Orediggers look to douse the Lights for Homecoming

Orediggers look to douse the Lights for Homecoming

By Bruce Sayler

Homecoming is providing the noise behind this week’s Montana Tech college football game.

Momentum from a 33-24 win over rival Montana Western has added melody while the Orediggers prepare for their next hoped-for hit. They’ll be playing against Montana State-Northern in the 1 p.m. Frontier Conference game at Bob Green Field.

Montana Tech goes into the contest at 3-1 in league and overall play while MSU-Northern enters at 0-4.

Blake Thelen will again be the Orediggers’ starting quarterback while Jet Campbell continues healing a knee injury incurred two weeks ago in Montana Tech’s lone loss, 28-20 to Rocky Mountain. Thelen threw three touchdown passes in beating Montana-Western, a victory that vaulted the Orediggers back into the NAIA Top 25 rankings at No. 21.

“Northern has some returning starters and some new ones,” Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson said. “I have a ton of respect for coach Souers. I’ve known him a long time. His guys are playing hard for him. That’s what we notice the most on film about his team.”

Jerome Souers served as defensive coordinator under Don Read and then Mick Dennehy at Montana in the 1990s before embarking on a long career as head coach of his own Big Sky Conference team, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Souers stepped away a couple years ago and helped out at a couple of stops before being named MSU-Northern’s head coach beginning with this season.

“Both quarterbacks (Brenden Medina and Kaymen Cureton) were there last year, so they have experience there,” Samson said. “One quarterback is more of a dropback passer and one is more of a runner. So, they try to be balanced.”

The Lights’ losses have been by 31-3 to ranked College of Idaho, 56-6 to Southern Oregon, 35-6 to Montana Western and 56-0 to Rocky Mountain.

Medina is the passer while Cureton ranks second on the team in rushing to only lead ballcarrier Mason Dionne. Freshman Jamari Johnson also runs the ball. Wide-out Caymus Thomas and tight end Levi Keltner have been the Lights’ leading receivers. The offense has struggled overall while the defense shows players ranking at or near the top in the conference stats.

“They’ll put a lot of pressure on us, definitely” Samson said. “They blitz quite a bit and bring a lot of different looks. We have to pay attention to adjust to their pressures.”

Safety Hunter Riley and linebacker Dylan Wampler both average nine tackles a game, and linebackers Lucas Thacker, Devin Carmona and Johkyreian Shealey all average seven. Wampler is second in the Frontier in sacks with 4 ½.

“We’re having a good stay at being balanced,” Samson said. “We did a good job of that last week with the run and the pass. “

Blake Counts is second in the league in rushing at 95 yards a game and receiver Trevor Hoffman averages a conference-best 89.5 yards a game. Counts has three touchdowns.

Kaleb Winterburn has proven to be a good, versatile back behind Counts with 118 yards rushing and 35 on five receptions. The air game has been an asset, too, with Hoffman, Kyle Torgerson, Logan Kennedy and Wyatt Alexander all having more than 100 yards receiving through the first four games.

Defensively, linebacker Ben Windauer is fourth in the Frontier with 33 tackles. End Keyshawn James-Newby has 25 stops, safety Brandon Morley 20, and cornerback Naoki Harmer and linebacker Cole Wyant have 19 each. End Zach Trumble has 18.

The Montana Tech defense is allowing only 16.3 points a game and 152.3 yards per game, bests in the league.

“I’m really proud of how we played in the fourth quarter last week,” Samson said. “The defense had a big stop to hold (UM-Western) to a field goal. And our offense went down and kicked the winning field goal.”

Ryan Lowry’s 32-yard field goal put the game out of Montana Western’s reach.

Samson said the clutch effort fits what Oredigger special teams have produced all season so far.

“Lowry and (Andrew) Almos are doing great jobs kicking and punting for us,” the coach said. “Our coaches are doing a great job getting them ready.

“Our special teams are doing a great job. Lowry has a kicked for a lot of touchbacks on kickoffs and not many punts have been returned either. They’re doing a great job helping us with our field position. Lowry’s kicked some big field goals for us.”

Samson said the special teams deeds have been more important than what maybe a lot of people notice.

“Torgy (Kyle Torgerson) has given us some great returns and getting us favorable field position,” Samson said. “The kids are taking a lot of pride in their field position this year. Special teams have had a huge impact on the game.”

The whole combination seems to have been working well for Montana Tech’s football fortunes the first month of the season. Keeping on the rails is always a task with any successful project, however, and Samson is certainly aware.

