Montana Tech Football leads all conference selections

WHITEFISH — The Frontier Conference commissioner announced the football all-conference teams Monday. The Montana Tech Orediggers led the conference in both all-conference picks and first-team honorees.

Frontier Conference teams are determined by the leagues’ head coaches.

Tech led the conference with 13 all-conference selections, including a league-leading eight first-team.

Carroll College placed 11 in the All-Conference teams and the College of Idaho had 10. The Yotes had five first team picks, the most after the Orediggers. Rocky Mountain had four first-team and the Saints placed three.

The Orediggers’ first team picks included three on offense, three on defense, and two from special teams. The second team honorees consisted of three from offense and one from defense and special teams. By class, the Orediggers had selected four seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores.

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Trevor Hoffman, Blake Counts and Jack Hiller were the first team picks on offense, while Blake Thelen, Carson Shuman and Kyle Torgerson were named to the second team.

Hoffman, a 6-4 senior from Renton, Wash., finished his career as the all-time leader for the Orediggers by collecting yards (2,897) and touchdowns (26). Hoffman led the conference in receiving yards (757) and receptions (50) and finished second in receiving touchdowns (6). The all-conference nod is the third for the Hoffman, who was a first-team pick in 2019 and a second-team last season.

Counts, a 5-11 junior, is making his first first-team appearance after being selected as a second-team to all conferences in his freshman and sophomore seasons. From Kalispell, Counts finished the season with 803 yards on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Counts has stormed over the century mark four times, including his last three games. He finished with six rushing touchdowns and caught three more.

Offensive lineman Hiller and Shuman received their first All-Conference Awards. Hiller, who is a first team pick, is a senior from La Center, Washington. Shuman was a second team pick and is a junior from Helena, Montana. The Orediggers had one of the most consistent and productive offenses this season, leading the league in scoring and second in total yards. Hiller and Shuman led the offensive line that produced 1,663 yards rushing and a league 24 touchdowns on the floor. The Orediggers averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Tech offensive line gave the Oredigger quarterback ample time to get the pass by giving up the fewest sacks in the conference this season.

Thelen, a sophomore quarterback from Great Falls, Montana, started his first game of his tech career in game four of the season against a high-ranked opponent on the road. Thelen threw three touchdowns on his first game and finished the season with 12. He averaged 171.9 yards to bid in the game while completing 53.4% ​​of his passes. Thelen led the conference in the efficiency rating while throwing the fewest interceptions.

Torgerson, who won All-Conference Team second place as a wide receiver and kick returner, makes his first All-Conference Team appearance. Torgerson, a sophomore from Great Falls, finished fourth in the conference in receptions (45) and second behind Hoffman in total yards (709). Torgerson took on the additional duties of returning the ball and led the conference in 1,376 total yards in all-purpose yards this season. He had the highest kick return average in the league averaging 27.2 per return.

The first team defensive choices were Keyshawn James-Newby, Jordan Washington and Naoki Harmer. Ben Windauer received the nod from the defensive second team.

James-Newby, a second defenseman for Helena Montana, led the conference this season with sacks (9) and tackles to one loss (14.5). The Capital High product knocked down five passes, most from a defender. James-Newby finished the season with 61 tackles with 30 solo stops. James-Newby forced a fumble and recovered two.

Washington and Harmer helped guide Oredigger Secondary, who chaired the conference, and ranked sixth in the nation in pass defense, giving just 138.7 yards through the air.

Washington, a junior from Torrance, California, is making his second appearance as the first team at a conference. The corner stopped opposing receivers, who finished fourth in the conference with nine pass separations. Washington had 23 solo tackles and 43 overall while forcing a fumble.

Harmer, a senior from Bellevue, Wash., led the Orediggers and was fourth in the conference in tackles with 75. He also had six tackles for a loss while forcing two fumbles. Harmer kept interrupting the passing game, finishing with eight pass breakups and one interception. Harmer’s speed and quickness on the field brought three blocked kicks to a league-high, two of which were recovered by tech defense for touchdowns.

Windauer, a senior linebacker from Columbia Falls, Montana, finished the tournament with 55 tackles. He was seventh in the conference averaging 6.9 tackles per game. Windauer had 4.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Windauer had his first career interception returning 31 yards for a touchdown.

Punter Andrew Almos and kicker Ryan Lowry received first-team All-Conference Special Team honors in addition to Torgerson’s second-team nod.

Almos, a sophomore from Great Falls, Montana, was also a first team pick last year as a freshman. Almos led the conference and finished second nationally averaging 42.3 yards per punt. Almos had the fewest attempts by a starting player at 32 in the season but led the league with 21 points within the 20.

Lowry, a sophomore from Pasco, Wash., led the Frontier in scoring this season with 77 points, not just in kickers. He missed just one extra point in 45 tries and, with a season hauling yardage of 42 yards, caught 11 of 16 in field goals. Lowry finished 12th in the nation in points by a kicker.

Montana Tech finished the 2022 season with a 7-3 record. The Orediggers began the season unranked and ranked 19th in the NAIA Coaches Top 25 poll for the year. Tech will return six of its all-conference selections, including four first-team honorees.