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Frontier Preview: Great Running Backs


Last updated 8/28/2020 at 7:59am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana Tech's Blake Counts pulls the Montana State University-Northern defense through the snow during a 2019 Frontier Conference game in Havre. Counts was third in the Frontier in rushing as a true freshman last season for the Orediggers. He's also one of the top three leading rushers in the Frontier to return for the new season, which teams are hoping will be next spring. The 2020 season was postponed due to COVID-19.

Even though offensive coordinators in the league have adjusted to modern football, namely, spread offenses, the Frontier Conference has always been, and will always be a league where running backs flourish.

Year-after-year, the running game is the center piece of any Frontier offense, and last season, when the College of Idaho won the league title, it was no different. And when the postponed 2020 season resumes in the spring/winter of 2021, running backs and ground games might be even more important because, let's face it, the conditions for spring college football in Montana are not going to be pretty.

So, many Frontier teams are built for that, and the top three rushers from last season are all back. C of I returns senior Nick Calzaretta, who racked up 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns. Carroll College's Matthew Burgess also returns, after he tallied 1,076 wards and A league-high 15 scores. Burgess also led the league with his 108 yards per game for the Fighting Saints.

Montana Tech is also built to run the football. A season ago, Tech lost an All-American tailback to a season-ending injury, and all that transpired was freshman Blake Counts stepped in for Jed Five and had 839 yards and eight touchdowns.

"Blake Counts had to fill in for an All-American running back in Jed Fike," new Tech head coach Kyle Samson said earlier this summer. "And he was really good. He's a tremendous football player."

Counts is one of a group of star running backs to return to the Frontier this fall. He'll be joined by the likes of Montana Western's Kylar Prante and Rocky Mountain College's Victor Nglamulume, who are both returning starters. Tech, meanwhile, is deep at the position with Tyler Folkes also back after he ran for nearly 600 yards last year.

Meanwhile, Montana State University-Northern head coach Andrew Rolin always believes in running the football, but he must somewhat rebuild the Lights' backfield this season after losing their top two rushers from a year ago.

Still, the Lights get back a healthy Andrez Proctor, who as a freshman, showed flashes of things to come. Proctor will step into the starting role vacated by longtime veteran Jett Robertson.

"Andrez Proctor is ready to bust out," Rolin said. "I think he's going to have a huge year for us when we get out there. He's a talented guy. And now it's his turn to be the lead guy. After that, we're going to need to establish some depth. We're pretty young back there. But I'm excited about the guys we have at that position."


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