DILLON -- The Montana Western football team redefined the term “balanced attack” in its Frontier Conference showdown with Southern Oregon on Saturday afternoon at Vigilante Stadium.
The Bulldogs scored on two rushing touchdowns, a pair of touchdown receptions, and added two interceptions which were returned for touchdowns in their 43-24 win over the Raiders.
The win could have served as payback for Bulldogs, who lost in a close game to the Raiders earlier this season, but head coach Ryan Nourse said it was about more than that after watching his team improve to 4-4 on the season.
“We worked hard this week and we were really disappointed in our performance against Eastern Oregon (last Saturday),” Nourse said. “We didn’t play like champions in that game. The guys worked their tails off this week and I was really proud of their performance.”
Southern Oregon took the early lead with a field goal in the first quarter but the Bulldogs responded with a 27-point straight second-quarter points to build a hefty lead.
Quarterback J.D. Ferris got the Bulldogs on the board when he bulled his way into the end zone from 1 yard out. A pair of touchdowns within a span of 20 seconds later in the quarter gave Western some breathing room.
Ferris threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Beau Brekke to give the Bulldogs a 14-3 lead but that lead got even bigger when Jason Ferris intercepted a Jack Singler pass on the Raiders’ next offensive play and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.
The Bulldog defense forced the Raiders into a three-and-out and Devyn Christain put the Western offense into prime territory with a punt return to the Southern Oregon 26. The Bulldogs took advantage of that when J.D. Ferris hit Tyler Murray with a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:29 to play in the first half.
“This league is too good,” Nourse said. “When you get a chance to score, and you’ve got someone reeling, you’ve got to put those chances together and you’ve got to capitalize. We did it on both sides of the ball.
“I thought Devyn Christian had a great game returning the ball. All of the other balls that he caught, we worked on that a ton and he did a great job on that.”
Southern Oregon is a team that advanced to the NAIA championships in each of the past two seasons, partly because it believes that no deficit is too big. Despite struggling this season, the Raiders have pulled out late-game victories more than once.
The Raiders used the final minute-and-a-half in the second quarter to remind the Bulldogs of that by driving 69 yards to score a touchdown with 19.9 seconds left to play in the half.
The Bulldogs, who were on the wrong end of a late rally when they lost to the Raiders earlier this season, didn’t need the reminder.
“They were only down two scores, maybe three, but they’re a big team,” said running back Hunter Thomsen, who ran for 89 yards on 18 carries. “They’ve got a lot of playmakers who can make big plays and they can come back quick. We had that in the back of our minds the whole way. Even when the clock struck zero, we still had that in the back of our minds.”
Southern Oregon’s trademark second-half rally never came.
Carroll College 49, MSU-Northern 14
Tanner Gustavsen passed for four first-half touchdowns, and Carroll extended Northern's woes this season in Helena.
Gustavsen sandwiched a pair of TD passes to Troy Arnston around a pair to Connor Fohn to give teh Saints (4-4) a 35-0 halftime lead.
Gustavsen finished 17 of 22 for 243 yards, while Arnston and Fohn had 106 and 60 yards receiving, respectively.
Zach McKinley ran for 119 yards for the Lights (1-7).
Eastern Oregon 48, College of Idaho 14
At Caldwell, Idaho, Calvin Connors returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and Kalliy Ceesay returned an interception 83 yards for a score, as No. 11 Eastern Oregon rolled to a victory over the College of Idaho before 4,685 fans at Simplot Stadium.
Connors' return in the first quarter broke a 7-7 tie, as the Mountaineers (6-2, 6-2 Frontier) rattled off 27 straight points to take a 34-7 lead. After the Yotes (3-6, 2-6) pulled within 34-14 on a Darius-James Peterson touchdown run and a defensive stop, Ceesay stepped in front of a third down pass in the C of I red zone and went the distance to put the game out of reach.
EOU won despite being outgained by C of I, 430-395, with quarterback Zach Bartlow going 17-of-29 for 269 yards -- including a 75-yard touchdown pass to Josh Richards on the Mountaineers' first drive. Richards had six receptions for 174 yards in the win.
Peterson tied a school record with 30 carries in the loss, logging his second straight 100-yard rushing game by tallying 124 yards and two scores. Marcus Lenhardt caught five passes for 83 yards, surpassing R.C. Owens’ single-season school record (48) and pushing his 2016 total to 51 grabs.
Montana Tech 62, Rocky Mountain 10
Early in the fourth quarter while holding a healthy lead, players from Montana Tech’s football team bounced around on the sideline and sang along with “Sweet Caroline.”
There were no worries at all Saturday afternoon for the Orediggers, who scored early and often and rolled to a 62-10 win over Rocky Mountain College in a Frontier Conference matchup at Herb Klindt Field.
“Every time we come into a game, I try to tell everyone to have fun,” Tech senior running back Nolan Saraceni said. “Some of the guys are tense with our (ranking) and we have a target on our backs, but I’m always yelling, ‘Have fun! Have fun!’ We definitely had fun out here.”
It was perhaps most fun for Saraceni, who returned to his hometown and put on a show. The Billings Senior product rushed for 197 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries.
Saraceni, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior, had touchdown runs of 1, 67 and 95 yards to help the seventh-ranked Orediggers win their seventh consecutive game.
“We knew this was a special game for Nolan. It was his last opportunity to play in his hometown,” Tech coach Chuck Morrell said. “I think our guys rallied around him all week. They wanted to make it a special day. It was fun watching him go off.”
The entire offense went off, rolling up 610 yards. Junior quarterback Quinn McQueary, who is from Manhattan, threw for 278 yards and five touchdowns. Mitchell Keeton caught five passes for 107 yards and three scores, and Kolby Kansala caught two TDs.