128th Tech-Carroll meeting kicks off at 1 p.m. in Helena
By Bill Foley
If you thought the Montana Tech football team would struggle to bounce back from its season-opening loss to Eastern Oregon, you clearly never looked at the schedule.
There is nothing like a trip to Nelson Stadium to take on archrival Carroll College to get the Oredigger refocused in a hurry.
According to research done by KBOW announcer Paul Panisko, Tech and Carroll will meet for the 128th time Saturday when they kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday in Helena. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)
Nelson Stadium has been, for the most part, a house of horrors for the Orediggers over the past two decades. The last time Tech made the trip, the Saints won 30-19 Nov. 9, 2019.
Overall, the Saints have an overwhelming 86-39-2 lead over the Orediggers. Tech’s last wins over the Saints came in a season sweep of the series in 2017. That includes a 23-10 victory in Helena on Oct. 14 of that year. It was just Tech’s third win in Nelson Stadium since it opened in 2001.
Of course, that means very little to the players in Saturday’s game. Many of them will be getting their first taste of the rivalry.
The Montana Tech is also under new management. Helena native Kyle Samson will lead his Orediggers into his old stompin’ grounds for the first time.
“I’m really excited about that,” said Samson, the grandson of legendary Carroll coach Bob Petrino. “We’ve got a lot of guys from Helena. I was counting and I think we’ve got 11 players from Helena. I’m really excited to bring those guys back home.”
Samson, who was part of MSU-Northern teams that beat mighty Carroll teams at Nelson Stadium, said he is looking forward to the whole experience, including the heckling from Saints fans.
“It’s going to be a tremendous atmosphere,” the coach said. “I would expect a tremendous crowd just like we had last week. It’s their home opener and I know a lot of people from Butte are traveling down there.”
Like Tech, the Saints enter the game at 0-1. Montana Western beat the Saints 26-22 Saturday in Dillon. Both teams know that an 0-2 start in the Frontier Conference might be too big of a hole to climb out of.
“We’ve got to right the ship,” Samson said.
Overall, Samson said he was happy with the way the Orediggers played in Saturday’s 26-24 Copper Game loss to Eastern Oregon on the Bob Green Field. His team, however, could not overcome four turnovers, and the Mountaineers dominated time of possession.
“We only ran 51 plays,” Samson said. “You’re not going to win games doing that. Our defense ran 69 plays.”
The Oredigger saw many positives in the game that drew a crowd of more than 6,000.
Though he was picked off twice, Jet Campbell threw a touchdown to Logan Kennedy. He also found Kiley Caprara for a TD that was called back by a penalty.
Blake Counts ran for 92 yards and a touchdown behind an offensive line of Triston Stauffer, Jack Hiller, Carson Shuman, Hunter Spartz and Max Anderson. That unit will get a boost this week with the return of junior Trey Copeland, who missed a couple of weeks with an injury.
Trevor Hoffman caught three passes for 63 yards. Caprara, a former Butte High Bulldog, caught five for 46, and Kennedy caught three passes. Montana State transfer Mark Estes returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Spencer Schock, who missed the 2019 season with an injury, got in on 12 tackles. He also forced a fumble that was recovered by Jake Orivs.
Bridger Johnson got in 10 tackles, while Cole Wyatt got in on nine. Teddy Croft and Logan Kolodejchuk each recorded eight tackles, and Naoki Harmer, who was a game-time decision to play with an injury, made seven. Harmer was also credited with a pair of pass break ups.
Carroll redshirt junior quarterback Devan Bridgewater passed for 246 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Western. He was sacked five times.
Bridgewater led the Saints to the 2019 win over the Orediggers in Helena. Samson said the Orediggers have to be ready to face the dual-threat quarterback.
“He’s very athletic,” Samson said. “We’ve got to keep him in the pocket. He does a great job scrambling to throw. He can definitely move around and make plays.”
Matthew Burgess racked up 86 yards on seven carries before leaving the game with an apparent leg injury. Samson said the Orediggers are assuming Burgess is going to play, even if they heard word that he will not.
“Burgess is one of the best players in the conference,” Samson said. “We’re preparing for him to play.”
The Saints have some big-time receiving threats in Kyle Pierce, Tony Collins and Camron Rothie.
Defensively, T.J. Abraham and Rex Irby picked off passes for the Saints in the opener. Cornerback Zach Spiroff got in on 10 tackles. As a team, the blitz-heavy Saints registered five tackles for a loss and a Garrett Worden sack.
The Orediggers and Saints will both be off next week. Tech will travel to Billings Sept. 11 to take on Rocky Mountain College. Carroll will home against Eastern Oregon the same day.