George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
Not much has changed in predicting the outcome of the Frontier Conference football season. When it comes to the coaches of the league, the Carroll College Fighting Saints are still the team to beat in the league. The 2008 Frontier Conference Coaches Pre-season poll was released on Monday night, and the Saints were an almost unanimous selection to capture the league title. Carroll has lost just one conference game in the last three seasons, and the Saints rolled to their fifth NAIA national championship in six years last December. Another common theme of recent coaches polls is the respect that the Montana State University-Northern Lights are getting from league coaches. The Lights are picked to finish third this season by the coaches, after finishing tied for third with Montana- Western last season with a 5-5 league record. The Lights have finished in the top three in the league standings for three straight seasons, and last year, Northern endured injuries and quarterback issues and still wound up with a 6-5 overall record. Montana Tech, which finished strong last year at 6-4 in league play was picked second by the coaches. The Orediggers received 21 points to Carroll's 25 points and Tech garnered one first-place vote. Rocky Mountain College was picked fourth, followed by Western and Eastern Oregon. RMC was 3-7 in league play a year ago, while Western went 5-5 and EOU 1-10. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. First place was worth five points, second place worth four points, third place worth three points, fourth place worth two points and fifth place worth one point. The league race is expected to be very interesting this season, as several teams experienced key losses on both sides of the ball. Carroll will replace two-year starter Jon Barnett at quarterback with former Havre High standout Gary Wagner. And Western, which had one of the top offenses in the NAIA a year ago, will also have to find a new quarterback, and the Bulldogs have a new head coach this year after veteran Tommy Lee retired last winter. MSU-N and Tech, two of the leagues top defensive teams suffered key losses to graduation on that side of the ball, while RMC and EOU are still considered young teams with inexperience on both the offense and defense. The 2008 Frontier season kicks off on Aug. 28 when Western travels to Ogden, Utah to face Big Sky Conference member Weber State. Carroll plays at Azusa Pacific on Aug. 30. MSU-N's first game won't be until Sept. 6 at RMC. The Lights open fall camp on Aug. 15.