FLORENCE — Saturday’s game won’t be the first time North Alabama’s Christian Lopez and Montana’s Dalton Sneed have crossed paths.
The two quarterbacks started their careers together at UNLV and each took the junior college route before landing at a FCS program. When Sneed’s time in New Mexico didn’t work out, he went to Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. Lopez went to Mesa Community College, about 12 miles away from Sneed’s hometown in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Although the two stayed in contact and they play each other online in video games like Madden and NBA2K on Xbox, they haven’t seen each other in about a year. Saturday, the two will play each other in what will serve as a reunion of sorts when the Lions visit Missoula, Montana.
“It’s going to be cool,” Lopez said. “Obviously it’ll be different when we’re on the field, but at the end of the day you play football because it’s fun. It’s all for fun … and it’ll probably be something I’ll cherish forever.”
Sneed said the two spent time together and hung out when he came back home to visit while he was enrolled at Fort Scott. Then, Lopez was at Mesa and became close friends with Carter McCarthy, who played tight end for Mesa. McCarthy, who is now at Stony Brook, knew Sneed from when the two played together at Horizon High School in Scottsdale.
“I’m happy our relationship has stayed together and stay in contact over the years.” Sneed said. “He’s just a great guy and an awesome friend.”
About a year and a half ago, the 2019 schedule was released and Lopez and Sneed found out they would be playing against each other. Lopez said it probably should’ve happened before when the two were both in junior college in a potential bowl game, but Fort Scott didn’t win the game needed for it to happen.
But when he discovered the news on Twitter, he mentioned it to Sneed, and Sneed responded by calling Lopez to talk about it.
“It’s kind of crazy how it all worked out,” Lopez said.
On the field, the two share similar characteristics. They each won the starting job in last year’s preseason camp and play a similar style.They are efficient with the ball through the air and can also scramble if needed.
Sneed threw for 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2018. He also ran for 675 yards and six scores. Lopez threw 14 touchdowns with two interceptions and ran for five touchdowns in 2018. He added another rushing score in the first game this season.
“We’re both smart dudes, we like to use our feet to our advantage. That’s kind of where the trend has gone, so you kind of have to use your feet,” Lopez said.
Lopez said he wishes the best for Sneed and his success, “except for Saturday,” he joked. However, he did explain the importance of staying focused on winning while still being able to have fun.
Neither quarterback said he was surprised to see the success each other has had in their careers.
Both were thrust into situations at UNLV where things didn’t work out, but each found his way back to Division I with his respective FCS programs. Saturday, the two will square off and the focus during the game will be on beating each other, but the mutual respect will be there afterward.
“Knowing we are both competitors but at the same time we are really good friends, it’s awesome (that) we have this opportunity go to head-to-head,” Sneed said.