Nathan Schott celebrated his 21st birthday in true football fashion Friday night on Wendy’s Field at Daylis Stadium.
The sophomore-to-be defensive end returned an interception 36 yards for an early touchdown in providing one of the biggest highlights in Rocky Mountain College’s annual Green vs. White scrimmage.
“That’s probably one of the best birthday gifts I’ve ever received,” the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Schott said afterward. “I’ve never been in the end zone before. It’s a wonderful feeling. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Playing in front of about 400 fans, Rocky’s No. 1 offense challenged the Battlin’ Bears’ No. 1 defense during the closing two minutes, with defender Andy Desin knocking the ball out of receiver A.J. Tolbert’s hands in the end zone on a 14-yard pass play in the final seconds of the full-contact scrimmage that lasted around one hour, 45 minutes.
The defense, which received points for such things as interceptions, sacks and fumble recoveries, wound up winning 39-35 against the offense.
“Overall, the defense played lights out,” said Schott, a second-team performer from Richland, Wash. “It was a really good scrimmage and the defense came through at the end. You saw that last play in the end zone to break up that touchdown pass to A.J.
“That pretty much sums up our defense for the night. There were times when we were a little lackadaisical and a little slow, but it seemed like when we needed to we picked it up.”
Quarterbacks Bryce Baker and Paxton Paynter had a hand in two touchdowns apiece and tailback Nate Ray dashed for another score on a night where the Bears ran off approximately 115 plays.
Baker, who threw for 297 yards and led the offense on that final drive, fired TD passes to Shade Theriault (82 yards) and Matt Concienne (8 yards). Paynter ran 15 yards for a TD and hooked up with Tyler Miller on a 9-yard shovel pass for another score.
Ray’s TD gallop came on an early 5-yard run up the middle.
“We maybe didn’t play our best game offensively, but what you’ve got to do is just keeping getting better every day,” Ray said. “Just keep striving to be better.”
Rocky’s offense suffered through the one interception, two lost fumbles, three sacks and several procedure and holding calls.
Those miscues definitely caught the eye of Rocky head coach Brian Armstrong.
“We can’t put the ball on the ground that much,” he said.
But he was also pleased with the competitiveness his players displayed on both sides of the ball.
“I thought there was good competition, for sure,” Armstrong said. “It was a pretty exciting ending. Everybody is healthy. We did some good things, obviously, defensively. Some good things offensively, and there’s some things we need to work on.”
Defensive end Josh Johnson registered a sack and fumble recovery for the Bears’ fast and hard-hitting defense. Doug Karmowski and Brad Eliel had sacks, while Bo Grandahl fell on a fumble.
Defensive back Travis Bertelsen also had 32-yard interception return for a touchdown wiped out by a holding penalty.
On his pick, Schott bolted into the backfield and jumped up to corral Baker’s short pass.
“He threw it pretty hard right into my hands,” Schott said. “I couldn’t believe it at first. I kind of bobbled it a little bit, but I tucked it against my chest and I wasn’t going to let anyone catch me on that one.
“I saw that end zone and nobody was getting me. It was a great feeling.”
NOTES: Rocky’s first game is 133 days away on Aug. 27 at home against Dickinson State University. ... The Bears started their spring practices on March 21. They will watch film of the scrimmage on Monday and practice outside on Tuesday before wrapping up spring drills.