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Montana Western embracing underdog role ahead of playoff game

Posted at 12:00 PM, Nov 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-19 14:00:24-05

DILLON  — The Montana Western Bulldogs football team erupted on Sunday after realizing they had earned a first-round postseason game, ending a 19-year playoff drought for the program.

In the cacophony, offensive lineman Noah Danielson ended up toppling a table.

"I was hyped," said Danielson during a practice on Tuesday at Vigilante Stadium. "It was super awesome. We didn't know it was going to happen so fast."

The NAIA selection show began with the pairing for No. 1 seed Lindsey Wilson. That team's pairing was the first to be revealed, and Western quickly learned that it would be facing the Blue Raiders as the No. 16 seed.

"And there we were," said Danielson.

The Bulldogs (8-3 overall, 7-3 in conference play), who concluded the regular season with a double-overtime win over Rocky Mountain College to claim a share of the Frontier Conference title, are now bound for Columbia, Kentucky for a Saturday showdown against the top team in the nation that finished the regular season at a perfect 10-0.

Columbia has a population a little under 5,000 and is located about 100 miles south of Louisville.

For eighth-year Western head coach Ryan Nourse, the preparation for a playoff game doesn't differ greatly from a regular season contest.

"Not a lot, but you re-energize," Nourse said. "It's really that second season, and there's a bit of an adrenaline burst. You do kind of re-energize mentally and that kind of pushes you into having a little bit more energy than you had before.

"But, outside of that, the preparation remains the same."

The 16th-seeded Bulldogs will be heavy underdogs against the team that won the 2020 NAIA championship during a condensed season. Lindsey Wilson also hasn't lost a game since 2019.

But the underdog label is nothing new to Western.

"We're always the underdog at Western," Nourse said. "We always embrace it. We're really just working hard to put ourselves into a position to be successful. When we get out there on the field, take advantage of the things that we do well and see where she goes."

"We're definitely underdogs going into this one being rated 16," echoed redshirt junior quarterback Jon Jund, who threw 31 touchdown passes during the regular season and added eight rushing scores. "But I think we got a chance to put up a good game and have a shot to win."

Whatever the outcome of Saturday's contest, the Bulldogs are thankful for the opportunity awaiting them and are ready to deliver four quarters of leave-it-all-on-the-field football. The Bulldogs will board a plane and fly to Kentucky on Friday.

"Small-town Dillon, we don't fly on planes to go to games or anything like that," Danielson said. "Going to the tarmac in our travel suits, getting on the plane is going to be a pretty cool feeling."