Carroll College's Craig Kein makes a tackle during a return against Rocky's Prince Shonola. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

HELENA – Consistency has been a constant discussion around the practice fields of the Carroll College football team. The Fighting Saints pushed for a more dependable showing on game day. Saturday that persistence paid off.

It wasn’t instant, as both Carroll and Rocky Mountain College struggled to move the football on offense. Mike Van Diest and Jason Petrino’s defensive game plans were strong and the teams spent the first 28 minutes scoreless, until the Saints cracked the code with a Dylan Green touchdown before half.

“We did have a bit of a slow start, both offenses,” said quarterback Tanner Gustavsen. “Some of that is on me, I missed some pretty short passes, some easy passes I should have completed for conversions on third down. I think once we got comfortable as an offense we really started moving the ball well. I was really excited about that.”

Carroll College quarterback Tanner Gustavsen runs for a 2-point conversion against Rocky Mountain College. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)
Carroll College quarterback Tanner Gustavsen runs for a 2-point conversion against Rocky Mountain College. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

Gustavsen was certainly steady. The backup-turned-starter threw for a score and ran for another and didn’t turn the ball over. His cause was also helped by the Saints defense, which set Carroll up with numerous drives in short field situations.

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“It was so nice. The defense made our job as an offense so much easier with the field position they gave us,” Gustavsen said. “They had a great game, even down to the last minute with that pick-6. That was awesome. They’re never stopping.”

Two of the biggest plays came from redshirt freshman Isazah King. The defensive back tracked down a Dylan Torgerson punt and pounced on the football as Rocky fumbled.

“Your opportunity, the window is short. You just have to be at the right place at the right time and I was there,” King said of the muffed punt. “That’s what our coaches teach us to do.”

With Rocky trailing by eight and down to its last chance at a comeback, King stepped in front of a Battlin’ Bear pass and returned an interception for a touchdown to seal the victory.

“There was nobody there,” he laughed. “I was kind of looking at my surroundings making sure nobody was coming from the back. It was amazing.”

Those are exactly the kinds of plays Van Diest and the staff have been preaching about.

“My goal when I’m out there, any play, is to put our team in a good position to do well,” said King. “On that punt, I was like, ‘I’m going to go down here to make a tackle or whatever to put our offense in a good position to score or put the defense in a good position to stop them.’”

“We talked about it all week defensively, whether the offense scores 10 points or 30 points we still have to do our job,” Van Diest said of Carroll’s defense. “We don’t play to the scoreboard, we play every game where we come in at halftime and say it’s 3-0 and we have to protect a lead. That’s how we play with that mentality. We haven’t always done that this year but I think (Saturday) the guys felt that we weren’t giving up big plays. … I thought it was very good.”

Carroll College's Craig Kein makes a tackle during a return against Rocky's Prince Shonola. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)
Carroll College’s Craig Kein makes a tackle during a return against Rocky’s Prince Shonola. (RICHIE MELBY/MTN Sports)

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