MILES CITY — Montana wrestled back bragging rights from its Eastern neighbors on Saturday, leaning on a stingy defense to beat North Dakota 40-25 in the Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl all-star football game.
The Montana defense picked off North Dakota six times and forced a fumble, giving its offense ample chances to score.
Glacier grad Cain Boschee caused the first turnover of the game, intercepting a pass from University of North Dakota signee Aidan Hartness. That led to a 3-yard touchdown run from Missoula Sentinel’s Cory Diaz to give Montana a 6-0 lead after the first quarter.
The second score for the Treasure State was also keyed by a former Glacier standout. Early in the second quarter, Griz signee Andrew Harris read a throwback screen perfectly from his defensive end position and intercepted Hartness again, taking it to the house for a 13-yard touchdown and a 13-3 Montana lead.
After Hartness connected with twin brother Tristan for a 68-yard touchdown to bring the score to 13-10, the Montana squad started to pull away.
Dillon’s J.D. Ferris connected with Helena’s Paul Hart for a 35-yard touchdown with just under three minutes before halftime. Great Falls High’s Kessler Leonard got an interception to get the ball back and with less than a minute remaining, Ferris scrambled 42 yards for another Montana touchdown to give the home team a 27-10 lead at the break.
Glacier’s Brady McChesney started the second half, and after surrendering an interception for a touchdown in his second drive, made a familiar connection with Glacier teammate Logan Jones for a 65-yard touchdown and a 33-17 Montana lead.
North Dakota again narrowed its deficit to one score on a batted ball that landed in the arms of running back Anthony Olson. The Montana defense reacted as if the play was called dead, only for Olson to scamper 25 yards for a touchdown to cut the score to 33-25.
But the Montana defense didn’t budge the rest of the game, intercepting North Dakota on its first three drives of the fourth quarter. Boschee, who has signed to play football next season in North Dakota at Dickinson State, intercepted two of those passes to set a Badlands Bowl record with three interceptions in the game and be named the team’s defensive MVP. The Montana defense set a team record with six interceptions.
Jones added a five-yard touchdown to give the Montana team its final tally. Jones finished the game with a team-high 92 rushing yards and 109 receiving yards to go along with his two touchdowns. Glacier’s Devin Cochran caught six catches for 77 yards.
Ferris was named the Montana offensive MVP, completing 14 of 24 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 51 yards and another score. McChesney was 10 of 19 for 183 yards.
Montana 40, North Dakota 25
North Dakota 0 10 15 0 — 25
Montana 6 21 6 7 — 40
MT: Cory Diaz 3 run (run failed), 3:57
ND: Josh Weiler 35 field goal, 13:47
MT: Andrew Harris 13 interception return (Danny Peoples kick), 9:55
ND: Tristan Hartness 68 pass from Aidan Hartness (Weiler kick), 9:22
MT: Paul Hart 35 pass from J.D. Ferris (Peoples kick), 2:51
MT: Ferris 42 run (Peoples kick), :46
ND: Noah Krebs 59 interception return (Weiler kick), 10:06
MT: Logan Jones 65 pass from Brady McChesney (kick failed), 9:55
ND: Anthony Olson 25 pass from Chris Kraft (Gavin Rook run), 4:53
MT: Jones 5 pass from Ferris (Peoples kick), 11:13
Rushing – North Dakota: Aidan Hartness 8-5, Ty Brooks 5-(-2), Karter Gorney 3-15, Gavin Rook 3-3, Austin Reynolds 2-11, Tristan Hartness 1-4, Chris Kraft 1-3, Anthony Olson 1-1. Montana: Holden Ryan 16-61, Logan Jones 8-92, J.D. Ferris 7-51, Cory Diaz 7-12, Gavin Gunderson 3-5, Brady McChesney 2-(1-10).
Passing – Aidan Hartness 6-19-3-145, Chris Kraft 5-12-2-63, Tristan Hartness 0-1-1-0. Montana: J.D. Ferris 14-24-1-176, Brady McChesney 10-19-3-183, Danny Peoples 0-1-0-0.
Receiving: Tristan Hartness 8-167, Anthony Olson 1-25, Austin Reynolds 1-14, Carter Blackwell 1-2. Montana: Logan Jones 6-109, Devin Cochran 6-77, Dalton Daum 5-93, Paul Hart 3-57, Cory Diaz 2-5, Alec Haughian 1-18.