By Bill Foley
Montana Tech’s football team has seen overflow crowds for its first two games of the season.
The atmosphere has been fun and electric as a fanbase embraces a team it did not get to see play in 2020. The only thing missing has been a home win.
The Orediggers are out to rectify that situation Saturday when they take on the College of Idaho at 1 p.m. on the Bob Green Field. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)
“The thing we’ve been talking about all week is we’ve got to come out, and we’ve got to perform at home,” Tech coach Kyle Samson said. “We’ve done a good job on the road, but we haven’t got a home win. We’ve got to get after it. We’ve got to get a big win.”
Tech is 2-3 on the season and 0-2 at Alumni Coliseum.
“We want to put on a show for the town of Butte,” Samson said. “They’ve been supporting us, and we want to go out and get a big win.”
A win against the 3-2 Yotes, Samson said, could also get the Orediggers, who have an open date next Saturday, back in the Frontier Conference race.
“If we get back to 3-3, we’re right in the mix,” the coach said, adding that several key injured players are getting closer to a return. “We’ve got to go out and get this win. We’ve got a good chance to get healthy next week and get our starters back for the stretch run.”
The Orediggers are coming off last week’s 23-13 win at MSU-Northern.
Junior quarterback Jet Campbell passed for an even 300 yards and three touchdowns in the victory. He was picked off once.
Campbell hit Kyle Torgerson, Trevor Hoffman and Blake Counts for scores.
“He played really well last week,” Samson said. “He took care of the football.”
Counts also ran for 104 yards on 25 carries.
Linemen Hunter Spartz, Carson Shuman, Max Anderson, Trey Copeland and Jack Hiller paved the way for the ground attack while keeping Campbell upright. Tristan Stauffer also rotated in on the Oredigger offensive line.
Zach Trumble, who was a gametime decision because of an injury sustained in practice last week, registered a team-best seven tackles. Trumble’s day included four and a half tackles for a loss. He also joined Keyshawn James-Newby with two sacks. Cole Wyant registered one sack.
True freshman Angel Sanchez III, was forced into action because of injury, had a huge game for the Orediggers. He got in on six tackles and returned an interception 20 yards.
“He played really well,” Samson said of the Tacoma, Washington product who figures to be a fixture in the Tech secondary for years to come.
Naoki Harmer and Teddy Croft were credited with pass break ups, and Harmer got in on five tackles. Croft, Blake Allred, Bridger Johnson, Kade Wilcox and Brendan Kinnee got in on three.
The day included multiple tackles for a loss by Johnson and James-Newby.
Esai Longoria and Grady Koenig got in on a punt block, and Jared Griffith rebounded from a miss for a game-sealing field goal. Griffith is also kicking 80 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone, and fellow freshman Andrew Almos averaged 50 yards on three punts a week ago.
“Our special teams had a great game last week,” Samson said. “We’ve got to have a good one this week.”
The Yotes come to town looking to bounce back from last week’s 28-21 home loss to Carroll College. That game came one week after the College of Idaho went to Eastern Oregon and handed the Mountaineers their first loss, a 24-7 smackdown.
That just illustrates how wild the Frontier Conference is once again this year.
“I just really think anytime can beat anybody this year,” Samson said. “It’s so even.”
Nick Calzaretta, a fifth-year senior running back, leads the Yotes tow town. He has racked up 629 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. He is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
“He’s good. He’s definitely a big player for them and someone we’ve got to contain,” Samson said. “I think his best thing about him is his patience to the hole. Then he just goes. He has excellent vision.”
Jack Rice, a junior quarterback who transferred in from Sacramento State, will likely be behind center. However, sophomore Ryan Hibbs has also taken snaps.
Senior Hunter Juarez leads a deep group of COI receivers. He ahs 21 catches for 353 yards and a touchdown. He is averaging 16.8 yards per reception. Sophomore Jake Nadley adds 14 grabs for 148 yards and a score.
Junior linebacker Dylan Martinez leads the Yote defense with 51 total tackles. That includes seven tackles for a loss.
COI has 16 sacks on the season, including six last week. Redshirt freshman Cole Schmidt got in on three of those QB takedowns.
The only Tech injury stemming from last week was the head coach. Samson tore his left Achilles tendon when he jumped to celebrate Tech’s first touchdown last week. He has to undergo surgery on Monday.
Samson will coach on the sideline on crutches
The Orediggers have been playing without a handful of starters, including Zeek Fromel, Kaleb Winterburn, Jake Orvis and Spencer Schock. Hoffman also missed a game before returning in a limited, but effective role last week.
Samson said those players could be back soon. Some could be on the field this week. Any one could go a long way toward making sure the Orediggers pick up that elusive home victory.
“Our guys have some pretty good confidence,” Samson said. “We’re probably as healthy has we have been in a couple of weeks. That’s a good thing.”