Year two begins for head football coach Jason Petrino, and many noticeable changes have been made since the coaching staff changed hands.
With the team finishing 4-7 overall and fifth place in the conference, the Battlin’ Bears hope to be a stronger contender with their opponents in the Frontier. The Bears look to Jacob Bakken as the starting quarterback for the opening part of the season. With him in the backfield, the offense returns Mason Melby, Sam Sparks, and Jade Olson. This year’s current offensive line returns only Justin Farnsworth. Dylan Swandal and Zane Guse were shifted to the offensive line to fill in the gaps. On the defensive side, the Battlin’ Bears returned Chase Bertleson and Billy Williams at linebacker, while the defensive line returned Ryder Rice. Keenan Fagan also returns for his redshirt junior year in the defensive backfield. With the team mantra being “The Climb” for the Battlin’ Bears this year, the team looks to advance their way into a better season.
Unfortunately, the Battlin’ Bears stumbled on the first step of their climb, losing their non-conference season opener to Dickinson State 43-28 on August 24th. Turnovers plagued the Bears’ offense with two fumbles and two interceptions. Both interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
“It’s not how we want to start our season,” said redshirt junior Keenan Fagan. “We were the better team, but we just kept messing up our plays.” Fagan made great plays throughout the game with three solo tackles, two tackle assists and a 45-yard interception return for a touchdown. “It was great scoring my first college touchdown, but we didn’t get the results we wanted. I’m glad that we had our hiccup in our first non-conference game, and not against a good team like Carroll.”
Quarterback Jacob Bakken finished 11 out of 23 pass attempts for 71 yards and 2 interceptions. Bakken also rushed for 51 yards. Newcomer Drew Korf completed 6 out of 7 pass attempts for 87 yards. Max Gray scored Rocky’s first touchdown for the season and caught a touchdown from Drew Korf in the 4th quarter. Sam Sparks also caught a touchdown pass from Bakken.
As a team, the Battlin’ Bears finished with 334 yards of total offense, with 158 passing yards and 176 yards on the ground. This was the first time Rocky football has lost to Dickinson since 2010.
“We have a lot of new guys on the roster, about 16 transfers who have never played for Rocky and four true freshman are getting some serious playing time.” Fagan went on to say.
The Battlin’ Bears hosted their first home game on Saturday September 2 against conference opponent MSU Northern. The team struggled in the first half with Northern leading 13-10 going into the locker room. But a breakout game by Mason Melby, who rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns, and an 86 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Sam Sparks would bring the Battlin’ Bears back in the game. Rocky would come away with the victory beating the lights 32-25. As a team the Battlin’ Bears would post 414 total yards on offense, with 307 on the ground and 107 passing yards. On the defense Terrance Williams intercepted MSU Northern twice. Paris Wilcox made four solo tackles, Kirk Durtsche made four solo tackles as well.
Rocky will take to the road next week to Helena Montana to take on the Carroll College Saints on Saturday September 9.