MILES CITY — Montana has dominated the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl over the course of the series, particularly in the past decade. Montana has won seven of the past eight games, including the past four, and leads the all-time series 19-6.
Not much appears to have changed, as this year’s Montana roster is again loaded. Nine guys will continue their football careers with Montana and Montana State, continuing a trend of talent being produced in the Treasure State. The rest of the roster is littered with players committed to NAIA schools, too. It should come as no surprise that Montana has dominated the Badlands Bowl series of late.
“I think people underrate us,” Montana State offensive line commit and Helena High graduate Holden Sampson said. “I think us going to Montana State and Montana proved there’s some ball players in Montana, we should be looked at more kind of deal.”
“Football is really getting good in Montana,” Montana State quarterback commit and Great Falls High grad Blake Thelen said. “We’ve got a lot of good coaches in the state of Montana right now. All I hear about is all these coaches and all their accolades. I think it’s a credit to them and I think it’s a credit all these kids wanting to take part in all these good programs.”
Although they’ve teamed up to represent Montana this weekend, the Griz and Cats guys keep the future rivalry tucked away in the back of their minds. There’s even been some friendly trash talk among offensive and defensive players while competing in practice.
“Me and (Thelen) have been talking all week,” Montana defensive back commit and Billings West standout Trevin Gradney said. “He gets a touchdown on me in practice, he’ll give it to me, but I try to get the best of him. It’s fun, it’s good. … I definitely let him know about (an interception). Chrishon (Dixon) lets him know about it, too. It’s fun. It’s a good little rivalry throughout practice. Makes practice fun, lightens it up a little bit, so it’s good.”
“We’ve been letting each other know a little bit. It’s all fun, though. At the end of the day, we’re all just kids playing football,” Thelen said. “Like I said, I think it’s more offense-defense kind of stuff. Just like receiver-(defensive back) kind of stuff. We’ll let them know if we score a touchdown on them. We’ll let them know.”
They’re all hoping the week’s friendly chatter and competition can translate to a victory on Saturday night against North Dakota to carry on Montana’s dominance in the all-time series.
“We expect greatness,” Sampson said. “I think we’re going to go out there and prove it. We’re pretty good at football here in Montana and we’re going to prove it.”
“We want to beat them down. I think that’s always the goal for Montana at least,” Gradney said. “This game is bigger than us. It’s our job to do, so I think we’re in good shape. We’re putting our self in good position to do that.”
The 26th annual Badlands Bowl is set to kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday night at Connors Stadium in Miles City. Montana is 11-2 all-time in Miles City and is looking for its 20th win in the series. Montana’s roster can be found here.