By Tiffany L. Rehbein
After the final gun shot and final team huddle, the tears in the eyes of freshman Lights outside linebacker, Colter Epler, told the story of the Lights losing effort, 23-21, to the Western Montana Bulldogs Saturday.
The tears might have been for the glory in the game. The glory of the first Lights lead, that came with 1:57 left in the third quarter of Northerns debut in Havre.
We can compete with some of these Frontier Conference schools, head coach Walt Currie said. That is a good sign and we need to build on that fact.
A Lights holding penalty in the 17-play drive left Northern in a first down situation with 20 yards to master. On their own 24-yard line, a 10-yard pass completion from freshman quarterback Chris Jackson to sophomore tight end Dan Yeager put the Lights immediately back into contention.
At their own 16 yard line, in what appeard to be a tie-up at the line of scrimmage, Jackson broke free and ran. Blocks by wide receiver T Artis and running back Travis Hille aided in Jacksons run toward the end zone.
He was pushed out of bounds at the one yard line, but two plays later he snuck in for the TD, lifting the Lights to the 21-17 lead.
Or the tears might have been for the Lights first touchdown of the 1999 season, Northerns first season as a full member of the Frontier Conference since 1971.
With 7:02 left in the second quarter, an interception by freshman defensive end, Kino Detrick, sparked the drive for the Lights.
With a first and goal on Westerns five-yard line, the Bulldogs held Northern for three plays until Jackson swept to the left, evading the defense, to run untouched into the end zone, narrowing the Bulldog lead 10-7.
More Lights glory came in the third quarter when Northern opened the second half with an eight-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a touchdown. Jackson threw 5-of-6 complete passes in the drive, hitting freshman running back Travis Crawford in a 36-yard scoring strike for the score. With 11:36 remaining in the third quarter, the Lights again narrowed the Bulldog lead, 14-17.
The tears could have been for the three Lights interceptions in the contest; snagged by Dietrick, Tom Ferris and Joel Onsager.
But the tears were more likely for the touchdown that was called back with two minutes remaining in the game. Jackson was whistled for crossing the line of scrimmage on a 21-yard TD pass to receiver Andy Smith.
The tears might have been for the 11 Lights penalties, including more than 70 yards and loss of downs.
The game opened with the Bulldogs scoring on their first possession when junior running back Kevin Konen ran in the first TD of the game, lifting Western 7-0 early in the first quarter.
Brandon Schillinger nailed a field goal early in the second quarter to expand Westerns lead 10-0 before the Lights first score of the game.
For Western, junior quarterback Sean Kittel went 16-of-31, including three interceptions, for 145 yards.
Jackson completed 23 passes for 264 yards. He also threw three interceptions.
Smith, the Frontier Conference offensive player of the week last week, caught eight passes for 108 yards. Yeager also snagged eight passes for 80 yards. Hille had 14 carries for 46 yards in the contest.
They were disappointed after the game, Currie said. We were in a position to win.
The Lights, 0-2 overall and in the Frontier Conference, travel to Helena Thursday to take on Frontier Conference rival Carroll College at 6:30 p.m.