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Helena coach gets Lights job


Montana State University-Northern athletics director Byron Ophus wasn't expecting it to be this easy.

What was supposed to take the better part of a week took roughly about 24 hours as Ophus announced today that Northern will hire Helena Capital head coach Mark Samson as the new head coach of the Lights football program.

"We had four very good candidates," Ophus said. "I don't think it was a matter of Mark being that far above the others, but he was definitely the choice."

Samson was the third candidate interviewed by the coaching search committee on Monday afternoon, and by Tuesday afternoon Ophus had a pretty good idea that he had found his man.

"Once the selection committee finished, I went over and ran through the committee results with (Chancellor) Alex (Capdeville). He said, 'Let's make the call,'" Ophus said.

Samson is perhaps one of the most successful high school coaches in Montana. His Capital teams have amassed a 70-7 record in his seven-year tenure, including four Class AA state championships.

"It's getting more and more exciting as it sets in," Samson said. "I'm really looking forward to coming up to Havre. It'll be a challenge, but I think we can do some great things."

Samson was selected over Whitworth College defensive coordinator Chris Casey, Adams State College special teams coordinator and defensive line coach Anthony Rosso and Ekalaka High School head coach Jeff Savage.

"What more can you say about Mark?" Ophus said. "The guy has an outstanding record at the high school level. He has college experience and he's a quality guy. I've spent a lot of time in this process calling people around the state and outside of it ... anytime I brought Mark's name up, they just said, 'Wow, you just couldn't do any better than that.'"

Samson will inherit a program from Walt Currie that finished last season with a 1-9 record and hasn't had a winning season since its resurrection in 1998. Still, he's very optimistic about the future.

"I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't believe we could do some great things," Samson said. "I am going to get started in earnest next week. I want to finalize my coaching staff and start recruiting because we're behind some of the other programs."

Samson will bring two very familiar recruits with him to the Lights. His sons, Kyle and Marc, will come with him to Northern.

Kyle, who played in 10 games for the University of Montana as a quarterback/receiver, rushed for 105 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown while completing one of five passes for 32 yards in the Grizzlies' option package.

Kyle was originally slated to be a receiver for the Griz and found that the limited quarterbacking expe


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