No. 17 Orediggers fall to No.16 Blue Hawks in postseason

Nov. 19—BUTTE — Montana Tech's season came to an end after a back and forth affair that saw Dickinson State (N.D.) come out on top 35-28 at Alumni Coliseum. Braden Zuroff rushed for 227 yards on 30 carries and three scores including the deciding touchdown with 8:35 to go in the fourth to put the Blue Hawks in the lead for good in this NAIA first round playoff matchup.

The Orediggers struck first early on with a Landers Smith touchdown run with 12:51 to play in the first quarter. The Blue Hawks struck back five minutes later with Zuroff finding the end zone for his first score of the day to even the score at 7-7.

Tech went up 14-7 after quarterback Blake Thelen connected with Mark Estes for a 73-yard scoring strike midway through the first. That lead held up until early in the second quarter when Will Madler found Noah Strickler for a 51-yard touchdown pass to knot it up at 14-14.

The Blue Hawks kept things rolling and scored again with Zuroff finding paydirt from two yards out at the 10:35 mark in the second to take their first lead of the game at 21-14.

Orediggers wideout Wyatt Alexander hauled in a Thelen touchdown pass with :30 seconds to play in the half to tie it up once again at 21-21.

Things slowed down in the second half and the teams exchange stops until the 3:05 mark in the third quarter when Madler hit Cameron Sheppard for a 46-yard score to take a 28-21 lead. The Orediggers struck back once again this time with Smith rushing for his second touchdown of the day with 12:40 left in regulation to even the score once again. From there Zuroff scored his deciding touchdown and the Blue Hawks defense forced a Thelen interception with 4:38 to play to put things away.

The game featured eight lead changes and over 900 yards of total offense with the Blue Hawks out gaining the Orediggers 472 to 443. Madler finished 9 of 17 passing for 244 yards and two scores with no interceptions. Tech's Thelen had 359 yards on 22 of 36 passing with two scores and three interceptions. Smith tallied 75 yards rushing yards on 22 carries to lead the Orediggers rushing attack.

The Orediggers ended their season at 7-4 overall while the Blue Hawks moved to 10-1 overall.

Montana Western and College of Idaho are the other two Frontier conference schools who made the postseason and both had first round byes.