By Tyler Hulse,
Montana Western Athletic Department Intern
DILLON — The University of Montana Western football team held its first spring scrimmage Saturday in front of a large crowd of supporters gathered on Erb Practice Field. The spectators enjoyed a solid hour of full-contact football action before the Bulldog players and coaches hosted an Easter Egg Hunt for local youngsters.
As they have throughout the first two weeks of practice, the Bulldog defense came out strong. The red jerseys were flying around, making tackles, forcing turnovers and giving up just one score on the day. Senior corner Dakota Pineda, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and senior linebacker Michael Bennett, Seattle, Washington, each hauled in an interception. Dillon product MJ Simkins, a new face on the defense, forced a fumble.
Junior linebacker Garrett Buck, Blackfoot, Idaho, recorded a safety when he blitzed through the line untouched, meeting the quarterback in the end zone just before he could complete the hand off. Hunter Thomsen, of Great Falls, led the Bulldogs with nine tackles. The line backing core stood out again in the scrimmage, making some big hits and putting pressure on the offense. Helena native AJ Wilson led the group with six tackles, while leading tackler from the 2014 season, TJ Benson of Libby recorded five tackles.
The offensive unit started the scrimmage on its heels, but gained momentum as the morning progressed and were able to move the chains. The running game and offensive line both had strong showings. The Bulldogs tallied 128 yards rushing, led by TJ Leep of Bozeman and Dylan Kramer from Laurel. Leep ran for 50 yards on 10 carries and scored the lone touchdown of the day. Kramer recorded 28 yards on 11 carries with some tough interior running.
The quarterbacks vying for the starting spot were successful on short to intermediate routes and in the screen game. Junior Charlie Switzer of Richey completed four of six passes for 16 yards and sophomore Bennett Gibson of Mount Vernon, Washington, totaled 63 yards on 8 for 18 passing. Both Switzer and Gibson put together solid drives with the first team offense. Bo Hughes, a recent transfer from Montana State, was able to move the ball with the second team and showed an ability pick up a critical third downs with his speed and agility.
Matt Fuhrman, a sophomore from Billings, led the receiving core with six catches for 22 yards, each an opportunity created by his blazing speed.
Montana Western will return to the practice field this week in preparation for the annual Spring Game which will be held as a part of the Alumni Weekend festivities April 25.