Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Given the short amount of time that Mark Samson has been the Montana State University-Northern head football coach, signing 16 good recruits would be considered a complete and total success.
But not for Samson. These first 16 recruits are just the first of many more that will build a foundation for a bright future for the Lights' football program.
"These signees are just the first of many who we feel will join us to help establish a winning tradition at MSU-Northern," Samson said.
Heading the list of signees are three transfers and four former Helena Capital players, who are currently participating in winter conditioning with the Lights.
The most heralded of the transfers and the Samson's son, Kyle (5-8, 172), has made the transition from the University of Montana with relative ease.
"Kyle has already brought a lot of leadership and enthusiasm to the team," Samson said. "He has really fit in well with the players already here."
Another transfer is a familiar name to Havre football fans. Former Blue Pony standout quarterback Dan Wirtzberger (5-8, 190) has returned home after two years at Jamestown College. Samson has been very impressed with Wirtzberger, especially his versatility.
"Dan is showing a lot athleticism, but we just need to get him in a little better physical shape," Samson said. "We've been working him at quarterback, but we're also going to get him some work in at slotback."
Former KG standout Tel Sterner (6-2, 280) has returned to the Hi-Line after spending last season at UM-Western. Samson said that Sterner could make an impact on the defensive line immediately.
"If we get Sterner into better shape, he could be a very good defensive tackler for us," Samson said.
Joining the transfers are former Capital players fullback Cody Nickel (5-10, 215), defensive linemen R.C. Pearce (6-1, 235) and Jake Kuntz (6-2, 232) and defensive back Jesse Auck (5-7, 150).
Nickel, Pearce and Auck were all-state performers while Kuntz garnered all-conference kudos for the Bruins.
"Cody is looking very good right now," Samson said. "He's a big, strong kid who should help us immediately at fullback."
Samson fully expects several of the new faces to contribute next season.
"We're going to have to count on those transfer kids at some level," Samson said. "They are here for conditioning and for spring practice so they should be ahead of our incoming freshmen."
But Samson isn't about to say that the nine incoming freshman who have signed with Northern won't contribute next season. Several have the talent to contribute, if not start next season.
Headlining the incoming freshman is Samson's youngest son, Marc, who was the Class AA defensive most valuable player. Marc Samson (5-7, 158) is a three-time all-state safety and two-time all-state punt returner.
"When people look at him without his uniform on, they probably aren't real impressed," Samson said. "But he's one tough kid who will have success at this level."
Marc Samson will be joined by three of his Helena Capital teammates from last year's squad. Two-time all-state wide receiver and kick returner Todd Nelson (5-8, 155) will be another athlete who Samson hopes will step in immediately.
"Todd gives us some instant speed on the outside," he said. "He isn't the biggest kid, but he's a dangerous receiver."
Also signing from Capital are all-state linbacker Dustin Glueckert (5-8, 185) and defensive linemen Dugan Kanta (6-0, 198). Samson signed a pair of Helena High athletes in all-conference linebacker Tyler Gullickson (6-1, 195) and all-conference offensive lineman Cody Mattfeldt (6-1, 260).
Rounding out the intial signees are Whitefish all-state offensive lineman Tom Hodges (6-3, 280), CMR all-state defensive back Mike Palagi and Billings Skyview all-state offensive lineman Spencer Brown.
"Some of these freshmen are going to have to play right away," Samson said. "They certainly have the talent to contribute on the field."
Samson also said that former Northern defensive back and Havre High standout Brent Finneman, who did not play last season, has returned to the team.
"He's a smart kid and he will help out immediately," he said.
Besides this first 16, Samson said he's on the verge of announcing another group of recruits some time next week. Thus far, he's pleased with recruiting, but hopes it will only continue to get better.
"It's going well," Samson said. "We're getting some kids that other Frontier schools wanted pretty badly. I got down a little last week when we lost a few kids to other schools, but I got right back up when we got some kids I didn't expect to get. My coaching staff has really been putting in some hours and we've been getting great help from people around campus. But we're not done recruiting by any stretch of the imagination."