Frontier Notebook: Baker, Bears rolling along

Talk about distributing the ball.

Junior Bryce Baker quarterback is getting the whole team involved in the offense this season. Baker, who is in his third year starting for the Rocky Mountain Battlin’ Bears, has completed 73 of 102 passes for 1,028 yards. He has thrown nine touchdown passes and four interceptions.

The most eye-popping stat through three games, though, is that Baker and backup Chase White have combined to complete a pass to 17 different receivers in three games. Of those pass catchers, 12 have at least three grabs.

White is 22 of 30 for 186 yards in relief of Baker.

With enough balls to go around to everybody, the Bears have opened the season on fire. Rocky’s is averaging 41.7 points per game with wins over Jamestown College, Southern Oregon and Dickinson State.

Bakers favorite target is Andre McCullouch. The sophomore has hauled in 19 catches for 379 yards and four touchdowns. He is averaging 19.9 yards per catch.

The Bears, who completed three games before Montana Tech even finished one, will be off this week. Rocky plays host to Carroll College on Sept. 21. That’s when we should find out if the 2013 Bears are for real.

New weapon

Anyone who watched the West team practice for the Montana East-West Shrine Game in Butte this summer knows that Kyle Griffith is definitely the real deal.

The true freshman from Kalispell only caught four passes in his first two games for Carroll College. Two of those catches went for touchdowns. Griffith, who made an acrobatic catch late in the Shrine Game at Naranche Stadium, is averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

Saints quarterback Dakota Stonehouse hasn’t put up huge numbers through two games. The senior, though, has been a model of efficiency.

With the Saints going with a running game by committee, Stonehouse has completed 27 of 40 passes for 384 yards and five touchdowns. He has hooked up with four different receivers for scores.

Dustin Rinker, who served as the backup to Chance Demarias, is now the starter at running back for Carroll. He’s averaging 68.5 yards per carry.

Carroll is still averaging 4.3 yards per carry as a team. Seven different Saints have registered a carry already this season.

Welcome back

Montana Tech senior Devonte Craig suffered a gruesome knee injury last season.

Heading into the fall camp, Oredigger coaches were hopeful the corner back from Las Vegas could be ready to contribute for the Orediggers by mid season after undergoing reconstructive surgery.

Craig, who was moved to safety, started for the Orediggers in Saturday’s 23-7 win at Eastern Oregon. He was credited with one tackle for the defense that shut down shut down the Mountaineers after a rough first quarter.

Craig’s return, though, probably wasn’t the biggest story in the Oredigger secondary from Saturday.

That distinction belongs to Andrew Cornell, a junior transfer from Hollister, Calif. Cornell seemed to be in on every pass play. He picked off two passes, returning one 39 yards for a game-clinching touchdown.

Struggling Raiders

Two games into the 2013 season Nick Dodge appears to still be Nick Dodge.

The preseason All-American has completed 67 of 99 passes for 730 yards and four touchdowns. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is well behind last year’s when he threw 42 scores to just 10 picks.

Still, Dodge’s performance has helped the Southern Oregon average 518 yards and 36.5 points per game, even though the Raiders lost their top two receivers from last year.

The problem for the Raiders is their defense. Southern Oregon has surrendered 468.5 yards per game in starting the season at 0-2.

Rocky lit up the Raiders with 517 yards at Southern Oregon.

It is still early, but the Raiders, who advanced to the NAIA semifinals last season, might have already played their way out of the playoffs.

No-red zone

Southern Oregon is adamant that the team’s name is the Raiders, not the Red Raiders.

Apparently school officials do not like the name Red Raiders, which was the teams nickname for many years. The school recently sent out notice to media members reminding them that the official nickname is Raiders.

Southern Oregon dropped the red sometime in the 1980s, when the school switched from red to black uniforms.

Before the 2011 season, the Raiders switched back to red colors on their uniform. They didn’t, however, bring the red back to their name.

Ground attack

B.J. Robertson’s debut as the head coach of his alma mater Montana Western was a happy one.

Robertson’s Bulldogs can chalk that up to success on the ground. Western ran for 293 yards in their 38-34 win over Southern Oregon.

Freshman Sam Rutherford went off for 185 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries, earning Frontier Conference Player of the Week honors along the way. Sophomore Dylan Kramer added 86 yards on the ground.

Junior Tyler Hulse didn’t light up the state sheet in his first start at quarterback. The Helena product, though, was at his best when it mattered.

Hulse completed 13 of 25 passes for 119 yards and an interception.

His 25-yard touchdown pass to Colin Sale in the game’s final minutes put Western at 1-0 heading to Dickinson State on Saturday.

Two and done

Dickinson State, which went 1-9 in the Frontier Conference last season, is 0-2 this season.

The Blue Hawks have yet to lead or even tie an opponent during losses to MSU-Northern and Rocky Mountain.

It took the Bears just 50 seconds to take the lead for good over the Blue Hawks on Saturday. Travis Bertelson intercepted a pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game at Herb Klindt Field in Billings.

Northern beat Dickinson 14-0 in the opener, so the Blue Hawks have been outscored 70-23 so far this season.

The road should get much easier for Dickinson next season. The school announced this spring that it will leave the Frontier — after just two years in the league — to join the North Star Conference.

Lear injured

It should be pointed out that MSU-Northern was playing without its leader during Saturday’s blowout loss at Carroll College.

Senior quarterback Derek Lear suffered a knee injury late in Northern’s 14-0 Aug. 29 win at Dickinson State. The Lights said Lear’s status for the Carroll game was up in the air during the week. He apparently wasn’t good to go at game time.

Lear passed for two touchdowns and one interception Dickinson. Travis Dean started and completed 18 of 34 passes for 227 yards against the Saints. However, he threw two interceptions in the end zone.

The Lights play their first home game of the season when they play host to Eastern Oregon on Saturday.

Northern plays Dickinson again — this time at home — on Sept. 21.

Coming home

The Orediggers won’t be celebrating homecoming on Sept. 21 when they play their first game on the Bob Green Field. That will be the following week when Tech hosts Rocky.

Tech’s home opener will have a homecoming feel, though, as the Orediggers host an all-class football reunion to celebrate the momentous day.

Oredigger fans and supporters are invited to attend the Football Reunion Banquet, honoring all football players, in the HPER Complex on Friday night beginning at 5 p.m. The banquet will feature remarks from former football players Doug Abbott, Tom Dyk, Mark Jensen, and Chris Whitmore. The evening will be capped off by an address by former long-time coach Bob Green.

Football reunion guests will then attend a breakfast, tailgate and the football game on Saturday.

Costs for reunion guests to attend all events for the weekend will be $50. To attend just the banquet will be $30. Spots are limited and filling up. To register email or call 496-4402.

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