Shorthanded Orediggers fall in quarterfinals

WALESKA, Georgia — Missing their top two offensive players was too much for the Orediggers to overcome Saturday.

Montana Tech’s offense couldn’t get going in the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs, and the Orediggers saw their season end with a 27-0 loss to Reinhardt. Stats

Tech played without running back Nolan Saraceni and quarterback Quinn McQueary. Saraceni suffered fractures in the bone around his knee on the final game of the regular season two weeks ago. McQueary broke his thumb on an opponent’s helmet last week in Tech’s playoff win over Dickinson State.

“Nolan and Quinn are a big part of the team, but we were really excited coming into today,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “Our guys went out and played their butts off.”

All-Conference tight end Andrew Loudenback, who was Tech’s emergency quarterback last season, was thrust into action for the playoff.

The Orediggers trailed 14-0 heading into the fourth quarter as the Oredigger defense held its own against the No. 1 scoring team in the nation.

A couple of big plays in the second quarter and a relentless Reinhardt Wing-T attack that broke free from a couple of TDs in the fourth quarter.

“I took a couple of risks in the fourth quarter that didn’t put us into the best position,” Morrell said.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Eagles got on the board first when Ryan Thompson hit tight end Gordon Dudley for a 25-yard touchdown pass on a trick play with 6 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second

The Orediggers were driving to match the score when Juice Arnold picked off a Loudentback pass and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

That’s where the game stayed until L.J. Stegall scored on a 7-yard run with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter. The extra point was blocked, making it 20-0.

Stegall added a 4-yard TD run to cap the scoring with 6:07 left in the game.

The Eagles saw 10 different ball carries rack up 191 yards rushing. Thompson completed 9 of 17 passes for 247 yards.

Loudenback completed 21 of 43 passes for 208 yards. He was picked off twice, with one of those picks bouncing off the hands of a receiver to the defender.

Braden Feisthamel ran for 52 yards on 17 carries. As a team, though, the Orediggers only had 23 yards rushing thanks to 23 yards lost on sacks.

Dion Williams caught six passes for 61 yards for the Orediggers. Keaton Mitchell caught four for 52. Carlos Martinez and Zach Bunney each caught three passes, while Kolby Kansala and Sean Sullivan each grabbed two.

“It was very tough circumstances for our offense against a really good team,” Morrell said. “They came out and played super physical. We were just unable to get the ball into the end zone.”

Eddie Smith was credited with 10 tackles (seven unassisted and three assisted) to lead the Orediggers in the loss. Zach Hulse registered seven, while Connor Wines and Gunanr Kayser each were credited with five.

Montana Tech’s season ended in the NAIA quarterfinals for the second straight season.

Eastern Oregon went on the road to knock off No. 1 Marian, meaning the Eagles (13-0) will host a semifinal game next week. The Orediggers end the season at 10-2.

The loss closes the career on 19 seniors. Morrell pointed out that those players helped turn the Orediggers from a 1-9 team to a squad that won 20 games over the past two seasons.

“I’m so proud of our seniors,” Morrell said. “They did some things that certainly have never been done around Tech.”