By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
With the regular season looming just a week away, local teams gave fans a hint of the upcoming season with preseason scrimmages.
The Montana State University-Northern football team gave a crowd of about 100 people plenty of excitement during its first preseason scrimmage on Friday evening.
The Lights, under new head coach Mark Samson, showed big-play potential on offense and scrappiness on defense in the hour-long workout.
"We're about where I'd thought we'd be at this point in the fall," Samson said. "I liked what I saw on both sides of the ball, but we've still got a lot of work to do."
Samson's son, Kyle, who transferred to Northern from the University of Montana, led the Lights offense to three scores.
Northern's offense marched down the field in the opening possession, as Samson connected on a pair of passes with Nick Arnold. However, Northern's defense held the offense out of the end zone on a crucial stop on a third-and-goal play from the 4-yard line.
"What I liked was that our defense was flying around to the football and playing with a lot of the enthusiasm," Coach Samson said.
The Lights' offense would get in the end zone on its next two possessions. Tailback Don Saisbury took an option pitch from Kyle Samson and rolled 48 yards down the sideline for the first score.
On the next series, Samson scooted 18 yards on a quarterback draw for a score. The Northern defense stymied the offense for four consecutive possessions, before Samson connected on a 3-yard scoring pass to Arnold.
"We did some good things on offense," Mark Samson said. "But we stopped ourselves with little mistakes. We had some dropped passes and penalties."
The Lights' offense also produced two more scores. Former Havre High standout Dan Wirtzberger tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Everett Cornwell, and Saxton Shearer scampered in from 8 yards out.
Northern will scrimmage again on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The Havre High football team also opened with a successful Blue-White scrimmage in front of about 600 people at the newly renovated Blue Pony Stadium.
Havre High head coach Troy Purcell split up his varsity players and starters and the result was an evenly matched game.
The White squad opened the scoring with sophomore Tanner Donovan connecting with senior Coda Tchida on a 28-yard TD pass. Returning all-state quarterback Gary Wagner answered, leading the Blue team to a score. After scrambling across the width of the field, Wagner found Craig Kallenberger wide open in the end zone from 17 yards out.
The remainder of the varsity scrimmage was scoreless, as both teams' defenses stopped several potential scoring drives.
Football isn't the only sport preparing for the upcoming season. The Havre High volleyball squad also took to the floor in its annual Blue-White scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.
The Ponies had little trouble with the junior varsity squad in a pair of games. Head coach Bill Huebsch split up his varsity for the final game, which ended with a 25-23 score.
"For having only four practices, we looked pretty good," Huebsch said. "They were a little nervous early on, but that's to be expected."
The Ponies feature just one senior - Kristin Evanson - on the team. But Huebsch believes his young team will mature during the season.
"We might be young, but there is a lot of enthusiasm there," he said. "We're only going to get better every time we step on the court.
"We're definitely ahead of where we were last season. The whole attitude of the team has been very positive and we've already come together as a team."
The Northern volleyball squad didn't scrimmage against itself, choosing instead to take on a squad of former Skylights.
Northern dispatched its elders by scores of 21-18, 21-15, 21-19, 19-21 and 21-15.
"I've seen them play better in practice," head coach Lisa Handley said. "I think they were a little nervous. We were a lot quieter on offense than we have been. They need to be louder."
Katy Engstrom led the Skylights with nine kills, while Lindsay Garcia added eight kills. Transfer setter Emilee Madsen dished out 21 assists.
"We're still ahead of where we were last season, even though we brought in so many new players," Handley said.
The Skylights will play their annual Maroon-Gold scrimmage on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"I don't have any idea who I am going to start, because we have so many kids that can contribute," Handley said. "Wednesday will be big in helping me decide. I expect a much crisper performance on Wednesday."