Orediggers close out drills with spring game, auction

Orediggers close out drills with spring game, auction
Montana Tech players get ready to take the field before their Oct. 9 home game against the College of Idaho. They are, from left Logan Kennedy, Jet Campbell, T.J. Makihele, Zach Trumble and Jaylen Taggart. (Butte Sports file photo)

By Bill Foley

The Oredigger football team will be the opening act on a busy weekend at Montana Tech.

Tech’s spring football game will rev up Oredigger Nation Friday night. The return of the auction with a live audience is expected to bring down the house on Saturday.

“We’re excited,” Tech head coach Kyle Samson said. “It’s been a really good spring ball, and we’re excited to put a bow on it this Friday.”

The coach said he is also looking forward to the first Montana Tech Auction at the HPER Complex since April of 2019, when he was the brand-new offensive coordinator for the Orediggers. The last two auctions have been strictly online because of COVID-19.

Doors open at 5 p.m. for the auction Saturday. Dinner is served between 6 and 8, and the live auction starts at 7:30. (Click here for auction details and registration information.)

First up, though, is a football game. Tech will take the field at 5:30 p.m. Friday, and the practice game will begin at 6. Samson said the game will last about an hour and a half.

The coach said Orediggers fans will be pleased with what they see in the Orediggers, who he says have grown tremendously during the 15 spring practices.

“Our guys are getting better,” Samson said. “I think we’re a lot better football team than we were at the end of March. I’m looking forward to finishing it off on Friday and putting on a good show for the crowd.”

The Oredigger offense returns 10 starters from last year’s team that closed the season strong for a 5-5 record. The thing that might interest the Oredigger fans more, though, is Tech’s new defense.

“We’ve got a lot of guys returning on defense, too,” Samson said. “It’s a new scheme, but we’ve to a lot of guys who have played a lot of football.”

Aric Williams took over as Tech’s defensive coordinator in February. He replaces Nick Brautigam, who left to join former Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell on the defensive staff at the University of Washington.

Williams, who served as defensive backs coach at San Jose State before coming to Butte, is implementing a 4-2-5 defense at Tech. That is a big change for Tech, which has run a 3-4 defense dating back through the Bob Green years.

Samson said the move is a sign of the times of playing in the Frontier Conference, which is littered with high-octane arial attacks. He said it will also take advantage of Tech’s depth on the defensive line and secondary.

That secondary includes Jordan Washington, a junior who earned first-team All-Frontier honors last fall, playing along with seniors Naoki Harmer, Jake Orvis, junior Brandon Morley and sophomore Angel Sanchez III.

Sanchez, who bulked up in the weight room over the winter, started at cornerback last season. This year he will play a position that a nickel back/hybrid safety role.

“Our defensive line is having a tremendous spring,” Samson said, pointing to junior Zach Trumble, sophomore Keyshawn James-Newby and redshirt freshman Alaric Greil.

Offensively, the Orediggers only lost one starter to graduation, but it was a big one. Tackle Hunter Spartz, a first-team all-conference selection, is now looking for a shot at playing in the NFL.

So far, Samson said he likes what from his men on the offensive front.

“We’ve got some young guys stepping up and filling in for his spot,” Samson said. “Just as a group, this has been a tremendous spring for those guys.”

The line will be blocking from second-team all-conference running back Blake Counts and senior quarterback Jet Campbell.

Campbell is still recovering from an offseason surgery had has been sitting out the spring. Sophomore Blake Thelen, who suffered a horrific knew injury in the fall, has also been out.

In their place, Samson said freshman Jake Standlee and sophomores Cade Wyant and Justus Peterson have stood out in practice.

Tech’s receiving corps is another area that could be the strength of the team.

That includes one-time All-American Trevor Hoffman, who is now a senior. Tech also brings back sophomore Kyle Torgerson and junior Mark Estes

“We really believe we’ve got eight guys who could really come out and be starters in this league, and that’s exciting,” Samson said.

Friday’s scrimmage will see the Oredigger No. 1 offense vs. the No. 2 defense and the No. 2 offense vs. the No. 1 defense. Players who are younger and deeper on the depth chart will see action later in the night.

“It’s exciting to see some of these guys getting some opportunity,” Samson said.

The Orediggers open the 2022 Season Aug. 27 at Eastern Oregon University. Tech’s first home game is Sept. 3 against Carroll College.

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  • Don Hawkinson
    April 21, 2022, 7:44 pm

    We watched orediggers for 55 years I still get excited to go to a orediggers game. Step it up a notch men because the Hawk is watching. Go digs

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