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'Very solid up front': Rocky Mountain defense proves too much for Dickinson State

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Playing in his hometown, Rocky Mountain College junior running back Sam Sparks capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 37-yard dash to the end zone, stretching the Battlin' Bears advantage over Dickinson State to 21-10.

BILLINGS, Mont. - Playing in his hometown, Rocky Mountain College junior running back Sam Sparks capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a 37-yard dash to the end zone, stretching the Battlin' Bears advantage over Dickinson State to 21-10.

Mid-way through the drive, the Battlin' Bears' first of the second half, Dickinson State could have halted Rocky Mountain on third-and-eight. Quarterback Jacob Bakken found running back Mason Melby wide open on the left sideline for the first down.

While the Blue Hawks were still within reach, they couldn't move their offense down the field, ultimately falling to their regional rival 21-10, on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Herb Klindt Field.

Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said his team's biggest lapse was allowing a touchdown right before halftime. Bakken connected with receiver Max Gray to take a 14-10 lead going into the locker rooms.

"We're in good shape, we have them down and they score with under two minutes left. We let them hit a couple big plays and take the lead at half time. That was big turning point too," Stanton said. "In the third quarter they got that momentum and ran the ball well. We had a hard time stopping them and didn't do a good enough job converting."

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Despite multiple turnovers, the Blue Hawks couldn't generate any offense to capitalize off the chances.

With the third Blue Hawks interception of the day, senior linebacker Elijah Stanton got his hands on a pass intended for Gray. Two plays later, Dickinson State senior receiver Randy Ivey goes for an option pass, aiming for senior Seth Moerkerke, but his throw was intercepted.

As the Battlin' Bears attempted a 25-yard field goal, senior defensive back Jay Liggins blocked it, but the Blue Hawks had to punt it away.

Minutes later, Dickinson State recovered a fumble from Rocky Mountain running back Sam Sparks, but the Blue Hawks had to punt it away.

Not including their last-effort drive in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, the Blue Hawks mustered just three first downs in the second half. They finished the game with 13 total, while Rocky Mountain earned 24 first downs.

"Four turnovers and a blocked field goal, we had some chances," Stanton said. "A couple times on third and short we don't end up keeping that drive going and you have to credit them on defense. They did a good job of covering up our guys and taking away some opportunities."

Linebacker Chase Bertelsen led Rocky Mountain with nine tackles, while linebacker Billy Williams had eight. All-American strong safety Keenan Fagan and defensive back Kendall Jefferson both roped in interceptions as well. Additionally, the defensive line held Dickinson State to 6-for-18 on third downs.

"They're just very solid up front. They got a good front four, they get a good push at you," Stanton said. "Their linebacking corps is a veteran, senior group, they have some excellent players in the secondary. They're gonna be one of the better defenses we'll see this year."

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The game was undoubtedly a defensive showcase, starring the Battlin' Bears. However, the Blue Hawks shared the spotlight in the first half.

Following a scoreless opening quarter, the Blue Hawks got on the board first with a 32-yard field goal from junior kicker Cody Johnson.

As Rocky Mountain took over, they pushed 75 yards down the field over seven plays.

The Blue Hawks had an answer though. On first down, junior quarterback Hayden Gibson fired from his own 15-yard line. The ball spiraled for just over 40 yards, finding senior receiver Randy Ivey, who ran the remainder of the field to take back the lead, 10-7.

Ivey led all receivers with eight catches for 143 yards, more than half of which came from his 76-yard touchdown reception.

"He's steady. He's one of the better receivers in our league. He just does a great job. Him and Hayden obviously mesh well and their timing was really (good) and he's very explosive," Stanton said. "He's a great player for us, very steady and we expect him to make those plays all year long."

Results Saturday

Rocky Mountain 21, Dickinson State 10

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DSU 0 10 0 0 - 10

RMC 0 14 7 0 - 21

First Quarter

No scoring.

Second Quarter

DSU - Cody Johnson 32-yard field goal

RMC - Lucas Overton 15 pass from Jacob Bakken (Jason Miller kick)

DSU - Randy Ivey 76 pass from Hayden Gibson (Johnson kick)

RMC - Max Gray 14 pass from Bakken (Miller kick)

Third Quarter

RMC - Sam Sparks 37 rush (Miller kick)

Fourth Quarter

No scoring.

TEAM STATISTICS DSU RMC

First downs 13 24

Rushes-yards 23-83 48-190

Passing yards 235 249

Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-41-2 18-26-3

Total yards 318 439

Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1

Penalties-yards 9-93 9-105

Punts-Avg. 7-29.7 3-48

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: DSU, Amad Andrews Jr. 12-65; Nick Miller 3-10; Roderick Ashford 2-5; Gibson 5-16. RMC, Mason Melby 22-80; Sam Sparks 9-55, 1 TD; Jacob Bakken 11-54.

PASSING: DSU, Hayden Gibson 19-41-1, 235 yards, 1 TD; Randy Ivey 0-1-1. RMC, Bakken 18-25-2, 249 yards, 2 TD; Drew Korf 0-1-1.

RECEIVING: DSU, Randy Ivey 8-143, 1 TD; Jaret Lee 3-53; Tyger Frye 3-17; Ashford 2-10; Seth Moerkerke 2-9; Nick Miller 1-3. RMC, Taylor Schwartz 5-83; Max Gray 3-38, 1 TD; Lucas Overton 2-21, 1 TD.

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

TACKLES: DSU, Daniel Moreno 11-4; Kevin Brown 4-5; Derick VandeBossche 7-2; Jay Liggins 6-1; Elijah Stanton 3-2; Cain Boschee 5-0; Lewis Dobitz 3-2. RMC, Chase Bertelsen 4-5; Billy Williams 3-5; Kirk Durtsche 2-3.

INTS: DSU, Kevin Brown 1-15; Elijah Stanton 1-8; Jalen Hendrickson 1-0. RMC, Fagan 1-0; Kendall Jefferson 1-19.

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