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Lights play with purpose in final tune-up

 

August 13, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Bruce Baumgardner jumps for a pass in the scrimmage held by Montana State University-Northern Saturday at the school's practice field. Baumgardner caught four passes on the day. The Lights will open the season Aug. 25 when they will play host to Mayville State.

With two weeks before its first game, the Montana State University-Northern football team held its fall scrimmage this past Saturday at the MSU-N practice field and even though it's still a ways away, the Lights sure looked ready for the season opener.

Despite warm temperatures, the Lights scrimmaged for close to two hours, moving up and down the field in live action, except when it came to hits on the quarterbacks. In all, it was a successful day, for both sides of the ball.

"It was a lot of fun," Northern head coach Andrew Rolin said. "We started fast and the guys came out and competed. I was excited about the effort. This will be a great learning experience. We as coaches can go back and look at the film and we will learn some things from that. This will be a big week for us. We will go back to some install stuff and take a look at some of those things that need to be corrected."

One of the focal points going into the scrimmage was the quarterback competition, which has narrowed down to holdovers Tommy Wilson and Bryce Missey. Wilson was the opening day starter a season ago and he got the first snaps with the No. 1 offense. His first drive of the day yielded a field goal, while Missey used his first opportunity to lead a three-play, 80-yard scoring drive, which featured a 30-yard completion to Seth Roemmele and a 30-yard scoring strike to Bryce Baumgardner, who hauled in four passes for 82 yards and a score.

"This was a big day for the quarterbacks," Rolin said. "We are going to have to evaluate the film but this was a big test. This is about as live as it gets and we wanted to see how they would handle it and I think it's safe to say that both quarterbacks are ready to play. And that's a good thing."

In terms of naming a starting quarterback, Rolin said that decision would come sometime this week, that way the offense would have a clear starter heading into the preparation for Mayville State, who will come to Blue Pony Stadium for the season-opener Aug. 25.

"I will have that decision soon," Rolin said. "We will have a starting quarterback before that first (game) week. Both of them are prepared to play and win us football games and that is what I am mostly excited about. I also think Brenden Medina is close. He's a good football player and I am excited to keep putting him in competitive situations."

Medina, a freshman, did play well in some limited action with the No. 3 offense but the most impressive moments belonged to Wilson and Missey, who didn't seem to make the decision about who will start any easier for Rolin.

After leading the offense to a field goal on his first drive, Wilson engineered two scoring drives, one that ended when he scored on a three-yard run and another that was capped with a one-yard plunge into the end zone by freshman running back Sam Braboy. Wilson set up the touchdown with a 40-yard completion to Baumgardner. He finished the scrimmage completing 8-of-10 passes for 92 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns or any interceptions.

Missey was also sharp and he finished the scrimmage with two touchdown passes of his own. The first went to Baumgardner; the second went to Marvin Williams, the Lights leading receiver in 2017. Missey hit Williams on a slant route and Williams did the rest of the work, breaking a couple of tackles en route to six points. Missey's numbers were solid as he completed 8-of-13 passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns.

"I think from an execution standpoint, they are game ready," Rolin said. "So I am proud of them for that. Where they are now, compared to when we got here is night and day in terms of running our offense."

The Lights offense only turned the ball over once and that was on a fumble by Jett Robertson, who rushed the ball 12 times for 56 yards. Robertson certainly ran well but so did some of the backs competing to be his understudy as Braboy finished with six runs for 36 yards and fellow freshman Andrez Trahan-Proctor ran five times for 57 yards, including funs of 20, 18 and 19.

"I think that we are deep at that position (running back)," Rolin said. "We are young. I think Jett is going to lead the way for us. He has done a nice job. I continue to stress taking care of the football with him. We had one ball hit the turf today and that's unacceptable. But overall, I am really excited about our run game and our running backs overall."

While the offense played well, the defense also had its moments, including a nice effort by the defensive line. Redshirt freshman Justin Pfeifer and Connor Koker both played well along the defensive front, along with Ronnie Chavez, who notched a quarterback hurry and a batted down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Joe Fehr also stood out as did linebacker Peter Hamilton, who registered a tackle for loss on a key fourth-down stop.

"We have some young defensive lineman that are talented," Rolin said. "They disrupted the run. I would say compared to even the spring, they took a huge step stopping the run. They were playing gap-sound football and I was excited about the defensive line."

The scrimmage was the only one the Lights will hold this fall. The season-opening game against Mayville State will take place Aug. 25 in Havre. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

 

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