(Editor’s note: Montana Sports Information)
KALISPELL – Montana wrapped up its spring season on Saturday with its annual Grizzly Scholarship Association Spring Game. The game was held at Legends Stadium in Kalispell for the first time since 2006.
In a balanced outing in front of over 2,500 boisterous Flathead Valley fans, there were plenty of highlights on both offense and defense for the Griz as the maroon team pulled out a 28-17 win over the silver.
“It was great being up here,” said head coach Bobby Hauck. “It’s always great to be back in Kalispell. Like I say, these people, thousands of them come down every Saturday during the fall. So, it’s kind of nice to be able to return the favor.”
The 60-minute, 89-play scrimmage saw a total of six touchdowns (three rushing and three in the air) and was highlighted by an interception, a fumble recovery, and nine tackles for loss for the defense.
“I thought the scrimmage was solid. I thought tackling was pretty good; it was pretty physical. Our wide receivers made some plays, which was good to see. Obviously, there were some ups and downs, that’s the nature of spring practice, but it was solid, to say the least,” added Hauck.
Initially led by returning quarterback Dalton Sneed, the maroon squad got off to a hot start, scoring on its first series of the afternoon. The team needed just five plays, with Sneed finding the end zone with a 36-yard pass to Samuel Akem – something that happened a team-high 13 times in 2018.
“Sammy has kind of emerged as a player. Last year at this time I’m not sure how many people knew his name, but he’s a guy that makes plays. When you get the ball thrown to you, you’re supposed to catch it, and that’s what he does,” said Hauck.
Moments later, the maroon offense was back on the field following a Josh Sandry interception. The big play came on the silver team’s second snap, with Sandry returning the pick 32 yards to the 8-yard line.
Sneed was done for the day, but the maroon squad continued to score under quarterback Cam Humphrey. Two plays after Sandry’s pick, Humphrey found Mitch Roberts in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard score. One series later, the maroon team added to its total, thanks to a 2-yard rush from Adam Eastwood.
Gabe Peppenger hit a 35-yard field goal as the first half expired to put the silver team on the board, 21-3, at halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, the maroon team looked as if it would blow silver out, with Marcus Knight’s six-yard rush putting Maroon on top 28-3. Knight led both sides in rushing with 56 yards and touchdown on six carries.
“Marcus has pretty good speed. He’s had a good spring, particularly after spring break he’s really played better, which you should expect that. In theory, you get better when you practice more and learn more, so he’s done a good job,” said Hauck of his transfer running back.
But silver gave the Kalispell crowd something to cheer about, scoring twice in a 4-minute period late in the fourth quarter. Both scores were under the direction of redshirt sophomore Wheeler Harris, who finished 3-for-3 for 106 yards. The big strike was to Samori Toure, who caught Harris’ pass near midfield and raced the length of the field into the end zone.
Still trailing 28-10, the silver squad got another burst of life when they recovered a botched snap and took over deep in Maroon’s territory. Six plays later, another touchdown had been scored, with Kalispell native Drew Turner marching into the end zone from one yard out.
With no kickoffs and a running clock, the maroon squad was able to run out the final minute on the clock and secure the victory.
While Sneed looked strong on the first series, Humphrey and Garrett Graves played under center for the majority of the afternoon. Toure had a team-high five catches for 99 yards, including the touchdown. Malik Flowers had four catches for 54 yards, and Roberts had four catches for 31 yards, including his first-quarter score.
On defense, Jace Schneider had eight tackles, while Gavin Crow was in on seven stops, including one for lost yardage.
Montana will now enter the summer training phase of the season in preparation for the season opener on August 31 at South Dakota, and the home opener on Sept. 7 in Missoula against North Alabama.
Overall, the head coach likes where his team is at compared to this time last year, but knows there is more work to be done.
“We’ve got to improve as a team. We’ve got to get bigger, faster, stronger as a team. More athletic. Part of that is recruiting, part of that is weight room time and offseason training,” said Hauck. “But we certainly are improved I think from the end of last season.”
The Griz will report for fall camp in early August.
Thank you for your support: The annual Griz Spring Game was hosted by the Flathead Valley Chapter of the Grizzly Scholarship Association, and serves as a fundraiser for the GSA and its mission to provide scholarships for student-athletes. Proceeds raised from the game go directly toward that cause. The annual event is traditionally held in different locations around the state on odd years, and in Missoula on even years.
She said yes: Senior center Cy Sirmon made the spring scrimmage a personal moment to remember. Surrounded by his teammates on the field following the game, Sirmon dropped to one knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Lauren. She said yes, to the applause of everyone in attendance.
Help save a life: The Montana Football team has partnered with the Get in the Game. Save a Life. program to help recruit potential donors to join the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be the Match Registry, which connects patients in need with life-saving donors on the University of Montana campus on Friday, April 26 from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.