George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
The Montana State University- Northern football team may have just wrapped up the most successful season in school history, but December will still be a month in which MSU-N football is recognized as awards from various associations and publications pour in. On Monday, the American Football Coaches Association announced its Regional Coach of the Year winners, and on that list is Lights’ head coach Mark Samson. This is the first year that AFCA has given regional awards to NAIA schools, and Samson was honored as the Region 5 Coach of the Year in NAIA football. Samson, who is 15-14 in three years at MSU-N, led the Lights to a 9-3 overall record, including an 8-2 mark in Frontier Conference play this season. The nine wins was an MSU-N school record, and the Lights also qualified for the NAIA playoffs for the first time in school history. MSU-N also became the first team to beat four-time defending national champion Carroll College in 29 attempts earlier this year. The Lights ended the Saints’ 29-game winning streak back on Oct. 23 in Havre. MSU-N’s season ended when the Lights lost to the Saints, 20-7 in Helena on Nov. 18 in the opening round of the NAIA playoffs. Samson, a Helena native, previously coached at Carroll College and more recently at Helena Capital High School where he led the Bruins to three Class AA state championships before coming to MSU-N. Other winners of the AFCA award in NAIA were, Bethel’s (Tenn.) Dino Kaklis (Region I), St. Ambrose’s Todd Sturdy (Region 2), Missouri Valley’s Paul Troth (Region 3) and Sioux Falls’ Kalen DeBoer (Region 4). University of Montana head coach Bobby Hauck also earned the Division IAA Region 5 award for the first time in his four-year career at UM. Hauck has the No. 2-ranked Grizzlies in the I-AA semifinals where they will play the University of Massachusetts on Friday night at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. The Grizzlies (12-1) have won 12 straight games this season after losing to Big Ten powerhouse Iowa in their season opener. Montana is in the I-AA playoffs for a record 14th straight season, and the Grizzlies have won 41 games in Hauck’s four years in Missoula. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe earned Division I-A Region 1 honors for the first time this year. Joining Grobe as I-A winners are Arkansas’ Houston Nutt, Region 2; Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, Region 3; Boise State’s Chris Petersen, Region 4, and BYU’s Bronco Mendenhall, Region 5. The 2006 regional winners will be recognized at the AFCA Coach of the Year Dinner Jan. 10 in San Antonio, Texas. National coach of the year awards will be made at the dinner as well.