HELENA – When the Carroll College football team has been at its best, including in its six NAIA national championship runs, it has found success on the defensive side of the ball. Even during the past few seasons, disappointing 4-6 records, the Fighting Saints have still been in the top half of the Frontier Conference on defense.
Senior defensive back McBride Galt understands if Carroll is to return to its place atop the league, as well as national prominence, it might need to get a little defensive.
“It’s just doing the little things right. Our defense has been pretty good the past couple years, but it’s been little things here, little things there,” said the safety. “Us having so many juniors and seniors on our defense, just knowing that every little play matters and working on those in practice, has made a difference.”
Galt, a former Helena High School standout, is one of the leaders of his hometown Saints. Through three games he has tallied 15 tackles, one for loss, as well as a key interception in Carroll’s win over Linfield.
He’s also proud to watch teammates like linebacker Chase Bowen, who leads the Frontier Conference in total tackles by 11, buy into head coach Mike Van Diest’s system and find individual success.
“It’s just, hard work pays off. He’s a kid that gets after it in the weight room, he gets after it in the film room and he’s just an animal out there,” Galt said of Bowen. “It’s good to see him being so successful on the football field.”
“Honestly, I try to push all that away so I don’t have my mind on that,” Bowen laughed at Van Diest’s high expectations of his linebacker this fall. “I try to focus on all the same stuff I would be doing in practice like I’ve always done. I just try to stay focused on playing instead of all the other hype.”
It’s hard not to hype the early stats – 32 total tackles, including an impressive 24 unassisted, while his 10.7 tackles per game ranks No. 15 in the nation. The former all-Idaho running back and high school league MVP has already surpassed his tackle total from last fall, 31, but recognizes where personal improvements can be made.
“It definitely helps to watch more film and adjust to different teams, learn tendencies. I would like to do a better job of that,” he said. “Right now my struggle is setting my feet and carrying them that extra step that I need to on every play.”
Carroll returns to the Frontier Conference schedule on Saturday, traveling to Havre to meet MSU-Northern. The Lights (1-2 overall, 0-2 conference) are hoping to find their footing in the league under first-year coach Andrew Rolin, while a Carroll victory would keep the Saints near the top of the league standings this young season.
Bowen and Galt both expect collisions with Lights running back Jett Robertson, who leads the conference in total rushing yards (314) and is No. 3 in yards per contest (104.7).
“We’re just trying to stick to getting our checks down and everything else, get solid on what we know about our defense and just adjust to the next team, that’s all,” said Bowen.
“It’s nice going against good players, competition, we love it. He’s a big back, a big, physical back,” Galt added of Robertson. “He’s fast, too, and can do a little bit of everything. That keeps you on your toes and gives you something to work for during the week.”
“They have playmakers all over the field,” Galt continued. “Their receivers are quick, they run good routes. Their quarterback is a big, athletic guy who can throw the ball and run the ball. Like we talked about, the running back can run out of the backfield, catch out of the backfield. He can kind of do it all.”
Seems like another opportunity for Carroll’s defense to flex its muscles and put its talent on display.