BOZEMAN -- There’s a Cinderella story brewing in a 64-team tournament. It’s not March Madness, and the games won’t be broadcast on TV, but that doesn’t make the run any less remarkable.
The game is Call of Duty: Warzone. The setting is the #CollegeGamingChampionship presented by Barstool Sports.
And the team is a ragtag group of misfits unofficially representing Montana State. The players are all graduates of Great Falls CMR and full-time college students at Montana State: Trevor Funseth, Brayden Ginnaty and Kyler Lawhorn are on the controls, while Xavier Pace acts as their manager and hype man.
“First off, Montana State wasn't even supposed to be one of the 64 schools, but then a spot opened up and they let us in,” Funseth said. “But we were kind of a throwaway team. And we remember the first week, one of the announcers on the main stream saying that we're like an irrelevant team that's going to be gone by next week, and that certainly fueled us.”
After dispatching No. 3-seed North Carolina in the Round of 16 and No. 10-seed Arizona in the Round of Eight, Montana State -- which came in as a No. 14 seed -- is in the “Fatal Four” along with Notre Dame, Grand Canyon and Seton Hall.
But it’s not just talent that’s driving the miracle run. It’s entertainment value. Funseth acts as team captain and has earned the nickname “The Mop” for his unique hairstyle and attitude. Along with Pace, who acts as a butler named “Charles” during the live stream, the Bobcats have taken the gaming world by storm.
Funseth is the mouthpiece of the team, and videos featuring “The Mop” have gone viral.
“I’ve had people send me memes with my face on them,” he said. “It’s unreal.”
He also brings a healthy dose of trash talk to the tournament, regularly cutting professional wrestling style promo videos calling out his team’s next opponent.
“There's something to it that I just verbally abuse these teams,” Funseth said. “And every time we've played somebody they've played very poorly and we've won.”
Fans of the tournament have dubbed the Bobcats as ‘America’s Team’.
“As of this week, actually, we got fans in Canada,” Funseth laughed. “So we've expanded, we're now North America's team, not just America's team. The whole continent.”
Their opponent in the semifinals is Seton Hall. And the mental warfare has already started.
“I think Seton Hall is going to Seton Fall,” Pace said before both he and Funseth broke out in laughter.
As entertaining as they are, they are also serious gamers.
“A lot of these schools we’re playing with have like actual esports teams, like recognized by the school. Some of them are on scholarships to play video games there,” Funseth said. “And we're just some guys that signed up for this completely out of our element, but we've been hanging in there.”
They’ve shocked the world so far, so why not aim as high as they can? In addition to pride and bragging rights, the winner of the tournament receives a custom championship belt.
“I want that belt. For the third week in a row, we are an extreme underdog. But I hope as the favored team, (Seton Hall) has learned their lesson watching us these last two weeks,” Funseth said. “If you'd like to root for the underdog, the blue-collar workers, the backbone of this country, Montana's the team for you.”
Montana State will compete in the “Fatal Four” against Seton Hall on Dec. 9 from 5-8 p.m. at http://Twitch.Tv/Barstoolsports.