Orediggers look to send seniors out in style

Orediggers look to send seniors out in style
Montana Tech defensive lineman Esai Longoria and the Orediggers take the field before an Oct. 9 home game. Longoria is one of nine Oredigger seniors closing his college football career on Saturday. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

Montana Tech would like to knock off MSU-Northern Saturday to close the football season at an even 5-5.

The Orediggers would like to complete the season sweep of the Lights and head into the offseason on a high note.

Tech would like to bounce back from last week’s tough 35-21 loss at Montana Western.

As Tech takes on the Lights in a 1 p.m. Frontier Conference game Saturday on the Bob Green Field, though, the Orediggers feel they need to win one for their seniors. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)

“The message this week is, ‘We’ve got to do everything we can with our preparation and our focus to send these guys out with a win in their last game,’” Tech coach Kyle Samson said. “It’s a special group of kids. Not only have they been great football players and leaders on our team and in the community, they’ve been great students. The cumulative GPA of these nine guys is a 3.8, which is pretty good.”

The game will close the football careers of seniors Esai Longoria, Hunter Spartz, Spencer Schock, Tyler Folkes, Jaylen Taggart, Logan Kolodejchuk, Teddy Croft, Bridger Johnson and Michael Barnes.

Only Longoria is out of eligibility. The other eight Tech seniors could return, but they are graduating and have good job opportunities on the table.

Samson said sending these seniors off in style is of the utmost importance.

“I think Senior Night is one of the most special things in the world, especially in football,” Samson said, adding that there are no pickup football games to play down the road. “You never get to strap the pads on again.

“When you’re done, you’re done. That’s a pretty sad tale to deal with. It’s pretty cool when you can end your career with a win. That’s a good memory to have.”

To make that memory, the Orediggers will have to stop a team that has been Jekyll and Hyde down the stretch.

On Oct. 23, the Lights (1-9 overall, 1-8 conference) ended a 47-game Frontier Conference losing streak with a 22-20 home win over Easter Oregon. The following week, Northern got on the board with a late punt return in a 63-7 home loss to Montana Western.

Last week, Northern went to Billings and led 7-6 heading into the fourth quarter in an eventual 13-6 loss to first-place Rocky Mountain College.

“You can’t give them any hope early in the game. We’ve got to get up on them early,” Samson said. “They’ve shown that they can play with everybody. They’ve had some up-and-down games, but they’re not a bad football team.”

The Orediggers ran their winning streak over Northern to nine games with a 23-13 win Oct. 6 in Havre.

Tech quarterback Jet Campbell, who took a beating last week in Dillon, passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns in that win. Blake Counts ran for 104 yards, and Kyle Torgerson, Trevor Hoffman and Counts all caught touchdown passes.

Zach Trumble led the Tech defense with 7 tackles and two sacks, and Angel Sancez III picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards. Naoki Harmer and Teddy Croft picked off passes.

Izaya Boss ran for 110 yards against the Orediggers that day. That included a 75-yard touchdown run.

Tech has to be prepared for two quarterbacks. Devonte Armstro and Kaymen Cureton have both had success playing this year. Cureton took all the snaps and passed for 134 yards last week. He hooked up six times with Marvin Williams for 75 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Samson pointed to the play of Eureka senior Joe Fehr.

“He’s one of the top defensive linemen in the conference,” the Tech coach said. “He’s a really good player.”

Samson said Tech’s defense needs a bounce back game. One week after shutting down Rocky, the Orediggers did not force a single punt against Western.

“When a team doesn’t punt the whole thing, it isn’t good. We’ve got to get off the field,” Samson said. “But I don’t think that’s who we are. We had a bad day, and our defense will respond back.”

Sampson praised his team’s offense for last week. For two and a half quarters, the Orediggers played pretty well, he said.

“I thought it was one of our better-balanced games last week,” Samson said. “The thing is we didn’t control the clock.”

The game will close the book on Samsons first season as head coach of the Orediggers. The former MSU-Northern star was hired to lead the team in January 2020, but COVID-19 wiped out his first season on the hill.

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