“I think we’re really excited for Homecoming,” he said. “We’re getting a bunch of alumni back and we’ll get to play before a large crowd on Saturday.

“We have to keep getting better every week. We’re definitely proud of how and what we did last week. Now, this is this week. The guys have done a great job of knowing that in practice – focusing to get better.”

Listed starters follow:

Montana State-Northern Offense

Center – Spencer Kolody, 6-4, 300, senior, Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. Guards – Silvestre Rodrigvez, 6-2, 290, freshman, Bigfork, and Brandon Rose, 6-4, 290, junior, Porterville, California. Tackles – Caden Woods, 6-2, 245, junior, Chester, and Jesus Raygoza, 6-4, 298, junior, Moses Lake, Washington. Receivers – TaVarius George, 6-3, 205, sophomore, Seattle; Levi Keltner, 6-6, 215, senior, Anacortes, Washington; Luke Triplett, 6-2, 205, sophomore, Orangevale, California; and Cannan Smith, 5-7, 180, sophomore, Eureka. Running back – Mason Dionne, 6-0, 215, freshman, Havre. Quarterback – Brenden Medina, 6-2, 205, senior, Santa Rosa, California.

Montana State-Northern Defense

Nose – Liam Laws, 5-11, 255, sophomore, Highwood. Tackle – Brant Seewald, 6-2, 205, freshman, Cut Bank. Ends – Colter Szymoniak, 6-0, 240, junior, Eureka, and Zavier Baldwin, 6-2, 250, junior, Kirkland, Washington. Linebackers – Joel Hadley II, 5-11, 195, sophomore, Lake Wales, Florida; Dylan Wampler, 6-1, 244, junior, Peoria, Arizona; and Johkyreian Shealey, 5-9, 188, sophomore, Moultrie, Georgia. Cornerbacks – Trayvion Rainey, 5-9, 175, sophomore, Las Vegas, and Aidan Hoyt, 6-0, 163, junior, Camas, Washington. Safeties – Hunter Riley, 5-11, 190, junior, Bakersfield, California, and Joshua Rose, 6-0, 175, junior, Las Vegas.

MSU-Northern Special Teams

Kicker – Kaden Nelson, 5-10, 200, freshman, Polson. Punter – Hunter Riley, 5-11, 190, junior, Bakersfield, California. Long snapper – Titus Pulliam, 6-4, 220, junior, Mesa, Arizona.

Montana Tech Offense

Linemen – Seif Benjemia, 6-4, 300, sophomore, West Lafayette, Indiana; Carson Shuman, 6-2, 305, junior, Helena; Max Anderson, 6-3, 295, sophomore, Kalispell; Triston Stauffer, 6-2, 292, senior, Damascus, Oregon; and Jack Hiller, 6-5, 285, junior, LaCenter, Washington. Tight end – Logan Kennedy, 6-2, 220, sophomore, Laurel. Wide receivers – Trevor Hoffman, 6-4, 205, senior, Burien, Washington; Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls; and Wyatt Alexander, 6-2, 190, junior, Whitehall. Running back – Blake Counts, 5-11, 205, junior, Kalispell. Quarterback – Blake Thelen, 6-3, 205, sophomore, Great Falls.

Montana Tech Defense

Linemen – Keyshawn James-Newby, 6-3, 245, sophomore, Helena; Alaric Greil, 6-3, 255, sophomore, Helena; Gabe Zanetti, 6-1, 275, junior, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Zach Trumble, 6-3, 270, junior, Valleyford, Washington. Linebackers – Blake Allred, 5-11, 215, junior, Billings; Cole Wyant, 6-1, 225, sophomore, Rocklin, California; and Ben Windauer, 6-1, 220, junior, Columbia Falls. Backs – Jordan Washington, 5-11, 185, junior, Los Angeles; Brandon Morley, 6-1, 195, junior, Missoula; Jake Orvis, 6-0, 170, senior, Billings; and Naoki Harmer, 5-10, 180, senior, Bellevue, Washington.

Montana Tech Special Teams

Punter Andrew Almos, 6-1, 205, sophomore, Great Falls. Kicker – Ryan Lowry, 6-0, 195, sophomore, Paco, Washington. Punt returner – Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls. Kick returners – Kyle Torgerson, 5-10, 170, sophomore, Great Falls, and Jaden MacNeil, 5-8, 175, sophomore, Kalispell.


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