BUTTE — Ask any Frontier Conference football coach and they'll likely tell you that every league game feels like a grudge match. But there's always been an extra level of sizzle when Montana Tech and Carroll College collide and Thursday is shaping up to be a memorable contest.
It'll be a Top 20 showdown when the No. 16 Orediggers host the No. 15 Fighting Saints at Bob Green Field in Tech's annual Copper Game as both programs kick off their seasons under the lights with a game slated to kick off at 6 p.m.
Both programs bring an edge to Alumni Coliseum: Carroll is the defending Frontier Conference champion while Tech holds the latest victory in this rivalry. The Orediggers toppled Carroll in their last meeting here in September of 2022, ending a three-game, five-year drought against the Saints.
"It's exciting, obviously a big rivalry game," said Tech head coach Kyle Samson. "Two teams that are ranked very high going into this season. It's definitely something that both teams are looking forward to. We're very excited to have it at our home field. Should be a tremendous crowd on Thursday night."
Tech, which went 7-3 last season and narrowly missed out on an at-large playoff bid, may be looking to string together consecutive wins against their arch rival, but starting redshirt junior quarterback Blake Thelen said they're committed to approaching this season with a game-by-game approach.
"I don't think it changes the mentality," said Thelen. "It's always 1-0 every single week. I think that's the mindset that we need to have going into this year. Hopefully put ourselves in a good position at the end of the year."
Tech's defensive effort was key to it upending Carroll last season as the Orediggers held the Saints without a passing touchdown and limited quarterback Jack Prka to 135 yards while sacking him twice. Tech will be looking to dial up a similar gameplan on Thursday.
"I think our key is just to make sure do our job," said second-year defensive coordinator Aric Williams. "Making sure we don't have any missed assignments. Make sure we are all on the same page each and every play and communication is there. One of the things I've been excited about is our communication throughout this fall camp."
Thelen will be looking for his receivers to step up on Thursday, with junior Jordan Jackson showing plenty of upside during spring and fall camp. But after starting the majority of Tech's games in 2022, Thelen knows that he's up to the task of guiding the Orediggers offense.
"I feel confident," he said. "But it's nice to know that my whole team's got my back and I got their back as well. We're just ready to put on a show."