The Montana State University-Northern Lights’ stay in the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll lasted just one week. But the Lights are still in the hunt for a national ranking.
After falling at home 48-29 to then 12th-ranked Eastern Oregon, the Lights dropped out of the Top 25, but still received eight votes in this week’s poll. Northern is at 2-1 in the Frontier Conference and tied with Rocky Mountain College and Carroll College in the Frontier Conference standings.
EOU, Carroll and Rocky moved up in this week’s poll. The Saints moved to No. 4 this week, while EOU jumped three spots to No. 9, again the highest ranking the school has ever had. RMC is also ranked higher than it has been in nine years. The Bears moved from No. 20 to No. 17 this week after a close win over Montana Tech last Saturday.
Eastern Oregon's ranking is the highest in school history and the Mountaineers are in first place for the first time since they joined the Frontier Conference in 2005.
The top-two teams are the only ones that hold their positions in the poll, the national office announced Monday. Saint Xavier (Ill.) and Saint Francis (Ind.) hold at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Both teams won by more than three touchdowns on Sept. 17 to stay on top of the list. St. Xavier posted all 15 first-place votes and 340 total points, while the Cougars from Indiana recorded 327 total points.
No. 3 Marian (Ind.) is one of 23 programs to shift rank, as the Knights moved up one spot to its highest position in school history. They tallied 312 total points. No. 4 Carroll (Mont.) and No. 5 William Penn (Iowa) both move up one slot with 294 and 285 points, respectively. This is the second-consecutive week that 23 teams changed positions. The biggest fall within the Top 25 was Morningside sliding down eight spots to No. 11.
Players from Carroll College, Eastern Oregon and Rocky Mountain College were named Frontier Conference Football Players of the Week. EOU’s Kevin Sampson a 5-foot-8, 180-pound, senior running back from Seattle, Wash was named offensive player of the week. In No. 12 Eastern's road win over No. 23 ranked Montana State-Northern, Sampson rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. He caught three passes for 37 yards and one touchdown. Other players nominated: Chance Demarais of Carroll College and A.J. Tolbert of Rocky Mountain College.
J.T. Fitzgerald of Rocky Mountain College, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound, senior defensive back, from Bellingham, Wash was named defensive player of the week. In Rocky's 44-37 win over Montana Tech, Fitzgerald recorded five solo tackles, four assisted tackles and had one interception. With just 2:23 remaining in the game and the score tied at 37, he returned his interception 52 yards for the winning touchdown. Also nominated, Marc-Avery Airhart of Eastern Oregon and Brian Strobel of Carroll College.
Matt Ritter, of Carroll College, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound, senior wide receiver from Butte, Mont earned special team’s player of the week. In No. 5 Carroll's 31-13 win over the UM- Western, he had punt returns of 32 yards including one returned for 28 yards. Also nominated, Will Mondragon of Rocky Mountain College and Ryan Watson of Eastern Oregon.
The Lights take on No. 17 Rocky Mountain College Saturday at 1 p.m. in Billings.