MISSOULA — Loyola Sacred Heart senior running back Ryan Tirrell had to abstain from playing offense last week because of a leg injury he suffered the previous game.
The Montana Griz football commit made up for that absence, rushing for 216 yards and five touchdowns Friday as the No. 8 Rams upset No. 5 Eureka, 56-12, on homecoming at Rollin Field.
“I have to seriously give it up to our offensive linemen,” Tirrell said on the field afterward. “I don’t think they missed a block all night. That’s the best I’ve seen them play by far. It was extremely fun to run behind them. I’d just call it a fun night.”
Tirrell scored all five of his touchdowns and rushed for 147 yards in the first half. The Rams led 35-6 after one quarter and scored 42 unanswered points to take a 49-6 lead into the intermission. During that break, he was named the homecoming king.
Tirrell felt he could have played through the injury last week, but the coaches limited him to defense in a potential blowout of Deer Lodge. With the two-time defending state champions coming to town, the Rams went to their stud.
“He’s been chomping at the bit to get back out here,” Loyola head coach Todd Hughes said. “We just had to let him go. He’s that once-in-a-generation type of athlete. He’s real special.”
For all the praise Tirrell and Hughes lauded on the Rams’ offensive line, Eureka head coach Trevor Utter wasn’t pleased with the way his defensive front was manhandled.
“Ryan is a tough runner, but shoot, he had lanes all day,” Utter said. “Our defensive line didn’t stuff enough holes to give us a chance to stop him. That’s very frustrating.”
The Rams' defense intercepted two passes, recovered two fumbles and forced a turnover on downs. Their special teams blocked a punt, and Tirrell blocked an extra point. Those stops led to 35 points and helped the Rams score on their first eight possessions.
Loyola remained in sole possession of second place in the Western B with the victory. The Rams (4-1, 2-0) trail Bigfork (5-0, 4-0), which beat Thompson Falls on Friday.
“We challenged them the last two weeks to keep growing and put 48 minutes together,” Hughes said. “We, as coaches, already have that expectation to be great. They just don’t believe it. Now I think they do. They put a great win together tonight.”
Eureka, which had its 23-game win streak snapped last week, lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2015 season. The Lions (3-2, 1-2) are now in fifth place with three games remaining.
In the last six quarters, Eureka has been outscored 90-12. Friday, quarterback Hank Dunn was 8 of 21 for 67 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and one fumble lost. He spent much of the night trying to avoid defenders in the backfield.
“It was a terrible performance all the way around,” Utter said. “We didn’t do much right, but that’s been the last three halves of football. I don’t know if it’s a passion thing, a lack of heart or a lack of just physical tools. We have to go to the film and see.”
The Rams scored on their first offensive snap as Nick Mitzel and Bryce Danielson connected for a 60-yard score. Mitzel finished 3 of 3 for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
Eureka responded with a fourth-down score when Dunn found Jake Kindel for a 20-yard touchdown to trim the deficit to 7-6.
Tirrell scored his first touchdown on the next drive, running untouched up the middle for a 50-yard score.
Loyola then forced four turnovers and blocked a punt on Eureka’s next five drives. Bryce Danielson’s interception led to a Tirrell 6-yard rushing touchdown.
Jeffrey Twite’s fumble recovery led to a 3-yard score from Tirrell. Another fumble recovery resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Mitzel to Cooper Waters to put Loyola up 35-6.
Bridger Danielson blocked a Eureka punt, leading to a Tirrell 2-yard rushing score. Tommy Albrecht picked off Dunn on fourth down, and Tirrell turned it into a 20-yard rushing touchdown go up 49-6.
“Our defense was great,” Hughes said. “We were swarming to the ball. We were extremely physical.”
Twite scored on a 12-yard run to open the second half.
Eureka closed the scoring in the final minute as Dunn connected with Austin Callender for a 12-yard score.