By Bill Foley
A pair of teams desperate for a victory will meet in a Frontier Conference football game Saturday at Alumni Coliseum.
Southern Oregon will be in town looking to stop a three game losing streak when the Raiders take on Montana Tech, which also has lost three straight.
Kickoff will be 1 p.m. on the Bob Green Field. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, online or on the KBOW app)
“Both teams are really searching for a win right now,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “You look at where their season is right now and where our season is at, they kind of mirrored each other.”
“Our guys are so hungry for a win right now.”
That mirror is not what either team expected heading into the season. When these teams meet late any year, the Frontier Conference title is usually hanging in the balance.
Morrell, though, said each side has a lot laying on the line.
“They love competing against these guys, there’s no doubt about it,” Morrell said of his Orediggers, who are coming off last week’s 35-17 loss at Eastern Oregon. “And they’ll come in here and compete their tails off, there’s no doubt about it.”
The Montana Tech-Southern Oregon rivalry has the makings for a grudge match. The teams have had many heated, contested battles since Morrell took over the Orediggers before the 2011 season.
The dislike apparently is stronger on one side, as the Raiders showed in their 44-12 win over Tech Sept. 15 in Ashland, Oregon.
After an interception that sealed the victory, the Raiders passed up the opportunity to go into “victory formation” and kill the clock. They instead opted for a pile-on touchdown, and Cameron Daugherty scored on a 4-yard run with 23 seconds left.
Morrell said that breech of sportsmanship will not impact his team this week, even though it admittedly angered the Orediggers at the time.
“I honestly don’t get too wrapped up in that,” Morrell said. “It’s competitive Frontier Conference football. It certainly is a rivalry game, and it is going to be hyper-competitive. The teams are going to be amped up to get the win.”
The Tech coach emphasized that his program will not put the importance of one rivalry over another.
“Our culture has to be one of looking out for each other, taking care of each other, being positive,” Morrell said. “If you let yourself evolve into ‘We’re just going to get up for one team’ or we’re holding a grudge from something that happened previously, it doesn’t really allow you to focus on the present.”
“Things like that happen in the course of a game, but I’m not going to sit back and worry about them,” Morrell said. “I’m going to worry about what’s in front of me.”
What is in front of the 3-4 Orediggers certainly isn’t a playoff spot. With four losses, the postseason is out of the question. The same is likely true for the 4-3 Raiders, who fell nine spots to No. 23 with their latest loss.
A win Saturday will officially kill Southern Oregon’s playoff hopes. Next week, the Orediggers host Carroll College. The following week they close the season at No. 13 Rocky Mountain College.
“We’ve got the chance to go out and play the spoiler role and improve ourselves internally,” Morrell said, pointing to the final three games. “It’s a great measuring stick for us now. What I’ve asked our guys every week is make sure we’ve got a chance to be there in the fourth quarter, and let’s go find a way to finish it out.”
Morrell said his players have been giving it their all despite the four losses.
“The one thing I appreciate, and I think it speaks to our culture, is our guys are playing really hard,” he said. “They are throwing down. They are playing really hard. We’re just not always playing really well right now.”
“That’s all I can ask of them,” Morrell said. “Give me everything you’ve got and let the chips fall where they may.”
The Orediggers will once again start Jet Campbell, who is still listed as a wide receiver on the Tech roster, at quarterback.
With fellow redshirt freshmen Tanner Kump and Cole Hauptman again out with injuries last week, the Billings Central product completed 22 of 40 passes for 244 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
He also made some big plays with his feet.
“He’s the third young quarterback that we played in the season,” Morrell said of Campbell, who was a receiver during the spring and fall camps. “He certainly doesn’t have the rep volume on him that a couple of other young guys have had on them. He just doesn’t have the same volume of practice time. We look for his learning curve to improve drastically now that he’s pulling a lot more reps.”
Morrell said Campbell had a “solid game” last week.
“He did a nice job,” the coach said. “He got some throws downfield on target. He did a decent job with our (run-pass option) game. He got himself out of trouble a few times. He’s a taller quarterback than our other guys. That kind of allows him to see the field better, too.”
Morrell added the that the Orediggers are “all in” on Campbell, whom the coach said has a competitive edge.
“We’ll see where the next three weeks take us with him at the helm,” Morrell said.
Campbell will be looking at targets such as senior Dion Williams and classmate Trevor Hoffman. Williams has 49 catches for 504 yards on the season. Hoffman has 30 for 372. Both have hauled in four TDs.
Campbell hit Williams 10 times for 127 yards last week.
Junior Jed Fike leads the Tech running game with 869 yards behind a powerful offensive line.
Junior linebacker Jacob Clarke’s 49 tackles paces the Oredigger defense. Tucker Rauthie, Justin May, Carter Myers and Connor Wines all have at least 35 take downs. Despite missing two games with an injury, Brock Beede is tied with Wines for the team lead with three sacks.
Chance Hansen has two and a half quarterback takedowns.
Sophomore quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson has passed for 1,450 yards and ran for 357 to lead the Raiders. Senior running back Rey Vega is at the tail end of his outstanding career. Hi has run for 586 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games.
Senior Bronsen Ader has 31 receptions for 355 yards to lead the team.
“They’ve got some unbelievable speed,” Morrell said of the Raiders. “They’ve got fast guys at every position. I feel like their defensive line is the standard bearer in the league for defensive lines. We’ve got to be disciplined.”