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Lights finally finished with the long road home

Northern makes its long-awaited home debut Saturday against Western


September 13, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Marvin Williams runs with the ball during a 2018 Frontier Conference game with Montana Western last fall in Havre. The Bulldogs are back in town this Saturday for Northern's 2019 home debut. The Lights meet the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. inside Blue Pony Stadium.

The journey the Montana State University-Northern Lights have taken to finally get the chance to charge onto the field inside Blue Pony Stadium has been a long one. And, not just because the Lights opened the 2019 slate with back-to-back road games.

No, this journey started the minute the Lights left the field in Havre after a season-ending loss to the College of Idaho. So, excuse the Lights if they're just a little excited for Saturday's home-opener against the No. 25 Montana Western Bulldogs.

"This is what it's all about isn't it?" Northern head coach Andrew Rolin said. "It's about games like this. So our guys are certainly excited to be at home, excited to play in front of our fans and our students, and excited to represent our program. I know I'm excited about this first home game."

Northern fans should be excited to welcome the Lights (0-1, 1-1) home, too. MSU-N has gotten off to a strong start in 2019, first, by beating an Arizona Christian squad that went 8-3 a year ago, in a season-opening trip to Phoenix, before pushing the defending Frontier Conference champion Rocky Mountain College Battlin' Bears to the brink last Saturday in Billings.

Yes, the Lights have shown a litany of improvements from where they ended their 1-10 season a year ago. Northern comes into Saturday's tilt with the Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0) averaging 27 points and nearly 400 yards of total offense per outing. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Brendan Medina has been outstanding thus far, while top targets like Bryce Bumgardner, Marvin Williams, who had two touchdowns last week, and newcomer Damari Caul-Davis have been explosive in the passing game. On the ground, Jett Robertson and Andrez Trahan-Proctor have been dangerous as well.

But, it isn't just the Northern offense which has made big leaps so far this fall. The MSU-N defense held ACU to just 25 yards rushing two weeks ago, and, across the board, Northern just looks much more sound. The Lights already have nearly as many sacks in two games as they did all season, and with veterans like Jaren Maki, Jake Norby and Joe Fehr and defensive tackles Justin Pfeifer and Trendae Umi-Tuaoto'o emerging as stars, along with safety newcomer Japerri Powell have a huge impact, the MSU-N defense is trying to make a bold statement in the early going.

Add in kicker T.J. Dayak perfect on field goal attempts this season, and the Lights are really starting to come together.

Of course, Rolin also knows there's plenty of room for growth.

"It's probably boring hearing me say it every week," he said. "But, it's continuous effort, continuous improvement. That's what we're after. We did a lot of things right at Rocky, there was a lot to like. But we also made way too many mistakes, so we need to learn from them. We need to continue to grow and mature as a team, and that starts with this game on Saturday. We've put the Rocky game behind us, and moved on to Western."

Northern had no choice to move on to the Dawgs, because Western is going to be a formidable foe Saturday afternoon.

"They're a very good football team," Rolin said. "They're disciplined, they're physical, and they're very well coached. Coach Nourse has done an outstanding job with that program."

Western is good. Returning nine starters on offense after going 6-4 last season will make a team good. And with quarterback Jon Jund already leading the Frontier in passing, with wide receivers Nate Simkins and Walker McKitrick already proven threats, and with running back Kylar Prante ready to run behind an offensive line which averages 285 pounds, the Western offense is poised to be a juggernaut this season.

And that's only half the battle.

Western also boasts one of the best defensive players in the NAIA in linebacker Jason Ferris, and he's the centerpiece for an impressive quartet of backers in Western's 3-4 defense.

"They (Dawgs) have a lot of talent," Rolin said. "A lot of pieces back from a team that was very good last year. They are very balanced offensively, and very fast and physical on defense. So it's going to be a fun challenge for our guys this week."

A challenge no doubt. Western opened the season with an impressive home win over Carroll College last Saturday in Dillon. So, the Dawgs have already flexed their muscle so to speak. But, Western is also a challenge Rolin believes his Lights are up for.

"We'll be ready," Rolin said. "We'll be prepared. They (Dawgs) are a really good football team, and they will come in here well prepared, well coached and ready to go. But I know our guys will be ready, too. For us, it's about execution. In all three phases, we understand that, when we execute, when we do our jobs, when we just do what we're supposed to do, we have the potential to be a very good football team, and when we do those things, we know we can play with anybody.

"So again, we're excited for this game," he added. "We're excited to be at home. It's a game our guys have been looking forward to, and I know they can't wait for Saturday. Our goal is to be 1-0 at home this week, and I know our guys are ready to go out there and fight to make that happen."

Saturday's Northern home-opener against Montana Western is set to kick off at 1 p.m. inside Blue Pony Stadium. The Lights return to the road next Saturday when they visit Carroll. MSU-N then closes out the month of September with another home game against Montana Tech Sept. 28.

Frontier Opener

MSU-Northern Lights (0-1, 1-1) vs No. 25 Montana Western

Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Blue Pony Stadium

Streaming: golightsgo.com

Radio: 92.5 KPQX FM

Twitter: Twitter/Havredaily


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