Montana’s Quiet Football Dynasty: The Fighting Saints of Carroll College

By DILLON TABISH for the Flathead Beacon

The spotlight shines bright on the University of Montana football program, as it should. The Grizzlies are one game away from playing in their third FCS national championship in four years.

But down in Helena, a quieter dynasty built on mostly homegrown talent continues to reign as one of the best NAIA college football programs in the nation.

This weekend, the Carroll College Fighting Saints are playing in their eighth national championship in the last 10 years. Since 2002, the Saints have won six titles, including last year’s championship. The Saints play Saint Xavier (Ill.) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Rome, Ga. CBS Sports Network is scheduled to televise the game. For more programming information, visit the network’s website.

The Carroll roster is filled with Montana talent and features several names that should be familiar for statewide high school football fans. There’s Chance Demarais from Malta, who went on from an outstanding career with the Mustangs to become Carroll’s all-time single season leading rusher. The junior tailback enters Saturday’s finale with 1,748 yards. 

There’s Matt Ritter, a former standout quarterback for Butte Central who is now the Saints’ top receiver with 1,169 yards and 13 TDs.

The list goes on. Several young athletes from the valley are on the team’s roster and could be the next ones helping carry on Carroll’s winning tradition in the years to come. They are: Jake Konen and Mike VanArendonk from Kalispell; Whitefish’s Mac Roche and Daniel Simmons; Bigfork’s Travis Knoll; and Columbia Falls’ NathanWoods.

As always, the Helena Independent Record has done a great job covering the Saints. Here are a couple stories worth reading:

Rome Sweet Rome: Carroll Runs Away with NAIA Semifinal Win 

Former crosstown rivals share NAIA title aspirations at Carroll

Good luck, Carroll. Even though you won’t be playing on ESPN’s national stage, there will still be a lot of fans cheering from Montana on Saturday.

Update: Demarais was named to the NAIA Coaches’ All-America team chosen by members of the American Football Coaches Association on Wednesday afternoon. This is the seventh consecutive year that Carroll has had a player on the AFCA NAIA All-America team.

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