Frontier Notebook: It didn't take Purcell long to make a lasting impression at Carroll

Frontier Conference Notebook


September 17, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

The Montana State University-Northern defense bottled up Montana Western's running game last week in Havre. The Lights will have to be just as stout this week as they travel to Nelson Stadium to take on Troy Purcell's Carroll College Fighting Saints.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights know full well how tough it is to play in Helena's Nelson Stadium on the campus of Carroll College. After all, Northern hasn't won at Carroll since the school reintroduced football back in the 1990's.

And while the Saints have had their struggles in the recent years, and are likely still adjusting to life without legendary head coach Mike Van Diest, this Saturday's trip to Helena is still going to be difficult, and that's because, there's a new sheriff in town.

Northern fans and Havre residents know all about him, too.

Former Havre Blue Pony head coach Troy Purcell is now in charge at his Alma mater, and after a close loss in his Carroll debut two weeks ago at Western, the Fighting Saints quickly proved that, they're going to be a force to be reckoned with this season, and beyond.

Last Saturday, Carroll opened its home schedule by bashing Rocky Mountain College 44-7, giving Purcell his first win as a Saint. But it wasn't just the lopsided score that was an eye-opener, even for Saints fans, who have seen their beloved team suffer three straight losing seasons.

No, it was the way Carroll did it.

The new-look Carroll offense ran just 68 plays, but tallied over 500 yards, and the attack was balanced, too. Carroll rushed for 286 yards and threw for 230 more, with new names like running back Matthew Burgess and quarterback Devan Bridgewater joining star holdovers like running Major Ali and wide receiver Shane Sipes.

Yes, Carroll's offense, which looked good at Western, looked great against Rocky. But the defense didn't take a back seat either.

The Battlin' Bears, who suffered their first loss of the season, were coming off a 53-point explosion against Northern two weeks ago, but against the Saints, they were held to just 40 yards rushing, 242 yards of total offense and just 15 first downs. And, from the 8:21 mark of the first quarter on, the Bears never saw the end zone again, as the Saints ripped off 37 unanswered points.

So, while Northern will come to Helena feeling good about the start to its second year under head coach Andrew Rolin, and the Lights have shown plenty of signs of major improvement this season, the Fighting Saints are announcing they, too, are improved with Purcell at the helm, and they're announcing it with authority.

Game of the Week

Heading into last week's showdown between College of Idaho and Southern Oregon at Simplot Stadium, a lot of people were still wondering two things. First, is the College of Idaho for real? And second, is Southern Oregon better than its 0-2 record?

Those questions were both answered Saturday afternoon.

In a wild Frontier Conference showdown, the Yotes edged the Raiders 41-38, in a game that saw the lead change hands six different times.

So, now that they're 3-0 in the Frontier standings heading into their bye week, it's safe to say, the Yotes are really for real. After all, they won by overcoming adversity against SOU, as for much of the game, the dangerous Darius James-Peterson was held in check. SOU also held C of I to its lowest rushing total of the young season, though the Yotes did tally 480 yards of offense.

And the Yotes' defense got its first real test of 2019, which means, SOU is by no means as bad as its now 0-3 record.

After a dismal loss at Eastern Oregon, the Raider offense came to life in Nampa, as Wyatt Hutchinson threw for 351 yards and rushed for 97 more, accounting for three touchdowns along the way.

It was SOU's best game by far this season, and while the Raiders now sit at 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the Frontier, don't expect them to stay at the bottom of the Frontier standings for long. They simply looked too good Saturday, against what is clearly the best team in the league right now in the form of the Yotes.

Poll Position

The 2019 NAIA Preseason Coaches Poll came out in early August, and six of the eight Frontier teams were either ranked or receiving votes. That meant, voters certainly thought highly of the league.

But, now that the dust has settled on the first three weeks of the season, the first NAIA Coaches Poll of the regular season brought about quite a bit of change for Frontier team rankings.

College of Idaho moved up four spots to No. 11 in the new poll, which is obviously the Yotes' highest ranking in program history. However, now there are just three Frontier teams ranked in the Top 25 and four overall.

Montana Western moved up five slots to No. 20 in the new poll, while Rocky Mountain College dropped from No. 23 to No. 24 this week. Montana Tech is the only other Frontier school to receive votes, while Southern Oregon dropped out of the poll completely and Eastern Oregon is no longer receiving votes.

Frontier Honors

Carroll College running back Matthew Burgess was named Frontier Offensive Player of the Week. Montana Western linebacker Joe Caicedo was named Defensive Player of the Week, and Western kick Mark Kharchenko was named Special Teams Player of the Week.

NAIA Coaches Poll

Rn. Prv. Rec.Pts.

1 1 Morningside (Iowa) [17] 2-0 392

2 2 Benedictine (Kan.) 3-0 377

3 3 Saint Francis (Ind.) 1-0 362

4 4 Kansas Wesleyan 3-0 342

5 5 Saint Xavier (Ill.) 1-0 327

6 6 Concordia (Mich.) 2-0 315

7 7 Marian (Ind.) 1-0 302

8 10 Reinhardt (Ga.) 3-0 271

9 12 Grand View (Iowa) 3-0 270

10 11 Northwestern (Iowa) 2-0 258

11 15 College of Idaho 3-0 232

12 13 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) 3-0 231

13 8 Baker (Kan.) 2-1 202

14 18 Evangel (Mo.) 3-0 189

14 17 Cumberlands (Ky.) 1-0 189

16 9 Dickinson State (N.D.) 1-1 151

17 19 Southeastern (Fla.) 1-0 140

18 16 Bethel (Tenn.) 2-1 134

19 14 Langston (Okla.) 1-1 127

20 25 Montana Western 2-0 109

21 22 Ottawa (Kan.) 1-0 104

22 NR Siena Heights (Mich.) 2-0 66

23 NR Ottawa (Ariz.) (AZ) 2-0 54

24 23 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 2-1 44

25 NR Cumberland (Tenn.) 2-0 33

Others Receiving Votes: Keiser (Fla.) 12, Montana Tech 10, Sterling (Kan.) 9, Midland (Neb.) 4, Hastings (Neb.) 3, Kentucky Christian 3.


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