Havre Daily News sports editor
The Montana State University Northern football team is looking pretty good right now, according to head coach Mark Samson.
The offense is moving the ball well and scoring touchdowns. The defense is very sharp and they are hitting hard and making plays.
That is enough to make any coach happy.
But it makes Samson especially pleased considering that it is only April and the real NAIA football season is still five months away.
The Lights are in the middle of spring drills, and so far everything is going according to plan. Northern is preparing not only to improve upon a 5-5 record from a year ago, but to make a serious push at the 2006 Frontier Conference championship and an NAIA playoff berth.
“I am fairly pleased right now,” Samson said. “The kids that would be considered our No. 1's look especially good right now. Things have gone pretty well so far.
“There are always things we see every day that we can improve on,” he added. “But the kids are working very hard and their attitude is great right now, so you have to be happy with that.”
The Lights have held two full-contact scrimmages thus far with two more still to come. In a scrimmage last Saturday, the MSU-N offense scored seven times, including six touchdowns and a field goal.
Senior starting quarterback Kyle Samson looked sharp, leading the No. 1 offense to four scores.
But the competition to be Samson's backup is also heating up between Kelly McBryan and Jeff Van Nest. McBryan threw a touchdown pass in Saturday's scrum, and Van Nest also guided the backups to a score.
“I think the offense is getting better, and we're certainly much farther ahead than we were at this point last year,” Mark Samson said. “We had some problems early on with the offensive line and some injuries, but we have that remedied now and the offense is moving the ball pretty well.”
The MSU-N offense ran 80 total plays in the last scrimmage and the quarterbacks completed 25-of-35 passes. The Lights also rushed the ball 40 times and kicked several field goals and punts.
Like the offense, the Lights' defensive unit is also showing signs of becoming top-rated in 2006. The top of the Lights' defensive depth chart is littered with talented and veteran players who are making plays all over the field.
As sharp as MSU-N's offense looked on Saturday, the defense came up with five fumbles, including three that were forced by violent hits.
“I really like where our defense is at right now,” Samson said. “We are making a lot of plays right now, and these guys have all come into spring strong and they are playing as physical as we'll let them right now.”
The Lights have six practices and two scrimmages left before spring drills conclude. Northern will scrimmage Saturday afternoon at the Havre High practice field.
The Lights will wrap up spring practice with their annual spring game on April 14 at Blue Pony Stadium.