DILLON — After nearly two decades Montana Western can call itself Frontier Conference football champions.
With a 36-12 victory Saturday over Eastern Oregon – coupled with College of Idaho losing to Southern Oregon – the No. 10-ranked Bulldogs won the outright Frontier championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NAIA playoffs.
Quarterback Michael Palandri threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others while Jake Humphrey rushed for 104 yards and a score for Western, which finished the regular season with a 9-1 record and a 7-1 mark in the Frontier. It was the Bulldogs’ eighth consecutive win.
Palandri’s 66-yard passing TD to Eli Nourse gave Western a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. Palandri ran in a 3-yard touchdown later in the second to make it 21-3. His 14-yard TD pass to Dylan Shipley gave the Bulldogs a 27-6 lead in the third.
It marks the first time Western has laid claim to the Frontier crown since 2004 and its first outright conference title since 1995. Eastern Oregon finished its season 2-8 overall and 2-6 in the league.
A playoff selection show will air Sunday at 5 p.m. on the NAIA’s YouTube channel.
Elsewhere in the Frontier …
No. 22 Montana Tech 23, No. 16 Carroll 17
HELENA — Landers Smith rushed for 139 yards and scored two touchdowns to help No. 22 Montana Tech to a 23-17 victory over No. 16 Carroll College on Saturday.
Smith’s 2-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter put the Orediggers ahead 10-7 and they never trailed again. A 31-yard touchdown pass from Blake Thelen to Mark Estes gave Montana Tech a 17-7 advantage.
Smith’s second TD, a 5-yard run, pushed the score to 23-14 midway through the fourth quarter. Tech also benefitted from a 27-yard field goal by Ryan Lowery in the first quarter.
Jack Prka threw for 273 yards and two touchdowns for Carroll but was picked off twice. He also rushed for 62 yards. Duncan Kraft added 70 rushing yards for the Saints.
Montana Tech (7-3, 6-2) and Carroll (7-3, 5-3) are hoping to hear their names called for the NAIA playoffs during Sunday’s selection show.
Rocky Mountain 54, MSU-Northern 6
BILLINGS — Graedyn Buell threw for 449 yards and five touchdowns Saturday as Rocky Mountain College closed its football season with a 54-6 rout of MSU-Northern at Herb Klindt Field.
Rocky finished its season with a 6-4 overall record and a 4-4 mark in the Frontier. The Battlin’ Bears honored slain teammate Chandler Stalcup with a moment of silence before the game.
Buell threw two touchdowns passes each to Joseph Dwyer and Zaire Wilcox, and had a 92-yard TD connection with Jack Waddell. Dwyer finished with 10 catches for 167 yards.
Ja’varien Salte and Cade Lambert each scored rushing touchdowns for Rocky.
MSU-Northern got its points 25-yard touchdown pass from Ashton Platt to Colter Woldstad in the third quarter. The Lights finished their season with a 1-9 overall mark and went 0-8 in league play.
Southern Oregon 31, No. 5 College of Idaho 16
ASHLAND, Ore. — In one of the bigger upsets of the season in the Frontier, Southern Oregon kept the No. 5 College of Idaho from claiming a share of the league title with a 31-16 win Saturday.
Blake Asciutto threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Clemmer in the first quarter and a 70-yarder to Jackson Clemmer in the second to give SOU a two-touchdown lead in the first half.
C of I pulled within 21-16 midway through the third on a 28-yard pass from Andy Peters ton Jase Applebee, but a 37-yard scoring run by Avery McQuaig after that gave Southern Oregon more than enough cushion.
SOU closed the season with a 6-4 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Frontier. C of I, now 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the league, will await its playoff destiny on Sunday.