HELENA — The Carroll College Fighting Saints (1-1) needed just over eight minutes in the first quarter to secure the game's first 14 points over the Montana Tech Orediggers (0-2) on Saturday and with that secured the 31-17 victory.
"I just thought our guys played well, you know, they rose to the occasion," said Carroll College head coach Troy Purcell. "Two great football teams, two teams that came off very close losses last week, you knew it was going to be a dogfight, you know what I mean? But there's nothing better than Nelson Stadium, you know, playing Tech on a beautiful Saturday, and finding a way to win."
In the Oredigger's first possession of the game, the Fighting Saints punt return unit was able to capitalize on a blown snap to the Oredigger's punter giving the Fighting Saints the ball on the Montana Tech 1-yard-line to open their first drive. Just one play later, Carroll College used defensive lineman Michael Maafu to pound the ball into the endzone to take the early lead.
"That turnover early hurt us, gave them a short field on the one-yard line. And then, you know, we didn't score in the first half and finally got to get some rhythm going in the second half, but just took us a while to get going. We got to get that corrected," said Montana Tech head coach Kyle Samson.
While the Fighting Saints offense was able to find some early success, their defense was just as good throughout the game with Zach Spiroff forcing a fumble, T.J. Abraham recording an interception, and six different players recording tackles for loss.
With Matthew Burgess sidelined on Saturday, the Fighting Saints offense turned to Duncan Kraft to fill his shoes and Kraft was able to do it seamlessly. The redshirt freshman running back was handed the ball 29 times and was able to record 148 yards and three scores, while Baxter Tuggle was able to fill in the gaps recording 35 yards on seven carries.
"He's a very, very good runner. You know, plays over his pads," said Purcell. "Play your best when your best is needed, and big players play in big games. You know, we lost Burgess and it was a sad day, we lost him and these other guys need to respond, and it was proven today by Duncan and Tuggle."
Following the game, Kraft said it was the first time he'd scored three touchdowns since his days as a Billings Central Ram, but his success was certainly thanks to the offensive line.
"I gotta give most of the credit to the [offensive] line, they made my job really easy. Blessed with five guys out front who can block really well and some tight ends who can lead block from me too. Got to give the credit to them, for sure."
Though Carroll led 17-0 at the half, Montana Tech had no intentions of giving in quite that easy as the Orediggers were able to bring the game to 24-17 in favor of Carroll with touchdown passes from Jet Campbell to Kyle Torgerson and Trevor Hoffman to get the game within one score midway through the fourth quarter.
With the Fighting Saints driving late in the game, the Orediggers found themselves on the wrong end of a costly penalty that gave Carroll a first down inside the Tech 20-yard line and cleared the way for Kraft's third score of the game.
With under two minutes to go, the Orediggers were still full speed ahead looking to bring the game back to within a score, but on the first play of their final drive, Carroll's T.J. Abraham snatched a Campbell pass from the air, effectively ending the game.
With the win, Carroll moves to 1-1, Tech falls to 0-2 with the loss. Both teams will get a reprieve next weekend as the Frontier Conference observes Sept. 11 but will be back on the field on Sept. 18 when Carroll College hosts Eastern Oregon, and Montana Tech heads to Billings to take on Rocky Mountain College.