GRENORA, N.D. – Record-setting quarterback Jeremiah Paine, who helped the MonDak Thunder (the Westby-Grenora co-op) to the program’s first Montana 6-Man state football championship in November, hasn’t yet put the finishing touches on his playing career.
Paine and teammate Brian Field signed to play college football at the NAIA level on Thursday. Paine signed with the football and golf programs at Dickinson State University; Field signed with the University of Jamestown football program.
“When you have a 6-Man school the size of ours and you have two kids go play NAIA football, it’s a pretty big accomplishment and it means a lot to our program. It’s a big thing,” said MonDak coach Troy Walters.
Paine, a two-time all-state performer in both football and golf, set the 6-Man record for career touchdown passes during his prolific senior season, surpassing the mark set by former Thunder QB Cooper Olson. Paine finished his career with the record 153 touchdown passes in addition to 8,057 passing yards and another 1,510 yards and six scores on the ground. Defensively, he added 14 career interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Paine’s fame came at quarterback and he’ll play defensive back in the Montana East-West Shrine Game in July, but kicker might be his best position. He converted 140 of 171 point-after attempts and recorded 129 touchbacks on 260 kickoffs. He figures to immediately compete at kicker at DSU, but he’ll get his shot at quarterback, too.
“The coaches (at DSU) talked to me, they would love to have (Paine) come in and be a kicker,” Walters said. “But to set the state record in passing, they said we must be doing something right, so they want to try him at quarterback, as well.”
“Jeremiah’s really worked at his game, worked really hard in the summer time – trying to work at his footwork, keeping his eyes up and a lot of things,” Walters added. “His development from his sophomore year to his senior year, he’s improved every year. That’s why he was such a leader of our team. His development was huge and it was huge for our program, so we’re happy at MonDak to have him go play at DSU.”
Field will be joining the Jimmies as a defensive back. The three-time all-conference player and two-time all-stater recorded 53 sacks, nine fumble recoveries and six interceptions during his career. He added 174 solo tackles and 141 assisted tackles. On offense, Field caught 182 passes for 2,870 yards and 52 yards. He also carried the ball 193 times for 1,086 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Field and Paine were part of a MonDak program that has played in the 6-Man state championship three of the past four seasons. The Thunder lost to Geraldine-Highwood in 2014 in Olson’s final game and to Hot Springs in 2016 before breaking through and winning the title in 2017, capping an undefeated season with a 68-37 win over Bridger in the championship.
“What an accomplishment for those seniors, to play for the state title three of four years,” Walters said. “A lot of kids can’t say that in their high school careers, and they got an opportunity to do that. The state title’s sunk in, but I don’t think being 13-0 has. There’s two different things. Being 13-0 and going through the playoffs and a tough regular season with the Wibauxs and Richey-Lamberts, that’s kind of what we’re reflecting on. How are we one of only four undefeated teams in the state?”
Billings Senior, Eureka and Flint Creek (the Drummond-Philipsburg co-op) also finished undefeated seasons with state titles in November. Senior and Eureka are both graduating star athletes to Division I programs. For MonDak, Field and Paine are the program’s first athletes to sign to play college football since Brady Olson, Cooper’s older brother, signed with the University of Mary in 2013.