The Rocky Mountain College football team just keeps finding ways to win. The Battlin’ Bears have won three of their six games by a single possession, leading them to the cusp of a Frontier Conference title. But what’s changed from a team that was 5-10 over the previous two years?
“I mean I hope our culture and the words we preach and live by every day, but it’s also the confidence in the players believing in the play calls from the coaches and then believing in each other, doing your one-eleventh," Rocky head coach Chris Stutzriem said. "I think that’s a big part of it, is guys seeing if I do my job and everybody does their jobs, then we’ll be fine.”
“Last year we were losing a lot of the close games. I think over the summer and fall camp we got a lot closer as a team," Rocky linebacker Nolan McCafferty said. "I think that trust all together as a team and trust that everybody is going to do their jobs and be where they’re supposed to be, and that’s why we’ve been pulling out the close ones, I think.”
Even though Rocky sits atop the league standings with victories over prominent programs such as College of Idaho and Montana Western, the Bears still embrace the role of underdog.
“You look on the Frontier Conference website, they say two teams are ranked in the top 25. They list College of Idaho and it’s a picture of them. I think it’s a challenge to our guys that right now we aren’t getting conference players of the week, so it’s out there that we’re the underdog and we absolutely love it," Stutzriem said. "Guys, teams, coaches, players, whoever, are still expecting us to lose and do that. I think the guys have really bought into that and believe in that. They come to work hard every day and they have fun and they care about each other, so it’s been a good ride.”
Rocky is half a yard from potentially being unbeaten, as its lone loss to Montana Tech came down to a failed two-point conversion. That loss to Tech and the following week’s narrow victory over Northern served as a bit of a wake-up call to the Bears.
“It’s a playoff game, no matter if you’re us, Northern, Tech, Carroll, we’re in the playoffs. Every game is a tough game," said Stutzriem. "Then against Northern, we’ve got to prepare no matter who we’re playing. I think we learned a lot from that loss. I don’t think it was our best game, offensively, defensively, special teams-wise, so I’m proud of our guys for adjusting, taking coaching – we were pretty tough on them after that game and the Northern game, to be honest with you. Our guys responded well and I’m just really proud of them.”
Rocky can move one game closer to a conference title with a victory in Butte on Saturday, where kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
“Tech, they’re a really good team. We’re just trying to go one game at a time," McCafferty said. "This one would be big if we could get it. Every loss you wish you could have a win in it, but that’s in the past and we’re looking forward to playing this game and hopefully getting a win this week.”