Rocky Mountain tops Blue Hawks: Bears capitalize on Dickinson State’s costly turnovers, win 5th straight meeting
Slow starts are a kiss of death in football.
The No. 9-ranked Bears spoiled Dickinson State’s season opener with a 40-21 win on Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center.
“We did a lot of stuff right, but there’s stuff we got to get better at,” DSU senior Sam Herauf said. “I mean, when it comes down to it, you’re always mad when you don’t shut them out. That’s how we feel.”
With the win, Rocky improved to 5-0 against the Blue Hawks in the last five meetings. In the previous two seasons, the Bears and DSU lined up as Frontier Conference opponents. With the start of the 2014 season, the Blue Hawks are competing in the North Star Athletic Association.
Rocky scored on its first four possessions to put DSU into a 23-0 deficit. The Blue Hawks didn’t help the situation as the Bears scored 10 points on two fumbles.
In the first drive of the game, DSU sophomore quarterback Kaler Ray fumbled the ball and Rocky recovered, which eventually led to a field goal. Kaler, who bounced back after the early struggle, went 17 of 36 for 243 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
True freshman and Dickinson High graduate Dylan Skabo fumbled a kick return on the 20-yard line. The Bears used the short field placement to score a touchdown in two plays.
Rocky finished 397 yards of total offense with 20 first downs and defensively picked up two interceptions — one returned for a touchdown by cornerback RJ Taylor.
“Our guys really battled and they competed hard,” DSU head coach Pete Stanton said. “Obviously we were in a tough position early, going down early 23-0 and just didn’t get ourselves off to a very good start into the wind and we couldn’t do that.
“Had a couple turnovers early and they’re such an explosive, good offense. They had us reeling.”
However, the difference between last year’s Blue Hawks and the team which stepped onto the field on Saturday was their resiliency. Instead of folding, DSU’s defense made some crucial plays to get its offense set up and Rocky off the field.
Herauf, junior linebacker Matt McCoy and true freshman linebacker Tommy Sease combined for four sacks against Rocky’s senior quarterback Bryce Baker.
“We played team defense,” said Herauf, who also finished with three solo tackles. “We didn’t have individuals out there. We played as a unit and that’s what you need to do as a defense.”
Herauf’s second sack forced Rocky to attempt a field goal which was no good. The Blue Hawks countered on the ensuing drive as Ray connected with Seth Ewoniuk on a 18-yard pass his first collegiate touchdown.
Ewoniuk, who is transfer from the University of Mary and a Belfield High School graduate, finished with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
“I thank the line, everyone on the team,” Ewoniuk said. “If it wasn’t for the linemen blocking and Kaler throwing me the ball, it wouldn’t have happened.”
The spark in DSU’s offense was due in large part to the defense winning the battle at the line of scrimmage in the second quarter. At halftime, the Bears held a 23-14 lead. The Blue Hawks had possession for more than 55 minutes.
“As soon as we got that first touchdown we were like, ‘We can play with these guys,’” Ewoniuk said. “They’re a great team, but we knew we could hang with them and all we had to do was focus up and made sure we executed.
“Defense made sure we got a couple stops and we were able to out another score on the board.”
Despite DSU breaking through Rocky’s defense line, the Bear’s offense started to become tougher to contain. Baker shined and showed off his versatility with his arms and his legs.
The senior quarterback was 19 of 28 for 289 yards with three touchdowns and carried the ball eight times — including a 15-yard touchdown run.
“I feel good and there’s a lot of expectations on the team and myself this year and I’m just trying to stay within myself, not go above and beyond and just really remember what got me and us to this point,” he said.
Rocky head coach Brian Armstrong was pleased with what he saw on both ends of the ball, but also knows what to correct and to perfect before Saturday’s game against Montana Western.
“There was some good and some bad. At least we got some film against somebody else to watch and the old coach’s lore is the most improvement comes between games one and and two, so we’ll see if that’s true or just jargon,” Armstrong said.
DSU learned many lessons against a team, which ranks in the top 10 in the NAIA. The team will get back to work to prepare for another former Frontier Conference opponent Montana State-Northern at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We just have to keep getting better and win the turnover battle,” Stanton said. “Win the turnover battle, take care of the little things and I like the way the team performed today as far as their effort.”
RMC 23 0 10 7 — 40
DSU 0 14 0 7 — 21
RMC– Ryan Steska 22 field goal
RMC – Cole Cattelon 15 pass from Bryce Baker (Steska kick)
RMC– Baker 15 run (pass failed)
RMC– Andre McCullouch 8 pass from BAker (kick failed
DSU–Josh Borm 35 pass from Kaler Ray (Borm kick)
DSU– Seth Ewoniuk 18 pass from Ray (Borm kick)
RMC– Steska 28 FG
RMC – Kodee Varner 7 run (Steska kick)
DSU– JT Keith 24 pass from Ray (Borm kick)
RMC– RJ Taylor 12 interception return (Steska kick)
TEAM STATISTICS DSU RMC
First downs 17 20
Rushes-yards 31-99 35-60
Passing yards 243 337
Comp.-Att.-Int. 17-36-2 25-38-0
Total yards 342 397
Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0
Penalties-yards 7-51 5-40
Punts-Avg. 8-43 7-37
RUSHING: DSU, Jesse Carney 8-51. Ray 11-35. Myren Moore 9-17. RMC, Jade Olson 12-45. Frank Brown 9-41. Kodee Varner 3-6.
PASSING: DSU, Ray 17-36-2 243. RMC, Baker 19-28-0 289. Chase White 6-10-0 48.
RECEIVING: DSU, JT Keith 5-108. Ewoniuk 5-74. Borm 1-35. Carney 3-12. Dylan Skabo 1-9. Dalton Reid 2-5. RMC, Cole Cattelan 7-115. Andrew McCullouch 5-104. Mackenzie McGrath 3-30. Michael Robinson 2-23. Ryan Toner 2-19. Cale Vukonich 1-17. Frank Brown 2-10. Jayce Van Zee 1-9. Varner 1-5. Rodd Wohlfeil 1-5.
TACKLES: DSU, Awa Poggi 6, Robert Nalewaja 4, Drew Johnson 4, Sam Herauf 3, Robert Sterling 3, Tommy Sease 2, McCoy 2, Shawn Alder 2. RMC, Cole Jelinek 5, Willyerd 3, Taylor 3, Corey Bummer 3, Johnson 2, Anthony Carrion 2, Jorden Upton 2, Jason Baker 2.
SACKS: DSU, Herauf 2-21. Matt McCoy 1-12. Tommy Sease 1-7. RMC, Seth Swandal 1-2. Anderson Otuafi 1-2. Brendon Johnson 1-2.
INTERCEPTIONS: DSU, none. RMC, Landon Willyerd 1-60. RJ Taylor 1-12.