George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
With time ticking away until the beginning of the 2007 Frontier Conference football season, the Montana State University-Northern Lights were recently ranked No. 12 in the brand new, NAIA preseason Top25. In 2006, the Lights went 9-3, finished second in the Frontier Conference, and reached the NAIA playoffs, losing to Carroll College in the first round. Northern, which had never been ranked before, reached as high as No. 7 in the NAIA poll a year ago. Now the Lights will begin the new year ranked as one of the NAIA’s best. Earlier this summer, Northern was picked to finish second in the conference by the coaches. In all, the Frontier schools were ranked in the preseason Top 25, led by Carroll. The Saints begin the season in as unfamiliar territory as last season ended. Carroll is ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll, and it is the first time in three years the Saints won’t start a new season as the NAIA’s top team. Before the Saints lost to Saint Xavier of Illinois in the NAIA playoffs last November, the Saints had won the previous four NAIA national championships. Meanwhile, Montana Tech, which just missed out the NAIA playoffs a year ago, will start the season ranked No. 24. The Orediggers are picked to finish third in the Frontier Conference, and they are led by former Havre High School quarterback Justin Kegel. The preseason poll sets up an intriguing match up in just three weeks when the Lights travel to Butte to take on the Orediggers in the conference opener for both teams. Defending NAIA national champion Sioux Falls of South Dakota begins the year as the NAIA’s top team, receiving 15 of the 16 first-place votes. Secondranked Saint Francis picked up the other first-place vote. Missouri Valley is ranked third and Saint Xavier is fifth. MSU-N’s first opponent, Dickinson State University, starts the season unranked. The Blue Hawks did receive eight votes, and they will visit MSU-N on Sept. 1 at 1 p.m. at Blue Pony Stadium.