BILLINGS — The Rocky Mountain College football team erased a 21-7 halftime deficit and beat Montana State-Northern 24-21 Saturday afternoon at Tilleman Family Field in Havre.
Riley Garrett’s 40-yard field goal with 9:33 left was the difference in the Battlin’ Bears first and only win of the spring season. They finished 1-3 overall and in Frontier Conference play, while Northern fell to 0-3.
“1-0 going into the offseason. Proud of our guys,” Rocky coach Chris Stutzriem told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com over the phone. “We stayed the course.”
Rocky scored first on a seven-yard pass from Drew Korf to Billings Senior graduate Carter Garsjo with 11:19 left in the first quarter. The Bears quickly got the ball back on an interception and had a good chance to go up by two TDs. But Lucas Overton, playing for the first time since a first-play injury in the season opener against Carroll, dropped an open pass in the end zone, and Garrett missed a 40-yard field goal attempt.
The Lights tied it up a few minutes later, and they outscored Rocky 14-0 in the second quarter. One TD scored off a turnover, and the other came after a turnover on downs.
Rocky’s defense clamped down in the second half, and the offense improved. Victor Ngalamulume rushed for a two-yard score with 4:24 left in the third quarter, and Korf tied it up with a 14-yard run at the 14:01 mark of the fourth.
“Offensively, we got in a rhythm,” Stutzriem said. “Defensively, we were able to stop the run.”
Northern went three-and-out on its final three drives of the game. The Lights were lined up to go for it on fourth down and 2 with under four minutes left, but a false start led them to punt, and they didn’t get the ball back.
“We made some mistakes in critical moments,” said Northern coach Andrew Rolin. “We’ve got to be able to move the ball in the second half.”
Korf completed 25 of 37 passes (67.6%) for 188 yards, two interceptions and two total TDs, and he rushed for 29 yards on six carries (4.8 per attempt). Trae Henry caught seven passes for 52 yards.
Northern’s Izayah Boss rushed 23 times for 129 yards (5.6 ypc) and two TDs, including a 68-yarder. Oakley Kopp completed 4 of 12 passes (33.3%) for 57 yards, a TD and an INT, and he rushed 80 yards on nine carries (8.9 ypc).
“Defense played great the whole game,” Rolin said. “We’ve just got to grow up as a team, and we’ve got to finish.”
The game was Northern’s first on Tilleman Family Field, a privately funded stadium named after the late Mike Tilleman and his family. Tilleman played at the University of Montana and in the NFL.
“It was special. It’s our home. I’d like a different result, obviously,” Rolin said. “We had a lot of people there, sitting outside the fence, which shows the support we have here in Havre.”
The Lights will play there again next Saturday at noon against Eastern Oregon to conclude the season.
Despite the losing record, Stutzriem is pleased with how his team played this season. Each of Rocky’s three losses were by one score — 14-12 to Carroll, 10-3 to No. 5 College of Idaho and 36-33 to Eastern Oregon.
“We got better this spring,” Stutzriem said. “Guys are playing hard.”
Stutzriem gave words of appreciation to the eight Battlin' Bears who played their last game with the program on Saturday.
“Just really appreciate the players and coaches for really battling this year,” Stutzriem said. “This year wasn’t easy on anyone.”