La GRANDE, Ore. — Montana Tech got big plays from its offense, defense and special teams Saturday afternoon.
That all translated into the No. 10 Orediggers knocking off nemesis Eastern Oregon 37-24 at Community Stadium for their third straight victory. (Stats)
“It’s a huge win,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “I’m pretty pleased with our all-around team performance.”
Quarterback Quinn McQueary had a hand in three touchdowns, and Butte High graduate Zach Bunney broke a 42-year old school record with a 100-yard kickoff return to highlight the Frontier Conference victory.
No. 15 Eastern Oregon took a 7-0 lead when Zach Bartlow hit Brenden Kelly for a 53-yard touchdown less than 4 minutes into the game.
After that, it was all Orediggers.
Tech got on the board with a trick play when Kolby Kansala hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from receiver Sean Sullivan with 7:45 left in the first quarter. The PAT failed, and Tech trailed 7-6.
The Orediggers took the lead for good 36 seconds before the end of the third quarter when McQueary scored on a 3-yard run.
He made it 20-7 a few minutes later when the quarterback again scored for 3 yards out.
The Orediggers extended the lead to 27-7 late in the second quarter when McQueary found Kansala for his second TD reception, this time from 11 yards out.
The Mountaineers closed out the half with a 32-yard Nathan Harden field goal to cut the lead to 27-10 at the break.
A 24-yard boot by Tech’s Derrick Holt was the only scoring in the third quarter. That made it 30-10.
After A.J. Prom pounded in a1-yard run with 8:18 left in the game, Bunney made sure there would be no comeback by taking the ensuing kickoff from end zone to end zone. The record breaker extended the lead to 37-17.
It marked the second straight season in which Bunney took a kickoff to the shop against the Mountaineers.
“This one came at a monstrous time for us,” Morrell said. “It really closed out the game.”
Bunney, a senior, removed the name of Len Altenburg from the record book. Altenburg returned a kick 95 yards for a touchdown in 1974.
The Mountaineers added a last-minute TD from Bartlow to Calvin Connors to cap the scoring.
Morrell pointed out that he has made six trips to Eastern Oregon in his six seasons at Tech. Saturday as just his second win at Community Stadium. Tech’s last win in La Grande came in the 2013 season opener.
“The last couple of years we didn’t get it done out here,” Morrell said. “So, it is a good feeling.”
McQueary completed 21 of 30 passes for 194 yards. He was picked off once.
Nolan Saraceni carried the ball 22 times for 89 yards for the Orediggers, who saw five players carry the ball as the team picked up 202 yards on the ground.
“It was great to get our running game back on track,” Morrell said.
McQueary ran for 54, while Bunney ran for 44.
Carlos Martinez caught five passes to lead eight Orediggers with a reception. Mitchell Keaton and Sean Sullivan each caught four, and Andrew Loudenback returned from injury to grab three.
Defensively, linebacker Nic Amestoy continued his breakout season with a team-leading 11 tackles. He also got in on a sack.
Luke Benz registered three sacks, and Chance Hansen got in on two. Drew Schleeman, Brock Polley and Gunnar Kayser also got in on sacks. Schleeman’s forced a fumble.
Kayser and Anthony Nelson each got in on nine tackles, while Connor Wines registered seven.
Morrell said after a slow start, his defense rolled.
“For the better part of three and a half quarters, our guys were on fire,” the coach said.
The win puts Tech at 3-1 overall and in conference. The Orediggers are tied atop the conference standings with Rocky Mountain College heading into their off week. Eastern Oregon fell to 2-2 with their second straight home loss.
Morrell said his guys are excited to see the M flash to V when they roll into town early Sunday morning.
“They’re talking a lot about getting in at 4 in the morning and seeing that Butte flash,” he said.
Next up for Tech is their Homecoming game against Montana Western in two weeks.