys are looking forward to the challenge, and are really up for it.”
Projected starters, as listed on depth charts provided by the teams, for Saturday’s Montana Tech-College of Idaho game follow:
Montana Tech Offense
Linemen – Seif Benjemia, 6-4, 300, sophomore, West Lafayette, Indiana; Carson Shuman, 6-2, 305, junior, Helena; Max Anderson, 6-3, 295, sophomore, Kalispell; Triston Stauffer, 6-2, 292, senior, Damascus, Oregon; and Jack Hiller, 6-5, 285, junior, LaCenter, Washington. Tight end – Logan Kennedy, 6-2, 220, sophomore, Laurel. Wide receivers – Trevor Hoffman, 6-4, 205, senior, Burien, Washington; Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls; and Wyatt Alexander, 6-2, 190, junior, Whitehall. Running back – Blake Counts, 5-11, 205, junior, Great Falls. Quarterback – Blake Thelen, 6-3, 205, sophomore, Great Falls.
Montana Tech Defense
Linemen – Keyshawn James-Newby, 6-3, 245, sophomore, Helena; Alaric Greil, 6-3, 255, sophomore, Helena; Gabe Zanetti, 6-1, 275, junior, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Zach Trumble, 6-3, 270, junior, Valleyford, Washington. Linebackers – Blake Allred, 5-11, 215, junior, Billings; Cole Wyant, 6-1, 225, sophomore, Rocklin, California; and Ben Windauer, 6-1, 220, junior, Columbia Falls. Backs – Jordan Washington, 5-11, 185, junior, Los Angeles; Brandon Morley, 6-1, 195, junior, Missoula; Jake Orvis, 6-0, 170, senior, Billings, and Naoki Harmer, 5-10, 180, senior, Bellevue, Washington.
Montana Tech Special Teams
Punter – Andrew Almos, 6-1, 205, sophomore, Great Falls. Kicker – Ryan Lowry, 6-0, 195, sophomore, Pasco, Washington. Punt returner – Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls. Kick returners – Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls, and Jaden MacNeil, 5-8, 175, sophomore, Kalispell.
College of Idaho Offense
Center – Dawson Packwood. Guards – JP Cardillo and Brett Gydesen. Tackles – Garrett Rehberg and Ryan Halford. Tight end – Ben Hruby. Wide receivers – Brock Richardson, Jake Nadley and John Kreps. Running back – Allamar Alexander. Quarterback – Andy Peters.
College of Idaho Defense
Tackles – Ryan Seth and Alex Ojukwu. Ends – Hunter Eborn and Keegan McCoy. Linebackers – Dylan Martinez and Willie Nelson. Cornerbacks – Zach Webb and Dorian Hardin. Safeties – Jacob Arms and Jacob Batubenga. Rover – Keegan Croteau.
College of Idaho Special Teams
Kicker – Spencer Fiske. Punter – Jacob Johnson. Kick returners – Caden Cobb and Allamar Alexander. Punt returner – Dorian Hardin.