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Montana Western football opens fall camp, eyes tough road tests to start season

Montana Western Fall Camp 2023
Posted at 12:23 PM, Aug 09, 2023

DILLON — There's a lot unfolding right now for Montana Western's football team:

Looking to build off last season's 4-game win streak to close out the 2022 campaign. Determining who is going to replace Jon Jund as the Bulldogs' starting signal caller. Preparing to move into a new on-campus turf field facility next season.

But perhaps nothing is as pressing for the Bulldogs as making sure they're ready to roll in Weeks 1 and 2, which are shaping up to be a baptism by fire for their 2023 season.

The Bulldogs will travel to La Grande, Oregon, to take on Eastern Oregon on Sept. 2 and then head for Caldwell, Idaho, for a Week 2 clash with preseason Frontier Conference favorite College of Idaho.

Western hasn't won a game at La Grande since 2015 or Caldwell since 2016 although the Bulldogs have had success against both the Mountaineers and Yotes when playing at Vigilante Stadium, most recently a 48-14 drubbing against EOU and a 40-35 victory over a then-No. 7 C of I squad last season.

The disparity between home field advantage and a road test when facing those two teams isn't lost on Western head coach Ryan Nourse.

"Two places historically that we have not performed well," said Nourse. "It's obviously a challenge, back-to-back road games, back-to-back places that are normally much hotter than here. We have to be in great condition, we have to have an excellent two-deep and we've gotta know who we are."

Looking to end lengthy road skids should serve as plenty of motivation as Western looks to move on from a 7-4 campaign that ended on that 4-game win streak but what was hampered by three-straight losses in late September and early October.

"It's a big motivator," said redshirt senior linebacker Jaden Amasiu. "It's tough being on the road you're not at home with all your fans. Your own fans is your own teammates. So it's a little tough. I think we'll be okay if we just play our football and just do what needs to be done. Get business done. Get in get out come home with a win."

Western has these next weeks to determine who will succeed Jund at quarterback, who took the reins as the Bulldogs' starting QB in 2018. The Bulldogs have six quarterbacks listed on their roster but the battle is expected to come down to redshirt sophomore Michael Palandri, a Tahoma, Washington, native and redshirt senior Kaden Jenks, who transferred from Weber State where he was part of the Wildcats' Big Sky Conference championship three-peat between 2017-19.

"Coming out of spring, Michael Palandri and Kaden Jensk came out 1 and 2 and that's how we're starting out camp," said Nourse. "It's kind of those two's battle to see which direction we're going to move in."

With Western's new on-campus field now under construction, this is expected to be the final season at Vigilante Stadium, a venue that is certainly outdated but will always be a slice of nostalgia for Nourse who played for the Bulldogs there before becoming head coach.

"I love it, I played all my college games there," said Nourse. "I don't even know how many games I've played and coached on that field but it's been a special place for so many people, so many incredible games played in that facility. It'll be bittersweet, it's kind of like moving out of your childhood home."