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Lights aim to beat Yotes for the seniors

Northern closes out the 2018 season with home finale against streaking College of Idaho

 

November 9, 2018

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Seth Roemmele, catching ball, and the Montana State University-Northern seniors will play their final game as Lights when Northern hosts College of Idaho Saturday afternoon at Blue Pony Stadium.

One day, one opponent, that's all that's left for the Montana State University-Northern Lights before the curtain closes on the 2018 season, their first under new head coach Andrew Rolin.

And what a day it will be.

Saturday, the Lights wrap up the Frontier Conference season with a senior-day game against No. 24 College of Idaho. The Northern seniors will be honored before kickoff, which is set for Noon inside Blue Pony Stadium. And according to Rolin, it's all about them - the seniors.

"We've talked about it since Monday. This week is all about the seniors, it's about honoring them," Rolin said. "We've told our team, the way we practice all week, the way we play in this game, it's all a way to honor that group."

The Northern senior class is a small one, because the Lights are a very young team, but, it's also an interesting group that includes players like Sam Mix, Seth Roemmele and Dale Cummings, who were originally part of the final Mark Samson recruiting class. The class also includes Clint Willis, who has battled injuries his entire career at Northern, as well as wide receiver Fotios Jordanoglou, who lost his senior year to a foot injury. Linebacker Alec Wagner has also been a four-year Light, and a tremendous leader, while Sam Tapia, Andrew Morgan and quarterback Tommy Wilson have been stalwarts the last two years for the Lights. Ryan Handley will also be leaving the MSU-N program after this season.

"This group of seniors have meant a lot to this program and to the foundation of what's to come here," Rolin said. "They've been through a lot, and this game is for them. It's all about honoring them."

And there would be no better way to honor the Northern seniors than for the Lights (0-9, 1-9) to walk out of Blue pony Stadium with a win on Saturday. The Yotes (5-4, 5-5) have other plans however.

C of I is riding a five-game winning streak, and is fresh off a road win over UM-Western last Saturday. The Yotes, now in their fifth year in the Frontier, have caught fire after starting the season 0-5, and a big reason why is the play of junior quarterback Darius James-Peterson, who is second in the Frontier in total offense, and a balanced offense that includes his running ability, mixed with a bevy of talented receivers and tight ends in the passing game. Those great targets include 6-5 WR Keagan Crafton and bruising TE Tyler Reay. The Yotes, who boast a rushing offense that averages close to 200 yards per game, also have an offensive line that averages near 300 pounds.

But, it all starts with James-Peterson, who passes for 187 yards per outing and has thrown for 17 touchdowns, while running for 70 yards per game, and toting 11 scores on the ground.

"He's a great player," Rolin said of the C of I signal caller. "He's got a lot of good weapons around him, and they have a really solid offensive line. But he's the guy who really makes things happen for them. He can hurt you in a number of different ways, so for us, we need to stop the run first. We can't let him hurt us with his feet. That's the challenge for our young defense. We've got to tackle better, play gap-sound football, and get guys on the ground."

No question, Northern's young defense will be tested by the dynamic C of I offense, which averages 28 points per game. On the other side of the ball, MSU-N will look to its offense to continue making the strides it did last week in a 37-21 loss at Southern Oregon. Wilson, Bryce Bumgardner and running backs Jett Robertson and Sam Braboy were all stellar at SOU, and Northern ranks in the middle of the Frontier in passing offense and total offense, but turnovers cost the Lights a chance to close the gap on the Raiders in the fourth quarter, and, Rolin said, as long as Northern takes care of the football, something the Lights have done well this season, then his team will be in good shape, even up against a Yotes' defense that has a huge defensive line and a star at linebacker in Forrest Rivers.

"We made some big improvements against a really good Southern Oregon defense last week," Rolin said. "We were better in the redzone, we were better on third down and we were better in our goal line situations. All three of those things were really good last week, so we need to just take care of the ball better. If we do that, like we have for most of the season, then, when we're executing like we should on offense, you see that we can be a pretty effective and dangerous football team."

And execution and momentum is what Saturday is about. The Lights played one of their statistically best games of the season at SOU last Saturday, and Rolin, who has preached to his young team all season about getting better every week, about the process, wants to see his Lights take another step forward, before they close the books on the 2018 campaign.

"That's what we've been about every week," Rolin said. "We just want to keep getting better. For the most part we did that at Southern Oregon. Now, this is about building on the things we did well, and fixing and improving the things we didn't do well down there. It's about us and what we do, it's about execution.

"College of Idaho is a very good football team, and they've been playing really well, especially the last few weeks," he continued. "But we need to stay focused on ourselves, stay focused on the process. Again, it's about us and what we do."

Saturday, it's about the seniors too. Northern is saying goodbye to a senior class that has seen about as much ups and downs as any college football players have anywhere in the United States. So, on Saturday, the Lights would love nothing more than to send their seniors out with a win over a nationally ranked team, and one (C of I) the Lights haven't beaten in their last four tries.

"This game is huge for us," Rolin said. "Playing well, going out there and getting a win would be huge for this program moving forward. It would be a big springboard for us. But more than that, it's about these seniors. This team wants to do it for them. They want to honor these guys. This game, it's all about them, it's all for them."

Saturday's senior day game between the Lights and Yotes will kick off at Noon inside Blue Pony Stadium. The Northern senior class will be honored prior to kickoff.

Senior Day

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-Northern Lights (0-9, 1-9) vs #24 College of Idaho Yotes (5-4, 5-5)

Saturday, Noon

Blue Pony Stadium

Streaming: http://www.golightsgo.com

Radio: 92.5 KPQX FM

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