By Bill Foley
Saturday will be a special day for the Montana Tech football team for so many reasons.
None are more important than the 15 seniors the team will say goodbye to as the Orediggers play host to Carroll College in a noon game at Alumni Coliseum. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, online or on the KBOW app)
In the tailgate area before the game, the Orediggers will honor seniors Nic Amestoy, Brock Beede, Kellen Davis, Clay Dean, James Foot, Chance Hansen, Trevor Hopf, Chris Johnson, Jackson King, Zach Morris, Cam Nissen, Mick Paffhausen, A.J. Robinson, Dion Williams and Connor Wines.
“This is something they’ll always remember,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said of his seniors. “It’s Senior Day. They literally will never play another live snap of football in Butte, Montana, for the rest of their lives. It’s done. No matter what happens on Saturday, it’s over.”
Some seniors, like Butte High graduate Clay Dean and Chris Johnson haven’t been playing because of injuries. Many are fifth-year seniors who will play a crucial role in Saturday’s game.
“We have the highest number of fifth-year seniors that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Morrell said. “To me, that’s really cool. It takes something special to be a fifth-year guy. That means you’ve gone through it from the bottom all the way to the top. It’s a long process, and there’s a tremendous amount of grind there. They can accomplish anything they want to accomplish in life.”
Morrell pointed to Kellen Davis, who is in his second year as a starter on the offensive line.
“Kellen Davis is a great example,” the coach said. “As a redshirt freshman, he didn’t step foot on the field a single snap. He just kept after it, and now he’s become a really solid starter for us.”
Throw in that Tech is playing the arch-rival Saints, and the day has the makings to be something truly special.
“Those guys have had some amazing things happen here with multiple conference championships, an excellent home win-loss record. These guys have led us to being great at home,” Morrell said.
Tech is 3-1 at home this season and 18-3 on the Bob Green Field over the past four seasons.
“We’ve talked a lot about protecting Bob Green Field and how much it means to win at home,” Morrell said. “Then, of course, to play Carroll, to boot. You throw some special energy into it.”
The Orediggers enter at 4-4 after last week’s 38-31 overtime win over Southern Oregon. Carroll is 4-5 overall and 3-4 in conference following last week’s 56-7 home win over MSU-Northern.
One of Carroll’s wins came via forfeit after it was determined Rocky Mountain College used an ineligible player in a 19-0 win over Carroll earlier this season.
Morrell, stating the obvious, said the Saints are never a team to take lightly.
“Our guys are certainly excited,” the coach said. “They’ve been looking forward to this game as they do every year.”
Despite the losing record, Carroll comes to town with some weapons.
Major Ali and Ryan Arntson give the Saints a formidable one-two punch out of the backfield. The duo has combined to run for 1,206 yards on the season Ali has scored five touchdowns, while Arntson has ran three in.
Tight end Eric Dawson has racked up three rushing TDs and two receiving.
Last week, Hunter Bledsoe led the Saints under center. Kolby Killoy has also played quarterback for Carroll.
“They’ve got a lot of guys back on defense. They’ve been very physical and they’ve played very consistently,” Morrell said. “They’ve been bouncing around at quarterback, and obviously that’s been an issue. Eric Dawson is still a great tight end for them. Their running back combination of Major Ali and Ryan Arntson are a couple of good running backs back there, and their receiving corps is solid as well.”
Redshirt freshman Jet Campbell will again get the start at quarterback for the Orediggers. In his second start last week, the converted receiver passed for 269 yards and four touchdowns.
Campbell, a former Billings Central quarterback, hit classmate Trevor Hoffman for a game-tying and game-winning touchdown.
Williams leads the league with 58 receptions. With 620 yards, Williams likely won’t reach 1,000 yards like he did as a junior, but he has six touchdowns and several “how-did-he-do-that” catches.
Hoffman has hauled in 37 passes for 449 yards and six TDs.
Junior Jed Fike leads the Frontier Conference with 1,034 yards rushing. He’s scored six touchdowns.
Wines, a linebacker, is coming off his biggest game of the season. He registered six sacks in the win. He also hit the Southern Oregon quarterback Wyatt Hutchinson to force an incompletion on the final play of the game.
Junior Jacob Clarke leads the team with 50 tackles. Junior Tucker Rauthe has 42, while redshirt freshman Justin May and Wines follow at 45 and 43.
Tech, which closes the season next Saturday at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, will not go to the playoffs this year.
Morrell, though, said his team has a chance to end the season on a high note. Nothing could be higher than winning on Senior Day.
The coach said he is proud of the way his team has come to work every single day this season.
“We’ve lost some tough games this season,” Morrell said. “But their work ethic has been tremendous. Our senior leadership has been great. They haven’t backed off one iota, and they certainly won’t on Saturday.”