BILLINGS — The North roster for Saturday’s Class B Big Sky All-Star Football Game listed quarterback Ryder Meyer as 5-foot-9, 185 pounds.
But don’t pay attention to those numbers, instructed North coach Pat Duchien of Florence. Pay attention to these numbers: 200 yards passing, 177 yards rushing and four combined touchdowns.
Meyer’s patience, poise and production helped the North outpace the South 41-34 in the annual game held at rain-soaked Herb Klindt Field, and the former Fairfield quarterback was named his team’s offensive MVP.
Even amongst a group of fellow all-stars, Meyer stood out. Duchien called him “special.”
“His abilities make up for any kind of lack of size that anybody says that he has. Everybody could see it today,” Duchien said. “The sheer will that that kid has is just absolutely off the charts. The Griz are going to be very lucky to have that kid.”
Meyer committed to the Griz more than a year ago, the first player to do so among Montana's 2019 recruiting class. His first pass of the game, and the North’s first play from scrimmage, was perfectly dropped into the hands of Missoula Loyola’s Cooper Waters for a 77-yard score.
Meyer also scored on a 45-yard run and threw two more scoring strikes to Bridger Russell of Conrad (15 yards) and Greydon Nicholson of Deer Lodge (10 yards).
Despite all that, Meyer, who missed two practices during the week due to injuries, took no credit.
“All credit goes to the offensive line,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of how they played, giving me time to throw the ball. And I just had dudes on the outside I could get the ball to. They make my life easy. I couldn’t have gotten offensive MVP without the guys on the outside or the offensive line.”
Townsend receiver Kameron Rauser caught two touchdown passes and had 131 receiving yards to be the South’s offensive MVP. Other award winners: Spencer Jones of Florence was the North defensive MVP, and Colstrip’s Cody Blaede was named defensive MVP for the South.
“This is the elite of Montana athletes and it is definitely difficult,” said Blaede, who also kicked two extra points, about being on the defensive side of the ball. “Everyone is good at what they do.”
In a post-game scene that played out many times on the field, Jones posed for one final photo with his Florence teammates and coaches. Jones, a Rocky Mountain College recruit, still has the Shrine Game to play next month, but was glad he got to suit up one more time for Duchien, his high school coach.
“This was awesome, just one last little hoorah,” said the soft-spoken Jones. “You didn’t think you were going to have another time, this is your shot to have it. It's definitely going to be weird at the Shrine Game having (Duchien) sitting in the stands.”
Tyson Racht of Townsend threw two touchdown passes for the South — one to Colstrip’s Jackson Currier and another to Rauser — and he also rushed for a score. Colter Miller of Three Forks threw the other TD strike to Rauser and Big Timber’s Orry Carroccia rushed for the South’s final score with 2:24 to play.
It was too little, too late, however, as the North, which never trailed and received short touchdown runs from Andres Lopez of Malta and Gabe Bennett of Florence, ran out the clock.
The North's Austin Ogilvie of Loyola had an end zone interception on the South's game-opening drive, and he converted three PATs. Meyers' Fairfield teammate, Derek Simmons, scooped up a fumble recovery on a bad exchange when the South had driven to the North's 33-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter to help preserve a 34-26 lead.
Cut Bank’s Gus Meiwald and Whitehall’s Sawyer Keener were awarded $500 scholarships after the game.
With the win, the North broke a series tie and holds a 16-15 advantage over the South.
“I got to meet new people, make a lot of new friends, got to bond with a whole new team,” Blaede said, likely speaking for all the players. “It was just a great experience to learn how to play with other people. Yeah, you just learn to have trust. When you don’t have trust you try to carry it on your back and it doesn’t work.”