The calendar will read Aug. 23 when Montana Tech kicks off the football season at Montana Western in Dillon.
To the Orediggers, though, that doesn’t seem like an early start to the season.
“Any time you come off a season with a bad taste in your mouth, you can’t wait to get back on the field,” Montana Tech coach Chuck Morrell said during “media day” Thursday. “If that means we get to play two weeks earlier than everybody else, that’s great.”
The Orediggers, who won the Frontier Conference title two years ago, are coming off a horribly disappointing 3-7 campaign in 2013. Tech entered last season ranked No. 7 in the NAIA and picked by conference coaches to win the league title.
Montana Tech didn’t open the season until Sept. 7 last season. That was the same day Rocky Mountain College played its third game.
The Orediggers followed a 23-7 win at Eastern Oregon in Week 1 with four straight losses that took them out of contention.
This year, the Orediggers don’t have to wait around, and Morrell said that is a good thing.
“The young men in the program have come in very focused in this fall camp,” Morrell said. “We’ve made some tremendous progress throughout the course of the last couple of weeks. We have some things to work on, but we’ll certainly be ready on the 23rd.”
The quarterback battle between freshman Dawson Reardon and sophomore Andrew Loudenback has been the highlight of the camp.
Reardon, a Helena High product, started two games for the Orediggers as a true freshman last year. He directed the team to a win before suffering a knee injury in his second game. He received a medical redshirt.
Loudenback, who is from the Denver area, transferred to Tech before spring drills.
Morrell said he hasn’t named a starter yet because he honestly doesn’t know who the starter will be.
“Both of them have been playing very well,” Morrell said. “It’s not a situation where there’s stark contrast between the two of them. They’ve both been very efficient. Both quarterbacks have gotten the offense up and down the field on a regular basis, which is good to see.”
Morrell likes going into the season knowing he has options at the quarterback position.
“I feel pretty strongly if you don’t have two good quarterbacks in this league, you’re in trouble,” the coach said. “I have confidence right now that I’ve got two guys who can win us games.”
The Orediggers reported to campus on Aug. 3. They began two-a-day practices, which ran through Wednesday, on Aug. 3.
“It’s been going extremely well,” Morrell said of preseason camp. “We stayed generally healthy, and we advanced past last spring schematically. We definitely made progress, and that’s integrating a lot of new freshmen into that process. I’m pretty excited about where we’ve been able to take things.”
The Orediggers will be running their third offensive system in three years. Pete Serbick takes over as offensive coordinator for Corey Fipps, who was dismissed one season.
Morrell said he likes what he sees with a deep group of running backs and receivers and a returning group of offensive linemen.
Sophomore running backs Nolan Saraceni and Zach Winfield are in the mix to get some carries. So is true freshman Hunter Gappmayer.
He said using a lot of backs is a key to using a physical running style.
On the other side of the ball, Morrell turned over the keys to B.J. Campbell. Morrell was the defensive coordinator for the first three seasons at Tech.
That defense will be led by a talented group of linebackers, including senior Mike Touzinsky.
Touzinsky is one of 10 seniors on the roster, and Morrell feels extremely close that class. The other seniors are Pat Hansen, Andre Cornell, Robert Corson, Mack Ferko, Alex Havlovic, Travis Farewell, Augie Lorenzen, Trevor Price and Austin Brinkworth.
Hansen, Brinkworth Corson, Touzinsky, Ferko, Havlovich, Farewell, Lorenzen and Price have been with Morrell all four years.
“This is kind of my first crew that’s been with me the entire time, and I’ll do anything in my power to sell out for them,” Morrell said.
Montana Tech’s first home game is Aug. 30 against MSU-Northern. After a week off, Tech will play at Carroll College in Helena on Sept. 13.
Morrell, though, isn’t thinking about those games just yet.
“We’ve got to handle it one game at a time,” Morrell said. “The first game of the season is as big of any game that we’re going to play all year.”