DILLON — A pair of hometown receivers stepped up for Montana Western in the Bulldogs' 38-14 season-opening win at Eastern Oregon last Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Jon Kirkley hauled in touchdown receptions of 31 and 4 yards and freshman Eli Nourse snagged a 16-yard scoring pass from Michael Palandri in the redshirt sophomore quarterback's first start. Kirkley and Nourse — both Beaverhead County High School products — accounted for three of Palandri's four scores as Western earned its first win in La Grande since 2015.
"Pretty crazy to look back on those three years we had together (in high school)," said Kirkley of his and Nourse's output last weekend. "They were a great three years. So now to be playing with him again at Western, it's a blessing. It's been fun. I'm excited to see where it goes."
The Bulldogs will lean on Kirkley and Nourse again as Western gets set to hit the road again for a Week 2 matchup against a 2-0 No. 12 College of Idaho coming off a 42-16 win over Southern Oregon at home.
Last season, the Bulldogs pulled out a 40-35 win at home over a then No. 7 Yotes team. In 2021, C of I held on for a 48-42 double-overtime victory in Caldwell.
Western has about an 800 mile road trip ahead of it this weekend, but embarking on that odyssey is certainly an easier task coming off a win.
"I don't know if "easy" is the word but we'll use that word to come back and work on improvements after we've won," said Western head coach Ryan Nourse. "You've seen the good stuff, you have confidence about you."
The past two meetings between the Bulldogs and Yotes have been down-to-the-wire contests and Nourse said that has made more memorable and beneficial games.
"I really enjoy playing (C of I) because the challenge is real, and it's always there," said Nourse. "I think our guys plays very similarly, just play hard and get after each other. It's just a good, solid football game."
Western headed into its Week 1 game against Eastern Oregon with a new quarterback, a young corp of receivers and a relatively new offensive line. That retooled offense consistently torched the Mountaineers and will now see how it stacks up against a Top 15 program.
"We're a young offense, which is nice cause no one knows what to expect," said Kirkley. "I think a lot of people kind of doubt us cause we're young. I think that's a good chip on our shoulder and we're excited about it."
The Bulldogs and Yotes kick off at Simplot Stadium at 1 p.m.