The thick smoke that hung in the Mining City Thursday night had no affect on the Montana Tech football team.
The Orediggers flipped the switch from training camp to game-prep mode with a crisp scrimmage in front of a small crowd at Alumni Coliseum.
“Today kind of signals the end of fall camp for us,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “Tomorrow we’re going to start our (Eastern Oregon) prep in earnest. We have some things that we have to get better at, but at the same time it’s getting close enough to start thinking about game day.”
Junior transfers Zack Kinney and Kevin Moss showed some big play ability at receiver, while Brian Schwarzkoph and Nick Baker showed their stuff for perhaps the final time before the coaches picked a starting quarterback.
The night, though, belonged to Craig Halko.
The senior receiver set up the only offensive scores of the practice game.
Halko hauled in a pass from Baker that went for about 25 yards and a touchdown.
A few minutes later, Halko turned a short pass from Schwarzkoph into a gain of about 60 yards to the 9-yard line.
The Oredigger defense stiffened up, and redshirt freshman Matt Berg easily booted a field goal just over 30 yards.
“Craig really, really popped tonight, which was great to see,” Morrell said. “He’s one of the hardest-working guys on the squad. It was great to see him get out and make some monster plays for us. Craig’s play is going to add another element to our offense.”
Morrell said overall he was happy with his defense, that showed off some serious depth.
The goal of the scrimmage, the coach said, was to establish his two-deep roster and figure out which players he can count on during the Sept. 1 opener against Eastern Oregon.
“We really found out about a few guys tonight,” the coach said. “We feel like we’ve got a lot of guys.”
The Orediggers also feel better about their kicking game, Morrell said, signaling out Berg and sophomore punter Travis Farewell.
“Travis Farewell is doing a tremendous job in the punting game, and Matt really the last couple practices has been lights out kicking. He’s really stepped up,” Morrell said.
The coach went on about Berg, a Butte High graduate who transferred from the University of Montana between semesters last winter.
“Matt, as a red shirt freshman, got elected our special teams captain,” Morrell said. “I think that shows the confidence that our players have in him. When you have a guy who is that new to your program step into a leadership role that early in his career, I think that is saying something about the guys’ belief in him.”
Morrell said he doesn’t have a time table as to when he’ll name his starting quarterback. In fact, he said that decision might not be made until Sept. 1 when the Orediggers hit the field.
“I’m very pleased with them during fall camp,” the coach said. “They have made (the decision) very challenging. It’s not like choosing between good and bad. It’s choosing between great and a little bit better.”
Morrell said to not be surprised if both quarterbacks are on the field at some point during the 2012 campaign.
“I have a strong inclination that both of those guys are going to see time throughout the season,” he said. “There’s no doubt in mind right now.”