DILLON — Taking the field for the final time this spring, the new-look Bulldog defense shined as they won the annual Black and Red Scrimmage by a score of 52-49 in an adjusted scoring system.
Having to replace four all-conference selections from last season’s stalwart defense, the young Bulldogs proved worthy as redshirt linebacker and Dillon native Jason Ferris led the way with 10 total tackles, including two for loss and one sack.
Newly-named team captain Riley Martello from Bozeman, finished with nine tackles and one tackle for loss, he was last season’s Special Teams Player of the Year. Before the scrimmage, the team captains for the 2016 campaign were recognized. Four young men were voted by their teammates and they are; Dakota Pineda, Matt Lickfold, Tyrell Penner and Martello.
Another newcomer joining in one the defensive effort was defensive end Dustin Pickens, who came away with seven tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss and a 35-yard fumble returned for a defensive touchdown.
For one first team all-conference selection, it was another day at the office, senior linebacker TJ Benson corralled 10 tackles to join Jason Ferris in double-digits.
The defense held the Bulldog offense to just 90 rushing yards on 66 attempts, included in that total was eight sacks that tallied nearly 70 yards. The leading rusher on the day was Sam Rutherford who finished with 43 yards on 16 attempts, he was followed by Hunter Thomsen who ended the day with 27 yards and the lone rushing touchdown of the scrimmage.
“I was really excited to see the defense come to life and perform at the really high level that they are capable of,” stated Head Coach Ryan Nourse, “we have excellent leadership from that group; Dakota Pineda, Riley Martello, TJ Benson and Tyrell Penner have played a lot of good football for us and know what it takes to compete at the top end of the FC.”
The passing game showed some signs of improvement, as J.D. Ferris and Bennett Gibson took all of the reps with the first and second teams. Ferris was 20-28 for 178 yards and a touchdown strike to Rutherford and Gibson finished 12-22 for 121 yards and a touchdown to Joe Caicedo.
“I’m proud of the resiliency the offense showed today,” said Nourse, “it was rough going through the first two quarters of the scrimmage but they kept grinding and played their best ball in the third and fourth quarters, getting the ball going and scoring.”
Nourse continued, “the offensive line kept grinding and pushing, I’m most proud of that. Guys like tackle Kylan Putman and running back Sam Rutherford have played a lot of football here and take a lot of pride in their performance, and their effort and leadership have been highlights of the spring.”
Both quarterbacks led drives deep into their offensive red zone, only to come away with no points due to great defensive plays. Ferris was intercepted in the end zone by freshman defensive back Zach Janis and Gibson was picked off by redshirt Dalton Palmer in the end zone a few drives later.
On the day, the defense came away with five turnovers and continued to show its bend-but-don’t-break style of play. In the 140-play scrimmage the defense limited the offense to 481 yards, just 3.4 yards per play.
In all, 17 players recorded receptions from four quarterbacks that included redshirts Kade Paffhausen and Casey Klaboe, who operated with the third team offense. Paffhausen completed 12 of 17 attempts for 88 yards as Klaboe was 3-6 for eight yards and was sacked four times.
The receiving corps was led in receptions by George Sherwood and Kris Cleveland who hauled in six passes a piece as Justin Sullivan and Joe Caicedo led the way with 51 and 59 yards respectively.
The Red and Black Scrimmage marked the end of the 2016 spring season and is the full-group activity until they return in August for the 2016 season.
“The whole process of the off season and spring practice was a real success. Working with this group is awesome and I feel like as a staff we have a good grip on what our players can do within our base schemes, what we are good at as a team as well as the things we need to shore up when guys report in August,” finished Nourse.
The Bulldogs will open the season on August 27 in Miles City as they will take on Dickinson State University at a neutral site.
— Montana Sports Information