HELENA — Just like that, the Frontier Conference football season is underway. In the first weekend, fans were treated to a pair of close contests, with Montana Western and Eastern Oregon pulling out one-possession wins over Carroll and Montana Tech.
As quickly as Week 1 came and went, Week 2 is fast approaching. Here are some top performers from the opening weekend, plus some storylines to follow in the coming weeks.
Spring in their step
One of the big questions entering this season was the advantage, if any, teams that played in the spring would have over those that had not played since the fall of 2019. Southern Oregon, Tech and Western all opted out of the 2021 spring campaign, while Carroll, College of Idaho, Northern, Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain all decided to forge ahead with the four-game schedule.
Three of Saturday’s four games pitted spring teams against fall of 2019 teams. Only Carroll could not pull off a victory of the spring clubs, while Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain moved to 1-0 on the young season.
This Saturday sees Northern play Southern Oregon, Carroll play Tech and Eastern Oregon play Western in the battle of the two factions.
Welcome to the Frontier
A trio of quarterbacks new to the conference made impacts for their teams in the season’s opening contests. Jack Rice tossed three touchdowns and went 11-for-21 for 159 yards in College of Idaho’s win over Northern. Rice, a transfer from Azusa Pacific, is a California native and also spent time at Division I Sacramento State in 2017 and ‘18.
Kaymen Cureton got the nod at starter for Northern out of fall camp and went 13-for-27 for 126 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions against College of Idaho. He also racked up 63 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Cureton, a redshirt junior, is well-traveled, having transferred from Nevada to Eastern Kentucky before landing with the Lights.
As a true freshman in 2017, Cureton tossed 123 yards and three touchdowns in a trio of games for Nevada. He moved to safety and then back under center before playing in one game at Eastern Kentucky.
According to his EKU bio, Cureton was a three-star recruit out of high school in California and is the cousin of MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
Southern Oregon’s Matt Struck did not start Saturday’s game against Rocky Mountain, but he entered with around 10 minutes to go in the first quarter and racked up 259 yards through the air, including a 94-yard completion to Sawyer Cleveland, and a touchdown.
Struck comes to Southern from Missouri State where he played in all seven spring contests. Before that, Struck started 11 games for Idaho State in 2019, amassing over 2,300 passing yards and 20 touchdowns.
Is Rocky Mountain back?
Since finishing atop the Frontier in 2018 with seven conference wins (eight overall), the Battlin’ Bears have won a combined four league games (five overall). Rocky Mountain’s 1-3 record in the spring kept the program firmly out of the playoffs, but already a week into the fall, the Battlin’ Bears have matched that win total.
It came in the form of a convincing 42-28 win over Southern Oregon, one in which quarterback Nate Dick tossed three touchdowns and the team racked up 367 yards of total offense.
Three Rocky Mountain ball-carriers amassed at least nine attempts, with Dawson Schick leading the way with 82 yards and a touchdown. Nolan McCafferty paced the Battlin’ Bears with 10 tackles and the defense sacked Southern’s quarterback four times.
Rocky Mountain is scheduled to face College of Idaho on Saturday.
Conference Players of the Week
Offense: Running back Nick Calzaretta, College of Idaho
Defense: Linebacker Dylan Martinez, College of Idaho*
Special Teams: Kicker Zachary Cahill, Eastern Oregon*
*Martinez and Cahill also earned NAIA National Player of the Week honors for their performances.
Week 1 top performers
Southern Oregon quarterback Matt Struck: 14-for-30 passing, 259 yards, 1 TD
Carroll quarterback Devan Bridgewater: 23-for-40 passing, 246 yards, 1 TD
Rocky Mountain quarterback Nate Dick: 19-for-30 passing, 190 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Southern Oregon wide receiver Sawyer Cleveland: 3 receptions, 137 yards, 1 TD
Western running back Reese Neville: 236 all-purpose yards (167 rushing, 50 receiving, 19 kickoff return)
College of Idaho running back Nick Calzaretta: 208 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Eastern Oregon running back Jordan Eggers: 148 rushing yards, 2 TDs
Montana Tech running back Blake Counts: 98 rushing yards, 1 TD
College of Idaho linebacker Dylan Martinez: 16 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, NAIA defensive player of the week
Montana State Northern linebacker Dylan Wampler: 12 tackles, 0.5 TFL
Montana Tech linebacker Spencer Schock: 12 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Rocky Mountain linebacker Nolan McCafferty: 10 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL
Eastern Oregon linebacker Zak Donato: 10 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT
Southern Oregon defensive back Stokes Botelho: 10 tackles, 1 INT
Carroll defensive back Zach Spiroff: 10 tackles
Carroll linebacker Rex Irby: 6 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 INT
Eastern Oregon kicker Zachary Cahill: 4-for-4 FG, 2/2 XPT, 14 total points, NAIA special teams player of the week
Montana Tech kick returner Mark Estes: 4 returns, 138 yards, 1 TD
Montana State Northern punter Brenden Medina: 7 punts, 236 yards, 33.7 average, long 51, 3 punts inside 20-yard line
Week 2 predictions
Southern Oregon vs. Montana State-Northern -- Raiders 34, Lights 10
Carroll vs. Montana Tech - Saints 28, Orediggers 24
College of Idaho vs. Rocky Mountain College - Yotes 28, Battlin’ Bears 14
Eastern Oregon vs. Montana Western - Bulldogs 24, Mountaineers 21