BUTTE — The importance of this season’s senior class at Montana Tech can be seen in the numbers. When the guys arrived on campus as freshmen (depending on redshirts) in 2013, Montana Tech was coming off of a Frontier Conference championship. But most of the freshmen looked on over the next two seasons, as Tech struggled to a combined 4-16 record.

But then there was a turnaround, and it was quick.

The next two seasons brought immense success and back-to-back conference titles. If it wasn’t for injuries, there may have even be a national title in the mix. But this year was not meant to be, as the Orediggers’ season ended without a playoff appearance for the first time since 2014 on Saturday. Tech finished the season 6-4, but put up a valiant effort against this year’s champion in the Frontier, Southern Oregon.

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“I feel like that (was) one of our toughest, most blue-collar performances that we’ve had in a couple of years here,” head coach Chuck Morrell said of the loss. “Guys stuck in there, kept swinging, and we were in it right up until the end.”

That fight was a trademark of this senior class, one that turned a 4-16 record over its first two seasons into a 26-8 mark over the last three. It’s a group that is leaving a historic mark on the program, and Morrell was understandably emotional as the final buzzer sounded on the Class of 2018 for the final time.

“(It’s) just an incredible group of young men,” Morrell said before choking up.

He continued to praise what the senior class stood for and how the group turned the program around.

“You want wins for the program, but you really want it for (the players),” he said. “One thing that’s lacking in the world today is the toughness and the grit and the passion to stick things out, and to go through tough times, and our kids have that.”

The class of 17 young men moves on, but leaves behind a legacy and a standard with a promising young crop.

“We’re never going to have the fastest guys, we’re never going to have the biggest guys at Montana Tech,” Morrell said. “But we’re going to be tough and we’re going to be smart and we’re going to play as hard as we can play every time we step on the field.”