Early shake ups in the Frontier
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The Frontier Conference football season is only two weeks old, and already there are major things changing the landscape of the league.
The biggest shake up may have come last weekend when No. 3 Carroll College barely extended its 34-game conference winning streak by slipping past Rocky Mountain College 24-21 in Helena. Now it may not be a surprise that the much-improved Battlin' Bears gave the vaunted Saints all they could handle on Saturday, or that Carroll needed a Thomas Dolan interception of RMC's Mark Desin late in the game to secure the win. Dolan had the play of the game when he took a Desin pass back 85 yards for a touchdown for the Saints.
However, while there was plenty of excitement at Nelson Stadium, there's also concern.
Carroll senior and former Havre High quarterback Gary Wagner went down with an apparent shoulder injury near the end of the first quarter and did not return. What's worse, Wagner was injured on a late hit. The extent of Wagner's injury wasn't known at press time. Wagner was sidelined for most of the 2008 season after he broke his leg in Carroll's second game of the season. He made a valiant effort to come back, and last season led the Frontier Conference and was third in the NAIA in pass efficiency.
While Carroll got through a tough game, Wagner's injury and the loss of two starting offensive linemen, the Bears fell to a heartbreaking 0-2 on the season. Desin, the Montana State transfer and former Billings Senior star, has seen the highs and lows in his Rocky debut. He's looked sharp in both his starts, but has also thrown a fourth-quarter interception in both of RMC's games. Both INTs led to scores which cost the Bears road losses at Dickinson State and at Carroll.
RMC has now lost an astounding 19 straight games to the Saints.
The Bears have one more game before senior quarterback Kasey Peters can play. Peters was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NAIA, but was required to sit out the first three games of the season in order to make up for games he played during a red-shirt season.
While the Saints' conference winning streak remained intact thanks to Dolan, there was also a rumble which could be felt in Butte on Saturday.
Montana Tech, which was stunned by South Dakota Mines in its season opener at home, crushed Eastern Oregon 39-21 on Saturday.
The teams combined for almost 900 yards of total offense, but there were two big shockers which came out of the game. First, Tech quarterback Matt Komac outplayed EOU's Chris Ware, a 2009 NAIA All-American. Komac threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and he also scampered for a career-high 89 yards and another score. Ware, normally fleet of foot, was held to just two yards rushing by the Tech defense.
Also of note, EOU was picked to finish second in the Frontier and was a candidate to earn its first playoff berth when the season started. However, the Mounties are now 0-2 on the season, and they have a huge showdown with the Saints this weekend in LaGrande, Ore. The winner of that game will keep its conference title hopes alive, while the loser may have a long road back, especially if its EOU.
The UM-Western Bulldogs had perhaps the toughest game of the weekend, but they got a payday out of the deal. The Bulldogs traveled to Big Sky Conference member Idaho State and lost 32-3. The Bulldog defense put up a respectable showing against an NCAA opponent, but the offense struggled to move the ball, racking up just 158 yards of offense.
Western has now scored just six points on two field goals in its 0-2 start to the season.
MSU-Northern had a bye this week, and the Lights are anxious to make their home debut. Like this Saturday's game between the Saints and Mounties, the Lights home-opener against Montana Tech will be a critical conference showdown, with the winner keeping a leg up, not only on the league title race, but an NAIA playoff berth.
Carroll and EOU kick off at 1 p.m. M.S.T. in Oregon Saturday. RMC travels to UM-Western in a battle of teams looking for the first win of the season. Kickoff in Dillon is set for 1 p.m.
Kickoff between the Lights and Orediggers is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Blue Pony Stadium.