George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
It's still early, but it's becoming quite clear that there is plenty of parity in the Frontier Conference. Take for example the UM-Western Bulldogs. The Bulldogs opened the season with an inexperienced quarterback and three difficult losses. Western, which was supposed to have a plethora of offensive weapons at its disposal this season, struggled on offense for three straight weeks. But last Saturday in Dillon, the Bulldogs inserted freshman Michah Mamiya in at quarterback and the Bulldogs stormed back to pick up their first win of the season, a 35-31 win over Eastern Oregon. Mamiya went 36-of-41 for 365 yards and four touchdowns against the Mountaineers, and all of a sudden, the Bulldogs look like the Western offense of old, as well as a team to be reckoned with the rest of the season. Mamiya became the fifth freshman this season to play quarterback in a Frontier game. EOU's Chris Ware is also a true freshman. First-time quarterbacks had plenty to do with last Saturday's nationallyranked barnburner between No. 1 Carroll College and then No. 15 Montana State University-Northern. Northern freshman Nick Petrino was again solid in a close, 17-10 loss for the Lights. Petrino is currently fifth in the league in total offense and he made some huge throws against the Saints. But it was Carroll's quarterback situation that made for plenty of drama in Havre. The Saints' starter, Dane Broadhead threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions against MSU-N, so Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest inserted another true freshman, Matt Ritter into the game for the rest of the first half. However, it was Broadhead, surprisingly, who returned for the second half, and led the Saints to two touchdowns, helping them overtake a Northern 7-3 halftime lead. The aftermath of the huge Carroll/ Northern showdown really didn't clear a lot up as far as the race for the conference title goes. The Saints and Lights are the front-runners for the league title, as the two teams are the only teams in the conference with winning records heading into Saturday's games. From Saturday's tilt in Havre, it was obvious that both Carroll and MSU-N are the top two teams in the league, and an Oct. 25 showdown in Helena might be needed to decide the Frontier title and the league's automatic bid into the NAIA playoffs. However, both teams have important bounce back games on Saturday. After an emotionally-charge game at Blue Pony Stadium, the Lights have to go to Western and Carroll is at home to face Montana Tech in another rivalry game. There was some fallout from Rocky Mountain College's 27-22 win over Tech last Saturday in Billings. The Orediggers fell to 1-2 in conference play and 1-3 overall with the loss, essentially ending Tech's playoff hopes. Rarely do three-loss teams make the final field of 16. Meanwhile, the Bears showed some resiliency last Saturday, coming back from an embarrassing loss to Carroll two weeks ago by beating a Tech team that had been picked by many to contend for a Frontier title this season. With the win, RMC is still in the Frontier hunt heading into Saturday's long road trip to EOU. That game will probably decide whether or not RMC will be a major player in the Frontier the rest of the way. Northern's Justin Moe continue's lead the league in rushing after gaining 91 yards against the Saints last Saturday. Moe is averaging 110.7 yards per game and a gaudy 5.3 yards per carry, both tops in the Frontier. Moe's numbers rank him eighth in the NAIA, while Tech's Drew Savage is the only other Frontier rusher gaining more than 100 yards per game. The Lights also have league leaders in tackles and interceptions. MSU-N junior Stetson Koffman leads the league in total tackles with 13.7 per game and he ranks sixth in the NAIA. Koffman also leads the league and is ninth in the nation in tackles for loss. Jared Weigel and Will Andrews lead the league in sacks with 3.5 each, and they are tied for 12th in the nation. RMC's Kasey Peters leads the Frontier in most passing categories, including total offense. Peters is sixth in the NAIA in passing yards per game at 295 and seventh in the NAIA in total offense at 300 yards per game.