Montana Tech celebrates Hall of Fame Weekend

Montana Tech celebrates Hall of Fame Weekend

Montana Tech Athletics celebrates the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 and hands out the awards for last year’s student-athletes this week.

The inaugural Digger Scholarship Scramble is Friday at the Butte Country Club. In the evening, a no-host social starts at 6 p.m. at the Country Club followed by awards and induction of the Class of 2016 at 7 p.m. The Hall of Fame class will also be honored at halftime of the game on Saturday against Rocky Mountain College. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

Leading the class are two basketball standouts from the 1980’s, Connie (Akers) Froke and Cevin “CJ” Johnson, the 1996 Football Team and longtime contributor Bill Yeagle.

Connie (Akers) Froke played from 1980-83 before being sidelined with an injury and forgoing her senior season. Originally from Deer Lodge, Froke was an outstanding basketball player setting three records that still stand today. She holds the season-high marks in scoring (524), field goals (246) and rebounds (292). She finished her career with 1,389 points and ranks eighth on the all-time leading scorers list, even though she only played three seasons. Her time on the court was also prior to the three-point line. Froke’s highest scoring game was against Rocky Mountain College in 1981. Shooting 16 of 19 from the field, she finished with 32 points.

As both a sophomore and junior, she was selected All-Conference leading Tech to back-to-back conference championships under future Hall of Fame Coach Jo Buysse. She was selected AIAW All-Region as a sophomore and NAIA All-District her junior season as associations changed.

From a similar era, Cevin “C.J.” Johnson played two seasons (1982-84) of basketball for Montana Tech. The Orediggers went 44-18 with Johnson on the floor and won back-to-back Frontier Conference Tournaments. Helping jumpstart the emergence of Oredigger basketball in the 1980s, Johnson transferred from Clairmore Junior College (now Rogers State College) and was a cornerstone for the first seasons under Kelvin Sampson. In 1984, the Orediggers shared the conference championship with Montana Western; it was Tech’s first regular season championship since 1947.

Johnson averaged 15.1 points as a junior and 16.8 points during conference play as a senior. He finished his career with 12 games of 20 points or more and exceeded the 30 point mark twice. Johnson netted a career-high 32 points against Rocky Mountain College his senior season. He was a two time All-Conference selection as well as All-District.

In 1996, the Oredigger football team won the Frontier Conference title and reached the NAIA Division I National Championship. This was the first and only national championship appearance by a Montana Tech team. The Orediggers lost to Southwestern Oklahoma 33-31. The team finished the year with almost 5,000 yards of total offense and 43 touchdowns. The defense totaled 69 tackles for loss, 37.5 sacks and a 22 interceptions.

Led by Hall of Fame coach Bob Green, the Orediggers defeated Carroll College three times that year, including a 49-28 playoff victory. The roster featured the most first team All-Americans on a Tech team ever with seven selections. Quarterback Mark Jensen set a pair of records that season that still stand today, most rushing and passing attempts in a season (492) and total offense in a game (455 yards). Kicker Dustin “Money” Sersland made 24 straight point after touchdown attempts, also a record still in the books.

The last member of the Hall of Fame class helped mold Digger Athletics into its current state. Bill Yeagle was Athletic Director and Special Projects Director at Montana Tech from 1986-1998. A former football coach and educator, Yeagle arrived in Butte after chairing the physical education and recreation department at then-College of Great Falls. Known for his fundraising efforts and innovative ideas, he created numerous events and money raising initiatives. From advertising packages to the Frigid Digger Run and annual Digger Athletic Auction, are just a few still operating. One of his most notable creations is the Montana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame.

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductions, the 2015-16 Ed Simonich and Peggy Sarsfield Award recipients will also be honored. David Meis was named the Ed Simonich Award winner and Sydney Norris and Hattie Thatcher received the Peggy Sarsfield Awards.

For more information about the Montana Tech Hall of Fame, call 496-4105 or visit GoDiggers.com.

— Montana Tech

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