HELENA — The Carroll College football team entered practice just like any other week.
But this week, Saints coach Mike Van Diest could tell something was different.
Carroll was coming off its largest win of the season after a 56-7 thumping of Montana State-Northern on Saturday, and the smiles on the players faces as they arrived to the practice field behind the P.E. Center told the story.
“It just shows that hard work pays off,” Van Diest said. “In all honesty, these kids have come out every Monday putting their best effort forward, even after they were disappointed with a loss.”
Hometown sophomore running back Ryan Arntson’s smile stood out from the others in the pride.
He walked out of Nelson Stadium this past weekend rushing for 267 yards, 11 shy of the school record set by Tyler Gleason in 1980.
“I’m still processing it a bit,” Arntson said. “I definitely didn’t expect a game like that. It was something special.”
Arntson started for junior Major Ali, who was suspended one game for violating athletic department policy, and Arnston certainly made the best of it.
Now, with both running backs preparing for this week for Montana Tech, the coaching staff has a decision if they want to feature two backs. Over the first eight weeks, Ali has received nearly half of the team’s carries and rushed for 622 yards.
“It’s a decision we have to talk about,” Van Diest said. “Ryan had more opportunities this week, but Major is an all-conference running back, so it is hard to take the ball out of his hands. Maybe we do have to balance it up more between the two of them.”
Prior to Saturday, both have appeared in every game this season and Arntson has seen a chemistry running along side Ali all year.
“This is the only team I have had another running back in the backfield with me,” Arntson said. “He is one of the better backs in the conference, for sure, and we just complement each other.”
But while the Saints are relishing the win, the Orediggers also coming off some momentum of their own.
Tech ended up knocking off Southern Oregon, who at one time was ranked No. 4 in the nation, to snap a three-game losing streak.
Another parallel between the two teams is change in quarterback.
After injury to its redshirt freshman quarterback Tanner Kump, Jet Campbell moved from wide receiver to take over. During the last four games, he has completed 58 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns with just one interception.
Carroll's defense will also have its hands full with the Frontier Conference’s reading rusher, junior Jed Fike.
This season Fike has more than 1,000 yards rushing and six touchdowns.
“This team just reloads, they don’t rebuild,” Van Diest said. “It’s a great rivalry and it’s coming down to the end of the season, so everyone wants to be their best right now.”