The first week of Frontier Conference football is in the books. And it was interesting that with all of the possible surprises, everything went according to form.
Billings was the sight of what many people were saying could be an upset in the making as No. 1 Carroll College went on the road at upstart Rocky Mountain College. The Bears narrowly missed beating Carroll twice last season, and with an improved defense, people thought it was finally going to be Rocky’s turn.
Instead, the Saints picked up right where they left off, winning 35-16 in dominating fashion. Carroll got a 202-yard performance from Chance Demarias on the ground, and the Saints defense showed little vulnerability despite losing its entire defensive line from a year ago. The win in Billings also helped Carroll run its Frontier Conference winning streak to an astonishing 43 games in a row.
There were no surprises in Havre or Butte either.
MSU-Northern had to hang on for dear life at the end, but the Lights prevailed over UM-Western, which has now lost eight straight games dating back to last season. The biggest concern coming out of Blue Pony Stadium last weekend was a whopping 19 combined penalties in the game. Some were questionable, some were blatant and some could be chalked up to it being the first game of the season. No matter, both the Lights and Bulldogs will want to get that cleaned up before the next games.
Eastern Oregon, which is predicted to finish second in the Frontier showed off its high-powered offense in a 35-15 thrashing of Montana Tech last Saturday. Tech was riding high after a season-opening double-overtime win over Southern Oregon two weeks ago, but the Orediggers’ defense, which returns just three starters this season, was no match for EOU’s attack.
•The first weekend of play also saw some huge individual performances. Demarias’ day included two scores, while EOU running back Kevin Sampson wasn’t to be outdone. Samson rushed for 159 yards on just 19 carries against the Orediggers, while Northern’s Kyle Johnston caught just five passes for a whopping 155 yards. MSU-N’s Derek Lear also had a big day, throwing for 343 yards on 20 completions with no interceptions.
•Talking about picking up where you left off, Eastern Oregon led the Frontier in defensive interceptions last season, and the Mounties got one on week one against Tech as linebacker Marc Avery-Airhart picked off Oredigger pass. It was a good day for linebackers and picks last Saturday as Avery-Airhart, Northern’s A.J. Pasalo and Rocky’s Travis Bertelsen all grabbed INTs. Northern’s Ryan Craig had a big punt block as there were also exciting plays on special teams, including an RMC 103-yard kickoff return for a score against the Saints.
•This Saturday in the Frontier will also feature more interesting matchups, including an unusual one for the 1-0 Lights. While Carroll hosts EOU and Western welcomes in Rocky Saturday afternoon, the Lights will play a rare night game when they face Montana Tech Saturday night in Butte. Northern has played few night games over the years, but the Lights last one came in their final game of the 2008 season. That year, the Lights went 7-3 and narrowly missed out on a playoff berth, but they ended the season with a thorough thrashing of Montana Tech under the lights at Blue Pony Stadium. The game was played on a Friday night to make room that year for a Havre High football playoff game the following day.
Northern’s game against Tech will kick off at 6 p.m. at Alumni Coliseum Saturday in Butte.