It wasn’t the best of weather conditions at Legends Stadium for the University of Montana’s Spring Game on Saturday, but that’s the nature of spring football.
Despite the chilly temperatures and intermittent rainshowers, Flathead Valley residents filled the stands to watch the game.
There are 10 players on Montana’s squad that hail from the Flathead. For some, it was the first time they’d play in front of family members who hadn’t seen them play at the college level.
For most of the players, it was a time to showcase their progress. There’s still four months until the season starts but a lot of hard work has already been put in.
“I think just the dynamic of like spring ball is pretty rough,” redshirt junior Montana kicker Brandon Purdy, a Glacier High School graduate, said.
“We’re going every other day, we’re getting a lot done. A lot of technical stuff with kickers. They’re tracking our reps, tracking our percentages and everything. And now we get to show everyone what we’ve been doing.”
The players were split into two teams, Maroon and Silver, to ensure that everyone had a chance to play.
Maroon led 14-0 after the first quarter and 21-3 at the half. The Silver team scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to make the score 28-17.
Coach Bobby Hauck was happy with what he saw from the Griz.
“I thought the scrimmage was solid,” Hauck said.
“The tackling was pretty good, it was pretty physical. Some of our wide receivers made some plays so that was good to see. Obviously there was some ups and downs, that’s the nature of spring practice but it was solid at the least.”
Several children were invited down to the field at halftime to compete with players in a race to the end zone.
Linemen ran fade routes and caught passes in the end zone. Even Monte the Mascot joined in the fun, even though his catching skills left something to be desired.
“It was really fun,” Purdy said. “We had a really good experience.”
For Patrick O’Connell, a Glacier grad and redshirt sophomore linebacker at Montana, it was his first time back at Legends since his high school days.
O’Connell is working hard to become a starter, like his decorated All-American teammate, Dante Olson.
“To be starter like Dante Olson, there’s a long way to go for me, especially,” O’Connell said.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff to work on but for right now I’ve just got to accept my role and do my best and try to get on this field for this football team and contribute to win games.”
O’Connell looks up to Olson, on and off the field.
“He’s always at it,” O’Connell said. “He’s at it in the classroom, the weight room, on the field, practice, everything. He’s the epitome of a perfect role model for a younger guy like me. He’s a great guy to have around.”
Besides the game, the new turf surface, less than two years old, was a frequent topic of discussion among players.
“All these guys were like, ‘I didn’t know there was turf up here,’” O’Connell said.
Purdy has grown accustomed to different playing surfaces through his college career, but said it felt good to get out there again.
“This is really nice,” he said of the field. “They did a really good job. It’s a really good feeling to be on the sideline again.”
He last played on the field at Legends in the 2014 AA state title game, when Glacier won the championship.
“The last time I truly kicked on this field was November (2014),” Purdy said. “It was an ice skating rink.”
Practices will continue through the spring, with a short break after Montana’s finals week, and pick up in the summer. Montana will open the season Aug. 31 against South Dakota, which may seem a long way off but perhaps the taste of spring football in the Valley made that wait a bit easier for its residents.
“It was great being up here,” Hauck said. “It’s always good to be in Kalispell. These people, thousands of them come down every Saturday during the fall so it’s kind of nice to be able to return the favor.”
M - AKEM, Samuel 36 yd pass from SNEED, Dalton (HILL, Braxton kick) 0 - 7
M - EASTWOOD, Adam 2 yd run (PURDY, Brandon kick), 0 - 14
PEPPENGER, Gabe 35 yd field goal, 3 - 14
M - KNIGHT, Marcus 6 yd run (HILL, Braxton kick), 3 - 21
S - TOURE, Samori 64 yd pass from HARRIS, Wheeler (PEPPENGER, Gabe kick), 0 - 21
S - TURNER, Drew 1 yd run (PEPPENGER, Gabe kick), 17 - 21
M - ROBERTS, Mitch 8 yd pass from HUMPHREY, Cam (HILL, Braxton kick), 17 - 28
RUSHING — Cam Humphrey 2-13, Levi Janacaro 4-12, Drew Turner 3-11, Ryan Arntson 2-6
PASSING — Garrett Graves 6-11-1-9, Humphrey 5-8-0-41, Wheeler Harris 3-3-0-106.
RECEIVING — Samori Toure 5-99-1TD, Malik Flowers 4-54, Drew Turner 2—3, Matt Rensvold 1-8.
RUSHING — Marcus Knight 6-56-1TD, Adam Eastwood 11-42, Ryan Arntson 3-12, Garrett Graves 1-1.
PASSING — Cam Humphrey 8-18-0-54, Dalton Sneed 4-5-0-65, Garrett Graves 0-4-0-0.
RECEIVING — Mitch Roberts 4-31-1TD, Colin Bingham 3-18, Bryson Deming 2-16, Samuel Akem 1-36.