BUTTE — When the 2023 football season wraps up, Montana Tech senior Blake Counts will have spent the entirety of his high school and college career with Kyle Samson as his head coach, apart from 2019 when Samson was the Orediggers' offensive coordinator under Chuck Morrell.
And the 5-foot-11, 220-pound running back — who set the Montana high school all-class record for rushing yards in a season (2,588) with Kalispell Flathead before joining Samson in Butte — is grateful for that.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to follow Coach Samson," said Counts. "Everything he preaches — family, love — he truly means it."
Counts is poised to conclude his time at Tech as a four-time all-Frontier Conference selection. But there's one particular mark Counts has set his sights on as the No. 15 Orediggers (2-1 overall, 1-0 in Frontier Conference play) prepare to wrap up a two-game homestand against No. 7 College of Idaho (3-0, 1-0) this Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.
"I really want to be a 1,000-yard rusher, if not more," he said. "And I know my O-line is going to help me do that, and I'm super excited."
Putting up big rushing numbers over the course of a season isn't new to Counts. He and Samson were part of a Braves squad that advanced to the 2018 State AA championship game, the same season Counts set his all-class record.
The two were part of something special at Flathead, and it's been the same story at Tech where the Orediggers have progressed from a 5-5 team in Samson's first season as head coach in 2020 to this season where Tech is a top-15 team and aspiring to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
In Tech's Week 2 road win over Central Washington, the Orediggers' passing game came to life as quarterback Blake Thelen tossed five touchdown passes in the 37-29 win.
Last week, it was Counts' turn to shine as he rumbled for 122 yards and three touchdowns in Tech's 49-31 win over Eastern Oregon. He's now leading the Frontier Conference with four rushing scores and an average of 114 rushing yards per game.
"He's having a great senior year, obviously," said Samson. "He comes out and puts the work in every single day. You love to see the success that he's having."
Tech's passing and running games have shown what they're capable of these past two weeks, and the Orediggers will look to bring a balanced attack against a Yotes squad coming off a bye that preserved its perfect start to the season with a Hail Mary touchdown against Montana Western on Sept. 9.
"That's what we love, is to have that balance and be able to throw it and run it," said Samson. "That's a big goal of ours, we're trying to be as balanced as possible. I think we've got the weapons outside and in the backfield."