Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Reaching the NAIA playoffs will not happen this season and neither will winning the Frontier Conference championship. But that doesn't mean the Montana State University-Northern football team doesn't have a lot riding on the rest of its regular season.
The Lights are still in the hunt for their first winning season and they can still finish second in the conference standings. All of that hinges on Saturday's trip to Rocky Mountain College in Billings.
Even though the Lights have two games and a bye week left this season, none of those goals can be reached without a rare road win at Rocky on Saturday afternoon.
In order for the Lights to get over the hump against Rocky, they will have to put last week's loss to Carroll College behind them. Carroll's big-play offense was held in check by the MSU-N defense for most of the afternoon, but the Lights surrendered 21 points, two on interceptions and one on a punt return, in the second quarter.
Those miscues did not sit well with MSU-N head coach Mark Samson, but he said his players have also managed to find a way to put the game out of their minds.
“You just can't give Carroll 21 free points,” Samson said. “They are too good of a team without the free points. I don't know that had we not made those mistakes, the outcome would have been any different. But I know that the game would have been a lot closer, and after the game our kids were really disappointed in themselves for letting those mistakes happen.”
“This week of practice has been really positive,” he added. “Our guys have worked really hard to eliminate the problems we had against Carroll and they are ready to go to Rocky and get a big win.”
The other obstacle standing in the way of MSU-N (3-4, 4-4) securing a winning season is the toughest one of all in the Frontier Conference - winning on the road. Three of the Lights' four losses this season have come on the road.
“It isn't that we have played poorly on the road this season,” Samson said. “We have just played very inconsistent.
“We are long overdue to put a complete football game together on the road,” he added. “Hopefully this is the game we do it. Because if we do, I really think we can win this game.”
Despite the Bears' 1-4 conference record, RMC will be ready to defend its home field on Saturday. Rocky is coming off of an emotional win over UM-Western, and the Bears pushed Northern to the brink of defeat last month in Havre.
The Lights trailed Rocky 16-14 at halftime of that homecoming game and had to rely on its defense and a late touchdown by Kyle Samson to pull the victory out.
Northern's defense shut down RMC veteran quarterback Adam Sanchez in the first meeting, limiting him to less than 150 total yards of offense. Since that time Sanchez has steadily improved and he is the second-rated passer in the league behind Carroll's Tyler Emmert.
Kyle Samson had another outstanding day against Carroll, throwing for 250 yards and running for 121. It was his second straight game rushing for more than 100 yards, and he is now third in the league in total rushing. His skills will once again be called upon when the Lights and Bears tangle in Billings.
“I know Rocky will play their hearts out on Saturday,” Mark Samson said. “They are a very tough and gutty football team, and they will be very excited to play us.
“This is a big game for us because we want to find out that we can win on the road,” he added. “A win this weekend would be another positive step for our program.”
Saturday's Frontier Conference game between MSU-Northern and Rocky Mountain College is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. at Daylis Stadium in Billings. The game can be heard locally on 610 KOJM-AM.