(RMC Athletics release)
BILLINGS – The Rocky Mountain College football team will return to Herb Klindt Field on Saturday for the annual Spring Game. The action will kickoff at 1 p.m. and it will bring the spring camp to a close. After the game, a social sponsored by the Rocky Football Quarterback Club for alumni, family, and friends will be held.
The Battlin’ Bears are looking to build on the 6-5 season that put together in the fall. Rocky’s first winning season since 2013 saw the team finish tied for second in the Frontier Conference with a 6-4 record in league games.
Rocky will return a majority of players that played key roles for the team last season. Of the 22 players that started the season finale at Montana Western, 18 are on the spring roster. There are a total of 86 players on the spring roster, including seven mid-year transfers that joined the program in January.
Both quarterbacks that started games for the Battlin’ Bears have been getting reps in spring. Jacob Bakken made six starts and threw for 830 yards before suffering an injury last season. Drew Korf started the final five games and finished his freshman season with 1,595 yards. Nathan Dick has also been getting QB reps this spring after transferring from the University of Montana.
Mason Melby and Sam Sparks combined to rush for 1,280 yards and 13 touchdowns last season and both are taking snaps this spring. Melby accounted for 699 of those yards which is the third most by a Rocky rusher since 2004. Sparks also accounted for 446 kickoff return yards and was named second team all-conference at returner.
Five of the teams top six in receiving yards from last season is on the spring roster, including team leader Lucas Overton. As a freshman, Overton made 41 catches for 621 yards and six touchdowns. Max Gray went for 555 yards on a team-high 48 catches with six scores. Darneail Jenkins was named second team all-conference at tight end after finishing 2017 with 36 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive line that played a key role in Rocky ranking 27th in the NAIA by rushing for 194.5 yards per game returns four starters in Troy Bacon – a first team all-conference selection, John Boogaard, Zane Guse, and Cory Roemeling. Those four combined to make 38 of the possible 55 starts at offensive line last season.
Ryder Rice highlights a defensive line that returns six players that made starts last season. Rice was named first team all-conference after finishing 11th in the NAIA with 9.5 sacks – most by a Rocky player during the 14 years of available records. Denton Wetherell had 33 tackles in 10 starts last season and Kameron Welker totaled 14 tackles in 11 games with seven starts.
Rocky’s three leading tacklers from last season were all linebackers and all three are on the spring roster. Billy Williams started all 11 games and led Rocky with 74 tackles with 7.5 tackles-for-loss and one sack. Dallas Mack ended the year with 73 tackles and 6.5 tackles-for-loss while also starting all 11 games. Chase Bertelsen made 10 starts and tallied 71 tackles.
The Frontier named three Rocky defensive backs all-conference last season and two of those guys are competing this spring. Keenan Fagan was named AFCA-NAIA First Team All-American after leading the NAIA with seven interceptions. Kendell Jefferson was a second team all-conference selection with five interceptions and 14 pass breakups.
Special Forces loses a key piece in placekicker Griff Amies, but will return punter Matt Larson and long snapper Luke Miller. The return game also sees Overton, Sparks, and Gray returning.
Rocky will kickoff the 2018 season on Thursday, August 23 with a home game against Carroll at Herb Klindt Field. The Battlin’ Bears will play six homes games in the fall for the first time since 2015.