Orediggers took the long road to redemption


Tech fights in southern Oregon in Ashland on Saturday

By Bill Foley

It has been an excruciatingly long two weeks for the Montana Tech football team.

The Orediggers snatched a defeat from the clutches of victory when a fumble turned into a College of Idaho touchdown in late Oct. 9 at Bob Green. It turned a certain win into a heartbreaking 28-23 loss.

Never before has a technical team been so happy to get on a bus for a 14 hour journey. That’s what Tech did on Thursday. On Saturday, the Orediggers face southern Oregon in a 2 p.m. MTB battle at Raider Stadium. (Radio: KBOW, 550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app.)

“In my 15 years of training, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a game this way,” said technical coach Kyle Samson, who has undergone surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon less 48 hours after the defeat. “The way it ended was difficult. We played really really well for 55 minutes.

Even with the time lost on the operation, the coach said the Orediggers put their time to good use as they prepare for the Raiders.

“Having the week off was good and bad,” Samson said. “It helped us get some guys back to good health. But we had a bad taste in our mouths.

The Orediggers are expected to recover some of the many injured players they have been deprived of. The coach has not confirmed which players may return, however.

Tech will need to be at least near full power as he’s making his longest trip of the season.

At 3-3, the Raiders are one game away from second in the Frontier Conference. The Orediggers are 2-4 with their two road wins.

Rain is forecast for Ashland, which is nestled in the southwest corner of Oregon.

Southern Oregon has had its ups and downs. Its three losses were unbalanced, including a 38-7 loss to Montana Western two weeks ago, two of their wins were blowouts.

The Raiders are 2-0 at home.

“They played really well at home,” said Samson. “They are like anyone in this league. They can beat anyone. I think we can too.

While the teams haven’t met since November 2, 2019, the Orediggers have a three-game winning streak against the Raiders. This includes a sweep in 2019.

Overall, the Orediggers have an 8-7 advantage in series history.

The Raiders, of course, are solid at quarterback. Matt Struck took over in Game 2 of the season. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,429 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games.

Bryce Goggin, a 6-3 sophomore, leads the receiving corps in depth. He has 33 catches for 507 yards and four touchdowns.

Junior Avery McCuaig and senior Hykeem Massey threaten the Raiders in the racing game.

“This quarterback is a very good player,” said Samson. “They have some very fast running backs.”

The Raider defense is led by Jerome Souers, who was the head coach of Northern Arizona for 21 years. Prior to joining NAU, Souers coached at the University of Montana for 12 years. He was the defensive coordinator of the national champion Grizzly team in 1995.

Souers’ defense has racked up 19 sacks this season. Alejandro Sanchez, a 6-1, 265-pound junior leads the way with seven and a half sacks. Tua Loalagi, a 6-2, 210-pound senior, is four and a half.

“Their defensive line is really good,” Samson said. “Their front four is very physical and very aggressive. They come out of the ball very hard.

Jet Campbell started every game for the Orediggers. He completed 52% of his passes for 1,295 yards and 11 scores.

Butte High graduate Kiley Caprara leads the team with 25 receptions. He’s 325 yards this season and is still looking for his first touchdown of the season. Trevor Hoffman, who was slowed down by an injury, has 21 catches for a record 333 tagging yards.

Landers Smith, Mark Estes, Kyle Torgerson and Logan Kennedy are also weapons for Campbell.

Blake Counts, Tyler Folkes and Kaleb Winterburn were strong in the racing game behind linemen Hunter Spartz, Carson Shuman, Max Anderson, Trey Copeland, Jack Hiller and Tristan Stauffer.

Blake Allred and Cole Wyant led the Orediggers in tackles last time around. Both players make eight tackles. Teddy Croft came in on an eight, while Naoki Harmer, whose 6 pick seemed to be the game of the match, got the six.

Keyshawn James-Newby recorded a sack. He and Logan Kolodejchuk both added a tackle for a loss.

Jordan Washington has two interceptions this season. Croft, Angel Sanchez III and Spencer Schock and Harmer have one. Harmer leads the team with 10 missed passes.

Samson has said the Orediggers are ready to play.

“The guys have been good,” he said. “We’ve had five or six practices since the week off. I feel confident. We just have to execute.

The Orediggers are back home next Saturday to face Rocky Mountain College. After a trip to Montana Western on November 6, Tech will close the season at home on November 13 against MSU-Northern.

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