Orediggers enact revenge on Saints with 34-15 win

By Bill Foley

Dion Williams and the Montana Tech Orediggers can breathe a little easier.

The Oredigger sophomore receiver caught a pair of first-quarter touchdown passes from Quinn McQueary, and the No. 9 Orediggers avenged their only loss of the season with a 35-15 win over archrival Carroll College. Stats

The victory, which included an 85-yard touchdown run by superstar running back Nolan Saraceni, came in front of a packed house at Alumni Coliseum.

“We’ve had this game in the back of our minds for weeks now,” Williams said. “It’s out of the way now, so we can breathe.”

Tech’s heartbreaking 27-24 loss to the Saints on Opening Day in Helena is now a distant memory after the Orediggers won in convincing fashion for their fifth straight victory.

“That was a brutal loss,” Oredigger coach Chuck Morrell said of the season opener in Helena. “It’s one of the toughest losses I had in coaching in a lot of years. It’s good to see our guys step back up and play like the team they are.”

That team is a bona fide title contender that is getting contributions from up and down its roster.

“We were firing on all cylinders, offensively, defensively and special teams,” Williams said. “As long as we’re doing that, who knows what we can do.”

The Orediggers led 27-0 before the Saints got on the board with a pair of touchdown passes from backup quarterback Tanner Gustavsen to Connor Fohn. Gustavsen relieved injured J.T. Linder in the third quarter. Linder left the game with an ankle injury.

While the Saints, as can be expected from coach Mike Van Diest’s team, fought to the end. This time around, there was not enough Carroll magic to pull off the comeback.

McQueary and Williams hooked up for the first two scores, but the tone of the game was set by linebacker Luke Benz, who has been on an absolute tear during his senior season.

Benz blew by the Carroll left tackle and sacked Linder with a vicious hit from the blind side on third down and 3 from the Oredigger 23 on the opening drive of the game.

“He does that all the time,” Williams said of Benz. “We’re just so proud of him. He’s a beast.”

“Luke Benz is a fifth-year senior, and he’s a playmaker,” Morrell said. “I’m proud of the way he is playing for us down the stretch. He was a tremendous leader.”

The Orediggers took over at the Carroll 44-yard line after a punt into the wind.

McQueary went 5 for 5 to direct the nine-play drive that was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Williams.

After the Oredigger defense quickly gave the ball back to the Oredigger offense, Tech went 75 yards on six plays, capped by a 39-yard strike from McQueary to Williams.

Williams caught the pass over the middle at the 25-yard line, made a couple of defenders miss and took the ball the rest of the way on his own.

Derrick Holt booted a 31-yard field goal with 2:22 left in the second quarter to send the Orediggers into halftime with a 17-0 lead.

Holt added a 35-yard field goal early in the third to extend the lead to 20-0. Saraceni took it from there.

The senior who took the ball 99-yards against the Saints in a win in Helena last year, busted through a couple would-be tacklers and ran 85 yards to the shop, doing the Superman as he glided through the end zone.

“We know that anytime Nolan touches the ball he can go the distance,” Morrell said. “We’ve got a lot of play makers on offense. It’s great to see all the guys with the ability to step up and get into the end zone.”

That score put the Orediggers up 27-0 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.

Fohn made a leaping 12-yard reception to get the Saints on the board 3 seconds before the third quarter expired. Troy Arnston caught the pass for the 2-point conversion.

That score turned the momentum toward the Saints, and Carroll forced the Orediggers three and out on the ensuing Tech possession.

Carroll’s momentum, though, was halted by defensive lineman Tyler Sanders and lineman Brock Beede.

Sanders hit Gustavsen, forcing the ball into the air. Beede came down and returned it 36 yards to the Carroll 20-yard line.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Beede, a sophomore from Joliet said. “It just fell right into my hands.”

Beede said his scamper was exhausting.

“I was just dead after that,” he said. “I saw home, then all of a sudden I was done.”

The Oredigger offense took it the rest of the way home for Beede.

Five plays after the fumble return, McQueary scored on a 3-yard run to make it 34-8.

The Saints added a touchdown on a 52-yard pass from Gustavsen to Fohn, and Carroll was driving for yet another score. That drive ended, though, when Tech senior Gunnar Kayser grabbed his fourth interception of the season at the Tech 5-yard line to end the game.

McQueary was named the Player of the Game after completing 17 of 24 passes for 174 yards. He did not throw an interception.

Williams, who teammates call “Superman,” caught seven passes for 74 yards. That gives him 12 receptions for 240 yards over the past two weeks.

“I just happen to be open,” Williams explained of his recent success. “When my number is called, I just go make the play.”

Seven Orediggers caught passes. Sean Sullivan grabbed three, Mitchell Keeton and Carlos Martinez each caught two, and Andrew Loudenback, Chris Kelly and Zach Bunney grabbed one.

Saraceni ran for 153 yards on 24 carries. He has 302 yards over the past two weeks. McQueary ran eight times for 41 yards.

Gustavsen completed 7 of 8 passes for 133 yards for the Saints. Linder completed 11 of 26 for 74 yards before going down with an injury.

With Kyle Griffith out with a knee injury, Fohn caught nine passes for 118 yards.

The Orediggers registered five sacks, with Brock Polley, Zach Hulse, Beede, Sanders and Benz all getting in on the action. Polley and Nic Amestoy each registered a pair of tackles for a loss, and cornerback Andre Brown led the team with eight solo tackles.

“Everybody helps everybody,” Beede said of the deep and talented Oredigger defense. “We’ve been clicking really well lately.”

The Orediggers will look for their sixth straight win when they head to Havre to play MSU-Northern next week. Carroll fell to 2-4.

Before the Orediggers set their sights on completing the season sweep of the Lights, though, they just might take a few hours to soak in the victory over Carroll.

“This is big time,” Beede said. “This is our only loss. This is big time.”

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