By Jess Green
DILLON The Montana State University-Northern Lights won their Thursday night prime time match-up with the Western Montana College Bulldogs with a final of 28-10. The Lights played well on both sides of the ball to beat the Bulldogs in their second meeting this year.
Bomont Somerfeld handled the kickoff for the Lights and the Bulldogs returned it to their own 24 yard line. After making one first down up to the 36 yard line, the Lights defense tightened and forced Western to punt.
Due to a bobbled snap, the Lights got to the punter before he could get the punt away. Through out the evening, the Bulldogs would have trouble with their long snap in punting situations.
As a result of the muffed punt attempt, the Lights took over at the Bulldog 24 yard line. After a series of penalties, incomplete passes, and short run plays, the Lights brought in Kris Marshal to kick the field goal and make it a 3-0 Lights lead.
Again, Somerfeld put the ball in play with a kickoff to the Western 10 yard line. The Bulldogs returned the ball to the 25 and began their second drive from there.
Once again, Western was able to convert a first down and reach their 36 yard line where the Lights defense stiffened. With a third and 10 following two incomplete passes, Kino Detrick sacked Western QB, Cole VanHeel at the 20.
Facing a fourth and long, the Bulldogs were again forced to punt. Aaron Hayder kicked the ball to T Artis at the Light 35. Artis retreated to the Light 32 where he was hit hard.
The Lights offense struggled on this series as well. The series included a bobbled snap on first and ten which forced QB Brandon Kerkes to cover it, a 5 yard false start penalty on the next down, and and incomplete pass on third down.
The only highlight of the drive was when Kerkes, in spite of the heavy Bulldog rush, connected with Scott Ramsey out of the back field for a 16 yard gain. Nevertheless, the Lights, unable to make up for the early loss of yardage, were forced to punt.
After a fair catch at their own 34, the Bulldogs started to move the ball down the field. The drive was highlighted by a 20 yard pass play which got the Bulldogs in to Northern territory, and a 22 yard scramble by Western QB VanHeel to get the ball to the Lights 20.
After a stuffed run and to pass attempts into the endzone, the 'Dogs were forced to bring out the field goal unit. The 37 yard attempt by Brandon Schillinger ended up being blocked by the Lights and they would take over at the 20.
Once again the struggling offense went three and out and was forced to punt. The high punt was downed inside Light territory at the 49.
Although Western began the drive with good field position, the Lights defense forced a three and out drive giving the ball back to their offense at their own 36 yard line.
After a five yard penalty and nearing the end of the first quarter, the Lights offense got a spark. Quarterback Brandon Kerkes connected with Tanner Woodward on a 57 yard pass play taking the ball to the Western 12.
The Lights then proceeded to pound the ball with runningback Travis Crawford. Crawford finally scored on a third down and three from the five yard line. Tanner Smith put up the extra point and the Lights had a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Western's next drive started on their own 28 yardline and would reach mid field before the Light defense forced a punt.
The two teams exchanged faltering drives punting the ball back and forth until the Bulldogs started a drive from their own 25 with 1:22 left in the half. On a first and ten, VanHeel threw an interception to Josh Fike. Fike returned the ball to the Bulldog 25 and the Lights were given a last minute opportunity.
After an incomplete pass on first down and a sack on second down, Kerkes connected with Andy Smith down the middle for the score. The extra point attempt was blocked, but salvaged by holder T Artis who picked it up and ran it in for two.
With less than a minute left in the half, the Bulldogs took the ball from their own 30 to the Light 32 where kicker Brandon Schillinger put in a long field goal to make the halftime score 18-3.
Defense was the name of the game early in the third as both team forced each other into another series of punt exchanges. Things got interesting in the second half with just over eight minutes left. The Lights recovered a fumbled a hand off deep in Bulldog territory. Northern capitalized on the opportunity by kicking a 33 yard field goal with 7:55 left in the third quarter.
Once again, defensive play dominated, and the quarter ended with the Lights on top 21-3.
The fourth quarter began much like the third quarter ended with good defensive play by both teams. Eventually, the Lights offense started to come together. With 12 minutes left, the Lights took the ball at mid-field began to work on the clock.
The drive ate up more than four minutes as the Lights blended both pass and run. After using Richard Jarvis out of the backfield and connecting with three different receivers, Kerkes capped the drive with a short pass to Scott Ramsey. Tanner Smith made it 28-3 with his successful point after try.
What happened next shocked everyone. The lights committed 45 yards worth of penalties including an unsportsmanlike foul against the bench. Relief QB Matt Reiger made the Lights pay with a four yard run into the endzone. Schillinger put up the extra point and the score was 28-10 with just over six minutes left.
The Lights defense cam through in the last minutes stopping the next two Bulldog drive with interceptions by Bryan Kott and Josh Kirby. The last minutes also saw the continued break down of the Lights in terms of penalties. They received two more unsportsmanlike penalties, a personal foul, and two false starts in the last minutes of the game.
The offensive player of the game was Lights QB Brandon Kerkes. The defensive player of the game was Lights defensive end Kino Detrick.
Also playing well for the Lights was cornerback Bryan Kott. Kott managed to break up several pass attempts and even had an interception.
"That's the best we've played since we started the program," Lights coach Walt Currie said.
While the Lights will see action next against Southern Oregon in Havre on Oct. 28th, next week's Thursday night action will boast Frontier Conference powerhouses Rocky Mountain College and Montana Tech.