By Bill Foley
When he walked off the field at Helena’s Nelson Stadium on Sept. 4, Spenser Schock thought he might not play football again.
He was told he had a concussion, and CT scans showed beading in the brain.
On Saturday, the senior linebacker was at the heart of the Montana Tech defense as the Orediggers closed the season with a 41-0 Senior Day victory over MSU-Northern. (Stats)
The convincing victory closes the book on the 2021 campaign with a 5-5 Oredigger record.
“It was awesome. It just means the world,” Schock said winning his final game as a football player. “How everybody cares about everybody here, it’s just the best atmosphere. It’s just such a family crowd. (Coach Kyle) Samson really brought that family atmosphere. It’s awesome.”
It turns out that Schock did not have a concussion. Instead, he had a bleed in the back of his neck that was heading into his brain.
“It was just building up pressure, and I had let it drain before I could play,” Schock said. “They told me I was going to be done. I think it happened in the (season-opening) Eastern (Oregon) game, and the pressure didn’t build up until the Carroll game. Once it built up, I couldn’t do anything.
“It was unfortunate, but it was fortunate how it happened and I was still able to play.”
Schock registered five total tackles and picked off a pass on a day when the entire Oredigger defense was named “Player of the Game.”
“That’s our defense,” Schock said. “We’re such a tight unit. If we stay together and do our jobs, we’re just an unstoppable unit.”
That defense never gave the Lights a chance.
When freshman quarterback Cade Wyant, starting in place of the injured Jet Campbell, hit Trevor Hoffman over the middle for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 11 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter, the game was basically over.
Tech led 7-0, but it felt like so much more.
“They dominated today,” Samsons said of the Oredigger defense. “Offensively, we did a really good job, too. We just controlled the game. Our special teams played really well today. We got big-time turnovers.”
Jake Standlee, another freshman quarterback, scrambled left and hit Kiley Caprara for a 17-tyard touchdown with 6:08 left in the second, and Tech took a 14-0 edge into halftime.
Ryan Lowry booted a 34-yard field goal and Tyler Folkes scored on a 1-yard run to make it 24-0 going into he fourth quarter.
After Standlee hit Kyle Torgerson for a 3-yard score, Lowery bounced a 47-yard field goal off the cross bar and through. Then freshman Kade Wilcox capped the scoring with a 42-yard interception return.
In addition to Schock, the game closed the book on the careers of seniors Folkes, Esai Longoria, Hunter Spartz, Jaylen Taggart, Logan Kolodejchuk, Teddy Croft, Bridger Johnson and Michael Barnes leave the program with a victory.
Not all are listed as seniors, but all are graduating with great career prospects. Only Longoria is officially out of eligibility.
“It’s nice to finish out on Bob Green Field with a win,” Spartz said.
The left tackle, who gave up just one sack in 10 games this season, turned his attention quickly to the players on the team who are not seniors.
“Something like this moves the team forward,” Spartz said. “It gives them positivity on how to finish the right way and move into the offseason in the right way.
“I remember two years ago losing. I felt shitty for those seniors. It’s nice finish it the right way.”
Players, coaches, parents and fans lingered on the field after the game, taking more pictures and giving more hugs than usual. Samson was a part of so many of both.
“I’m really, really proud of our staff for getting our guys ready to go this week,” Samson said. “I’m really proud of our seniors for the leadership they showed today. I just want to thank them for all they do. It will be a great memory for them to have a win like that on the last game of their career.
“I want to thank the fans, too, for sticking with us all year and the support they gave us. It’s truly something special in Butte.”
Saturday was special for so many Orediggers.
Running behind Spartz, Carson Shuman, Max Anderson, Tristan Stauffer and Jack Hiller, Blake Counts ran for 147 yards on just 13 carries. Folkes added another 74 on 18 carries.
Hoffman, Kaprara and Torgerson each came down with four receptions. Hoffman picked up 92 yards.
Naoki Harmer, who led the Orediggers with eight total tackles, recovered a fumble that was forced by Bridger Johnson. Harmer also broke up two passes. Johnson, who racked up seven tackles, got in on two sacks.
Teddy Croft and Zach Trumble each recorded six tackles, and Trumble got in on two sacks. Kolodejchuk joined Shock with five tackles. He also got in on a sack.
Spartz said injures and a good job waiting helped him decide to move on from the program. Schock said the same, adding Tech is “just a great school that it’s hard to stay.”
Schock said he is just glad his career ended on a high note in Butte instead of that sad afternoon in Helena.
“I’m graduating with my degree,” Schock said. “It’s just been such a hard time on my body, going through injuries. It is just time to let it go. It’s a hard thing to do, letting it go. I love this sport, and I’ve been playing it since I was 5. It’s just something I had to do.”