Rocky Road: Blue Hawks football travels to challenge rival Rocky Mountain College
When a team boasts a talented quarterback with high-level skill and experience, it causes trouble for any opponent. Rocky Mountain College has three quarterbacks fitting that description and when the Dickinson State football team travels to Billings to face the Battlin' Bears on Saturday, Sept. 8, it'll likely see each member of the trio.
In last year's contest between the two teams, which resulted in a 43-28 Blue Hawks victory, Dickinson State primarily saw now-senior starter Jacob Bakken, with a few glimpses of sophomore Drew Korf.
When 2016 Gatorade Montana Football Player of the Year Nate Dick transferred to Rocky Mountain after a red-shirt year at University of Montana, he added more talent to the arsenal of arms.
"We gotta change our approach a little bit because they're all good quarterbacks, they just got different styles," junior safety Derick VandeBossche said. "I know Nate Dick, he's a very good runner and he's a good thrower, too. We just got to game plan for all of them. Whoever comes in, we just have to play through our game plan."
Behind the power of the trio, the Battlin' Bears have defeated their first two opponents by a combined score of 70-7.
While the Battlin' Bears had to forfeit their season-opening 19-0 victory over Carroll College, the means to achieve a dominant win are still there.
Junior Amad Andrews Jr., who will take over as the primary running back for the Blue Hawks, will go up against an upperclassmen heavy defense. The starting lineup lists six seniors, four juniors and a sophomore at defensive end.
"Just play to the best of my ability and do what I can do to help the team," Andrews said.
The transfer from Pasadena City College has been taking notes while watching film in preparation of the competition.
"The things I look at are the D-line and the linebackers, their tendencies and different things they do that I can be better at what I do," he said.
That being said, Andrews won't be alone running the show as Dickinson State aims to be varied in their attacks.
"We have to hang on to the ball, we have to get some first downs. We have to be able to be balanced," Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said."We can't sit and think we're going to run the ball all day long. We have to be as balanced as we possibly can."
In the August 24 game last season at the Biesiot Activities Center, the Blue Hawks leaned on passing, which accounted for 238 of their 396 yards on offense. Sophomore and Billings native Tyger Frye scored two of the four touchdowns in the air, including a 47-yard reception from junior quarterback Hayden Gibson.
However, receivers could be met by senior Keenan Fagan at safety, who was named to the 2017 NAIA All-America First Team.
"They're a very veteran team, a lot of seniors on the team, a lot of very good players, all-conference players," Stanton said. "We have to win the turnover battle. Every coach in America would say that, but you have to be able to do that against a good team like that. They're also good at special teams. They do a good job with that. They're just a very well-rounded, very deep team."
On the offensive side of the ball, the Rocky Mountain roster is similarly stacked with seniors.
Senior Mason Melby and junior Sam Sparks return at running back. The pair combined for 83 yards in the Battlin' Bears' season-opener against the Blue Hawks last season.
At wide receiver, there's seniors Max Gray and Taylor Schwartz, both who made receptions last fall against Dickinson State, helping Rocky Mountain put up 158 passing yards. Alongside them, is senior tight end Brandon Mosley. The 6-foot-4 Battlin' Bear led the team with five receptions for 39 yards in the last meeting with the Blue Hawks.
"They got a lot of guys back, so it's kind of similar (to last year), maybe just a couple things here and there," VandeBossche said. "I know they got a big tight end back, a couple slot receivers too. It's going to be a battle, but I believe in our team and I believe in our game plan, as a team right now.