Montana State University-Northern head coach Mark Samson summed it up pretty well after Northern’s 34-23 loss to Rocky Mountain College Saturday at sun-drenched Blue Pony Stadium.
“It’s frustrating right now, it’s tough because we’ve got a lot of kids who are playing really hard and they are not getting the results in terms of a win,” Samson said.
And make no mistake, the Lights want to win and win badly.
This is a talented football team, passionate about the game and you see it on the field.
Northern does play hard, the Lights play to the whistle and they play for 60 minutes — hence their third-quarter rally against the Bears on Saturday, or their fight-to-the-end two weeks ago against Montana Tech.
But as hard as the Lights play, as much as they love the game, Samson has also pointed out just how young his football team really is this season. With the exception of seniors Matt Stuart, Casey Varner, Travis Hjort and a few others, the Lights start a host of talented but young players, who by age or grade are still young, and there will be growing pains, no matter how much fight a team has in it, no matter how much passion it plays with.
And that’s why college football can be such a cruel game. Sometimes the hard work and sacrifice that college football players endure doesn't always pay immediate dividends. Sometimes, it just takes time.
Northern was young a year ago when injuries decimated the Lights’ season, and the injury bug is catching up with the Lights yet again.
Senior linebacker Anthony Tate was lost for the season in MSU-N’s week-one win over UM-Western. Starting offensive lineman Zeb Olson is out now and former Havre High great Jared Weigel is playing with a cast on his arm. There’s others that are dinged up and playing hurt, and it seems as though the Lights just can’t escape that bug right now.
Maybe no football team can, but the it seems like the Lights are dealing with that nasty injury bug on a frequent basis as of late.
But as I watched Northern try to mount a comeback on a day when very little seemed to go the Lights way, as I watched the Lights still playing physical, trying to recover a late onside kick in the fourth quarter, and as I watched them leave the turf at Blue Pony Stadium after the game, I realized no matter what adversity gets thrown this team’s way this season, they’ll continue to fight.
This Northern team is showing a lot of pride, not just in its play but in how it conducts itself. The Lights did well to shrug off last season’s difficulties and get a win right out of the gates. That win in Dillon might seem like a long time ago now, but there’s a long way to November, and I don’t see any quit in this group of Lights.
It won’t get any easier, that is true. The injuries and dings continue to mount as much as the weather continues to change as an always rugged Frontier Conference season carries on. And the vaunted Carroll College saints are next up on the Lights’ docket.
But while the going will get tougher for everyone that dares to put on a college football uniform each fall, one thing I’m certain of, is come each Saturday, for the rest of this season, these talented Lights will continue to fight. They’ll continue to battle and they will continue to have pride in what they do.