By Bill Foley
That, as they say, is why you play the game.
Shane Sipes caught four touchdown passes Saturday, and Carroll College shocked Montana Tech with a 35-14 smack down this afternoon at Alumni Coliseum. (Stats)
The win was the first Frontier Conference on-field win for Carroll over a team not named MSU-Northern. It pulled Carroll, which as a forfeit win over Rocky Mountain College, even with the Orediggers in the standings at 4-5.
The loss also put a big-time damper on Montana Tech’s Senior Day festivities.
The Orediggers honored seniors Nic Amestoy, Brock Beede, Kellen Davis, Clay Dean, James Foote, Chance Hansen, Trevor Hopf, Chris Johnson, Jackson King, Zach Morris, Cam Nissen, Mick Paffhausen, A.J. Robinson, Dion Williams and Connor Wines in the tailgate area before the game.
“It was one of those days,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “The momentum got against us, and we couldn’t recover from it.”
The day couldn’t have started any better for the Orediggers.
On the third play from scrimmage, Jet Campbell hit Will Hunthausen for a 33-yard touchdown.
Jed Fike caught a short pass and turned it into a 35-yard gain to the Carroll 35 on the first play. Butte Central graduate Nate McGree, a sophomore linebacker at Carroll, tackled Fike after a 2-yard run on the second.
Cody Gagnon’s extra point made it 7-0 Tech, and the Oredigger partisans in the packed Alumni Coliseum stands got ready for a rout.
The Saints, however, had other ideas, and Carroll quickly answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The scoring march was capped by a 19-yard strike from Hunter Bledsoe to Sipes, who tied a school record with the four scores.
Sipes caught a short pass on third and 12, and outran the defense to the end zone. Josh Kraft’s extra point tied the game.
The scoring play was one of nine third-down conversions for the Saints on the day. Carroll scored five touchdowns. Three came on third down, and one came on fourth and 19.
“They did a great job on third down,” Morrell said. “Their kids went up and made some plays. That’s something we previously hadn’t seen from their quarterback. He put it up in the air and receivers went out and made some plays.”
Carroll took the lead for good 1 minute before halftime when Troy Arntson lined up for the “Wildcat” snap. He scrambled around before finding Joe Farris in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score.
Foote blocked the extra point, but Carroll took a 13-6 lead into halftime.
The Saints extended the lead to 19-13 early in the third. Carol marched 66 yards on just six plays. The drive was capped when Kolby Killoy, who took most of the snaps in the second half, hit Sipes for an 24-yard touchdown.
Hansen blocked the extra point, and Tech quickly answered.
Campbell found Dion Williams for a 6-yard touchdown pass to cap a 12-play, 75 yard drive. The extra point cut the lead to 19-14 with 7:33 left in the third quarter, and Tech looked to have recaptured the momentum.
Once again, Carroll answered, and Killoy hit Sipes over the middle for a 30-yard touchdown. The backbreaker was that the play came on fourth and 19.
Killoy hit tight end Eric Dawson for the 2-point conversion and a 27-14 lead.
Carroll’s next score came five plays after Micah Ans intercepted a deep pass by Campbell.
Killoy found Sipes, who racked up 170 yards on six receptions, down the sideline. He hauled in a batted ball and cut to the middle for a 47-yard touchdown.
Arntson caught a pass from Killoy for the 2-point conversion.
Two plays later, Parker Bernhardt made a leaping catch to intercept another deep Campbell pass.
Carroll killed much of the remaining 10:05 with a 10-play drive that wen for just 19 yards, thanks to a 15-yard penalty.
The Saints killed the rest after Drew Melton picked off a pass to give Carroll the ball for good.
“We saw some classic Carroll stuff, where they got the lead and sat on it,” Morrell said. “It made it tough. We didn’t make enough plays on either side of the ball today.”
Carroll College Hall of Fame coach Mike Van Diest was pumped up on the sideline late in the game. The win clearly meant more than just another in a long line of victories.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Van Diest, a man with six national championship rings. “We’ve had some ups and downs. At times we played well. It’s just so much fun to see these guys get excited. We’ve been waiting for this one.”
Killoy passed for 195 yards and the three touchdowns, while Major Ali ran for 68. Arntson picked up 57 on the ground.
Campbell passed for 224 yards in the loss. He hit Hunthausen six times for 72 yards. Hoffman and Dion Williams each grabbed seven receptions.
Fike ran for 83 yards. He gained 56 more as a pass catcher.
“I think he’s awesome. I’m a big fan of his,” Van Diest said of Fike. “Tech’s always had (a great running back). You know (Jay) LeProwse was a great player. (Nolan) Saraceni was a great player. Fike is a lot like that. He’s an all-conference player. I’m so impressed with him, how hard he runs. He’s a tremendous player.”
Carroll closes the season next week at home against Eastern Oregon in what will definitely be an emotional Senior Day for Van Diest.
I love these seniors, this team,” he said. “Whether we win or lose, they come out on Monday and play so hard. This team has a special place in my heart because of this senior class. That’s why I came back to coach.”
Morrell, who is always emotion during Senior Day, praised his seniors after the loss.
“It’s a tough day for us,” he said. “It’s Senior Day. The guys practiced, we prepared our tails off all week. The guys were ready. They were energetic today. Sometimes you get into those situations when things don’t go how they planned.
“My hats off to our senior leadership and what they mean to this program,” Morrell said. “It hurts my heart to not have them walk out with a ‘W’ on Senior Day.”