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Montana Tech's Brock Polley, left, and Zach Morris put the clamps on Eastern Oregon receiver Calvin Connors during the Orediggers' win nearly two weeks ago. The Orediggers hope to do the same at Montana Western on Saturday.

Al Balderas, 406mtsports.com

BUTTE – Saturday brings another rivalry game for the NAIA's No. 5-ranked team as Montana Tech heads to Dillon for a heated contest with Montana Western.

While the most hyped rivalry game of the year for Tech is against Carroll College, ‘Digger head coach Chuck Morrell knows exactly what to expect when the team pulls off Interstate 15. It’s tough, physical football and a defense that likes to hit.

"I think some of the most intense games we’ve had over the past couple seasons have certainly been when Tech and Western get together,” Morrell said. “I think it’s as big of a rivalry game as we play all year.”

Western is coming off a 61-7 stomping of MSU-Northern while Tech dismantled Eastern Oregon 64-14. It was the bye week for both teams last weekend and they come into the game well rested.

The Bobcats win in Havre was just their second this year. It came after back-to-back Frontier Conference losses to Eastern and Southern Oregon. Tech, meanwhile, has yet to drop a contest this year and only one game – with Rocky – has even been close.

Despite the mostly dominate performances from the ‘Diggers this year, they certainly aren’t overlooking this game.

“They’re always getting to the ball, they always have players that fly around the field,” senior Tech quarterback Quinn McQueary said. “We’re preparing for them and just taking these last couple days to touch up some things.”

Can Rocky recover over its bye week?

In an absolute heartbreaker for Rocky Mountain College, the Battlin’ Bears fell 24-23 to No. 8 Southern Oregon in Ashland, Ore.

Late in the game, Rocky scored a touchdown and opted to go for the win with a two-point conversion attempt. Battlin’ Bears quarterback Drew Korf overthrew wide-open tight end Darneail Jenkins on the attempt and the Raiders were able to run out the clock.

“I was right over here on the other side and I saw it,” SOU free safety Keegan Lawrence said to the Mail Tribune. “We got a little bit lucky on that, but hey, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

The loss puts Rocky at 3-3 on the season heading into the bye week. Southern Oregon remains undefeated at 5-0.

It’s been a rough year in some aspects for Rocky. After starting the season with an ugly loss to Dickenson State, the Battlin’ Bears have fought – hard – in its other Frontier Conference games. Despite the record, Rocky looks like the third-best team in the conference and the losses to Montana Tech and Southern came by a combined seven points.

Talk about some serious disappointment.

For the Raiders, however, it allows them to continue what’s been a tremendous year. Southern moved up a spot in this week’s poll to eighth, which is where they peaked last season.

Southern Oregon also has this week off and will play Eastern in a rivalry game on Oct. 14.

“We went 1-0 this week and on Monday we’re going to put this game behind us and we’re going to look forward to Eastern Oregon,” Lawrence said to the Mail Tribune. “After our bye week we’re looking at Eastern Oregon and that’s it. Obviously Montana Tech might be in the back of the head, but we’re fully focused on Eastern.”

MSU-Northern wins first game of the season

The Lights still have yet to win a Frontier Conference game, but was able to pick up its first victory of the year as they topped Mayville State University 43-29 on Sept. 30.

Northern racked up 376 yards rushing, led by Trey Blanchard’s 179 on 28 carries. Blanchard was named Frontier Conference offensive player of the week for his efforts.

There was some good things going on the Northern defense too, as it held the Comets to negative-two yards rushing. That broke the least amount of rushing yards allowed in a game, which had previously been seven, set in 2000.

Northern’s win was its first since beating Carroll College on Sept. 17, 2016.

Frontier Conference weekly awards

Southern Oregon’s Keegan Lawrence was named football’s defensive player of the week. He registered 10 solo tackles in the win over Rocky as well as picking off his second pass of the season.

Raider’s kicker Marcus Montano was named special teams player of the week. He was 3 of 3 on his PAT’s and also booted a 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

Rocky lead the way in the volleyball awards, as Battlin’ Bears libero Holland Ferguson took Defender of the Week honors while teammate Natalie Hilderman grabbed Setter of the Week. Providence’s Mariah Diaz was awarded Attacker of the week after averaging 3.25 kills per set with an attack percentage of .579.

Lewis-Clark junior Hunter Weitze was named Frontier Conference Golfer of the week after winning the Carroll College Invitational. Gina Kowalchuk from the University of Providence took the women’s honor after winning the same event. Her opening round of 66 set a new conference mark.

Kowalchuk has won five of the last seven Frontier Conference events.

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