BUTTE -- Montana Tech looked poised to finish the season 7-3 taking on a Rocky Mountain Battlin' Bears team that struggled mightily across the 2019 season.
That is until these teams met to end their seasons at Bob Green Field Saturday. Rocky stunned the Orediggers, closing out the Frontier Conference football season with a 38-23 win.
The Orediggers got off to a hot start when Jet Campbell hit Trevor Hoffman for a 43-yard gain and then again for 23 yards to set the Ordiggers up in prime position. Just a few plays later Campbell hung on to the ball himself and sauntered into the end zone to put Montana Tech up 7-0 early in the first quarter. Hoffman hauled in four catches on the day for a game-high 98 yards.
"When you play Chuck Morrell's team here at Tech, they're physical, they're smart, and it was just a great game all-around," said Rocky head coach Chris Stutzriem.
Rocky ended its first drive with 38-yard field goal by Riley Garret, and both teams traded field goals to put the score at 10-6 in near the end of the first quarter. Then with a little more than two minutes left to go in the first frame, Campbell rolled right and coughed up the football deep in Montana Tech Territory. One play later, Drew Korf found Holden Ryan for an 11-yard touchdown pass that would vault the Battlin' Bears to a 13-10 lead with. Korf finished the day with 108 yards and two touchdowns on 13 completions.
"We're an aggressive football team," said Orediggers head coach Chuck Morrell. "We turned the ball over four times in the first half, and on the day we turned the ball over six times. You're just not going to win any football games at any level when you turn the ball over six times."
Neither team was able to get much going until midway through the second quarter when Rocky downed a punt at the Orediggers' 1-yard line. Montana Tech went three-and-out, but when the Orediggers tried to punt it away, they were called for holding in the end zone, which resulted in a safety that put Rocky up 15-10 with a few ticks over six minutes left to go in the first half. The ensuing drive, Rocky Mountain College traversed 58 yards on six plays, capped off by a 2-yard Sam Sparks run that put Rocky Mountain up 23-10 before the half.
The third quarter started out slow but heated up after the Battlin' Bears found the end zone on a 17-yard pass from Korf to Devin Pope, a touchdown that would put the lead at 20 points. Rocky tacked on another touchdown and its second two-point conversion of the day on a 1-yard run by Victor Ngalamulume.
Though it appeared to be over on the surface, Tech chipped away at the lead, scoring twice in the fourth quarter -- first on a 57-yard pass from Campbell to Alec Wooley-Steele and then again late in the fourth quarter on a 40-yard pass from Kaleb Winterburn to Kiley Caprara to put the final score at 38-23 after a blocked point-after attempt on Montana Tech's final score of the game.
"I'm so happy for these kids, I'm so happy for these seniors," said Stutzriem, who then paused, shook his head, and grimmaced. "They didn't have to believe in myself, my staff, the team, but they did and we kept fighting every week. It wasn't pretty sometimes. Today, it still wasn't perfect, but our guys played extremely hard, they played with attitude and great effort and I'm so proud of them."
The win moved the Battlin' Bears' record for the 2019 season to 4-7, and Montana Tech will end its season at 6-4.