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Defensive back Brennen Hull (13), along with the rest of the Eastern Oregon University team cheers as Zak Donato scores a pick-six on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, against Montana Western at Community Stadium, La Grande. The Mountaineers head Helena, Montana, for a matchup with the Carroll College Saints on Sept. 18.

HELENA, Mont. — No. 13 Eastern Oregon heads into a road matchup against Carroll College (1-1) looking to maintain momentum.

“We’re definitely excited,” head coach Tim Camp said. “We have to get better at every asset of the game and limit mistakes.”

The Mountaineers come into the matchup 2-0, winning close decisions over Montana Tech and Montana Western. Eastern jumped up from No. 18 to No. 13 in this week’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Week 1 coaches’ poll and stands as the highest ranked Frontier Conference team. According to Camp, the high ranking is not causing any distractions in the locker room.

“There’s always been high expectations with every Eastern team I’ve coached,” he said. “The morale is high but the focus level is high. You have to take the rankings with a grain of salt.”

Eastern has dominated the matchup lately, winning the last six head-to-head competitions with Carroll. The Mountaineers have won eight out of the last 11 games against Carroll, prior to which the Saints won 10 in a row.

Carroll lost to Montana Western 26-22 in its season opener, but bounced back with a 31-17 win over Montana Tech the following week.

“They have a very good coaching staff,” Camp said. “I think the team that blocks better and tackles better will win.”

Senior quarterback Kai Quinn has been a staple to Eastern’s offense this year, passing and running effectively in both game’s this year. Quinn threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns in the 35-28 victory over Montana Western in Week 2, earning conference offensive player of week.

Quinn has been dangerous with his legs, averaging 67 rushing yards per game. He has also spread the love in the passing game, connecting with five different receivers for touchdowns so far this season. Redshirt senior Saige Wilkerson is leading the way, totaling 88 receiving yards and one touchdown on 10 targets.

“We’ve shown that we can run on people and we’ve shown that we can pass on people, now we have to put it all together,” Camp said.

The lethal linebacking duo of Zak Donato and Solo Taylor has been the anchor of Eastern’s defense. Both players lead the team with 18 total tackles each, while Donato has recorded two interceptions and 2-1/2 tackles for loss. Taylor, a redshirt junior, has been a vocal leader for the defense this year and recorded the game-ending sack against Montana Western. The linebacker pair will look to stifle a Carroll offense that is averaging 26.5 points per game and 350 yards per contest.

Duncan Kraft has been a solid running back for Carroll this year, averaging 91 rushing yards per game. Kraft went off for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over Montana Tech. He will be a key point of emphasis for Eastern’s defense in the upcoming matchup.

Kickoff is set for noon at Nelson Stadium in Helena, Montana. The Carroll College athletics department will be livestreaming the game on its YouTube page.

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