BILLINGS — The year began with a season mantra of "The Climb," as the Rocky Mountain College football team entered the season ranked sixth in the Frontier Conference preseason poll.
While not realizing every goal this season, RMC has grown as a team. Rocky, 5-4 in the league and 5-5 overall, can finish in a tie for second in the conference with a victory at Montana Western (4-5, 4-6), and some help, on Saturday at noon.
"If we win the game, it's a positive and we've made some growth in the program," said second-year RMC coach Jason Petrino.
"The key for us is finishing with momentum at the end of the season."
Last season, the Battlin' Bears compiled a 4-7 overall mark and 4-6 league record and tied for fifth place in the Frontier. If the Bears defeat the Bulldogs, RMC will have its first winning season since sporting an 8-4 record in 2013. Petrino said the Bears' 10 seniors realize their careers are coming to a close and would like nothing more than to end their Rocky years with a win.
"It's a chance for us to do a little better," he said. "As a senior, you always want to walk off the field your last game a winner and build some momentum in the offseason."
According to Petrino, who played college football at Carroll College and began his coaching career at the school in 2000, the time leading up to the last game of the season brings a flood of memories back for the seniors.
"With the seniors, you appreciate things," he said. "Time flies. As a freshman, time doesn't fly but as a senior it does. They appreciate getting their ankles taped and appreciate going to practice and appreciate lifting and the cold weather. It's one of those things, once it's done it's done."
While there is time for reflection, the Bears know memories alone won't be enough to inspire a win at Vigilante Stadium on Saturday.
Running back Mason Melby leads the team with 699 rushing yards, but won't play due to an injury said Petrino. Starting center Troy Bacon also won't suit up with an injury. There are a few game-time decisions at other spots as the Bears "are banged up on the offensive side of the ball," said Petrino.
A goal for RMC will be to rush the ball effectively. The Bears average 201.2 yards per game on the ground.
"Our offense needs to run the ball," said Petrino. "We've been at our best when we can run the ball. We need to score in the redzone and protect our quarterback."
Petrino said the Bears are focused on stopping running back Hunter Thomsen, who has 912 rushing yards. Slot receiver Nate Simkins is another dangerous player for Western. Bulldogs QB Bennett Gibson ranks 12th in the NAIA with 2,716 passing yards. Bulldogs receivers George Sherwood and Melvin Walser, each have over 30 receptions. Sherwood is 6-foot-3 and has 33 receptions for 566 yards and Walser is 6-5 with 37 catches for 701 yards.