MSU-N Fall Sports Preview 2013
In depth stories on Montana State University-Northern fall athletics featuring football, volleyball, golf and rodeo.
2 Sept. 2013 Lights looking for redemption FALL SPORTS PREVIEW MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org Resiliency is a big word in college football. Teams use it a lot but sometimes don’t back it up. That word, along with redemption are themes for the 2013 Montana State University-Northern football team. After a 3-7 season a year ago, when expectations were so high that the Lights were picked to finish second in the Frontier Conference Coaches Poll, Northern will look to be resilient, and the Lights will be seeking redemption this fall. MSU-N returns a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball, the Lights are a more experienced group and they have had an extememly successful offseason for head coach Mark Samson, who’s now in his 10th season at the helm. The Lights already have a hard-fought, season-opening win over Dickinson State on their resume this season and are prearing for their home opener against Eastern Oregon Saturday. So let the redemption tour begin. Here’s a look at the 2013 Northern Football Team by offense, defense and special teams. Offense Heading into the 2012 season, expectations for the Lights were sky high. The Lights were picked to finish second in the Frontier, and a big reason why was the potentially explosive offense the Lights brought to the table. Now, expectations for the Lights as a whole might not be as high entering the 2013 Frontier Conference season, but offensively, nothing has changed. With the return of four-year starting quarterback Derek Lear, four-year starting wide receiver Orin Johnson, a huge offensive line, and plenty of speed and power at all the skill positions, the Lights are certainly poised to put up big numbers offensively, much like they did in 2012. Last season, Northern finished second in the Frontier to Southern Oregon in total offense (448 ypg) and passing offense (279 ypg), as well as third in the league in rushing (168 ypg). But in order to go from good to great, which is what the Lights want to be in 2013, MSU-N must pick up the pace in a couple of areas. Last season, the Lights only averaged 25 points per game, which was fifth in the league, while they were also dead last in turnover margin, giving the ball away 24 times. Northern was also the most penalized team in the Frontier, and in spite of all the weapons the Lights have on offense, veteran head coach Mark Samson said those things must improve. “We do have a lot of talent offensively,” Samson said. “We’ve got a veteran quarterback, a veteran wide receiver, veteran offensive linemen. We’ve got some really good young receivers and tight ends and we have good depth at running back. So we expect to be pretty darn good offensively. ■ See Football Page 5 3 Sept. 2013 MSU-N rodeo teams ready to ride this fall Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer email@example.com Heading into fall, the majority of the Montana State UniversityNorthern sports programs have already begun. But the MSU-N Rodeo program is also gearing up for another run at what will hopefully turn out to be a successful season. Doug Kallenberger returns to his head coaching duties, now in his second year with the Lights amd Skylights. He is assisted by Emily Kallenberger and Lacey Davidson as the Lights’ Big Sky Region season is set to begin this weekend in Cody, Wyo. Northern will also host the annual MSU-N Rodeo Sept. 13-15 at the Great Northern Fairgrounds in Havre. Both the men’s and women’s squads are stacked with talent this season, but both teams also have a select group of standouts. Senior Charlie Mack highlights the members of the men’s team, fresh off of an appearance at the College National Finals Rodeo last year. Mack qualified in the Bull Riding and will look to punch his ticket again this year, competing in bull riding and bareback. But Nick Owens, Merle Young and Brandon Toren are also expected to help lead the way. Owens has qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo, as well as a NRA Finals in bareback riding, while Young is the reigning Montana State High School Rodeo saddle bronc champion and is a National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier. Toren has also qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in saddle bronc riding. Also making up the men’s team is Adam Mummau, Austin Wagner, Andrew Leo, Cody Ulsh, Canyon Rieben, Cooper Jenkins, Jordan Lewis and Gus Anderson. “MSU-Northern's rodeo team is looking strong going into the 20132014 rodeo season,” coach Kallenberger said in a release. “The men's team has multiple new recruits that should make the team a force to be reckoned with in the Big Sky Region and is rounded out by a roster of cowboys that are ready to make their mark in the Big Sky Region.” Kassy Brough and Malia VandenBos are also two seniors who are looking to lead the women’s team this season. Brough and VandenBos are both veteran barrel racers who highlight the young women’s team that also includes some impressive recruits. Kana Wuttunee is a National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier in the breakaway roping and Hanna Heckman is a past National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier and NHSRA national secretary. “The women's team is led by seniors Kassy Brough and Malia VandenBos who will lend their experience to a young women's team.” Kallenberger said. “The women's team also has a list of recruits that are sure to make them strong in the Big Sky Region.” MSU-N also houses Amy Nordahl and Sierra Collins, multiple event cowgirls, as well as Katie Bell, Lexi Eierdam and Laramie Pursley, talented barrel racers. FALL SPORTS PREVIEW MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com Lots of new faces on the golf course for Lights and Skylights Daniel Horton Havre Daily News sports writer firstname.lastname@example.org Courtesy Photo Montana State University-Northern senior Charlie Mack rides in the 2013 College National Finals Rodeo this past summer in Wyoming. The MSU-N Rodeo team hosts the MSU-N Rodeo Sept. 13-15. Once the cold sets in, the window of opportunity closes fast for the Montana State University-Northern Lights and Skylights golf teams. But heading into another season, both the Lights and Skylights are confident they have the talent it will take to remain competitive in the Frontier Conference. The Lights lost impressive golfers like Jeremy Jensen, Matt Hedstrom and Mike Whitmore. Jensen proved to be one of the top golfers in the conference when he finished as the No. 6 golfer two years ago. But the Lights also return a standout golfer in Justin Newton of Kalispell. Newton was tied for sixth in the conference in scoring a year ago and should be poised to have another standout season with the Lights. But Newton will have to lead a young group. Added to the roster this season is Stephon Carlson of Great Falls, Nate Durocher of Choteau, Taylor Allery of Harlowton and Tanner Shanks of Culb- ertson. Boles is also hoping to see “I think right now we are in some competition for the the middle of the road com- team’s top spots. Newcomer pared to the rest of the con- Katie Ourick should also ference,” Lights head coach push the pack, while Katie Dave Boles said, “except for Aurich of Kalispell and DaJustin Newton. He should be kota Varga of Medicine Hat able to finish in have also showed the top five or six a lot of potential again this season. moving forward. He has all of the “The girls team tools to grind out is young,” Boles those long toursaid. “It will be naments and finhard to say where ish at the top. I we will be come expect the rest of the end of the the lineup to start season because I out good too, espehaven’t seen them cially if the guys play. But they will have had a chance have to follow in to play quite a bit line with experiBoles this summer. Like enced golfers like most seasons, we Ashley Hooper, will play good in and hopefully they the fall, but could struggle in will all play well.” the spring. Unless we get out Team-wise, it will be an on course we will struggle, uphill battle for both the but our winters up here just Lights and Skylights, but make it unpredictable if we a couple names from both are going to get on course or teams should make a lot of not.” noise in the Frontier Confer For the Skylights, Ashley ence. And like every season, Hooper of Harlowton and MSU-N will play in a tournaKristin Bense of Glasgow ment in September and Ocshould look to lead the way tober before returning to acthis season. Both have prov- tion in April. The spring golf en to be very solid golfers season includes the Frontier for the Skylights, but coach Tournament in Missoula. 4 Sept. 2013 FALL SPORTS PREVIEW MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com Northern Volleyball Schedule Sept. 13 Sept. 19 Sept. 21 Sept. 26 Sept. 28 Oct. 4 Oct. 5 Oct. 10 Oct. 17 Oct. 19 Oct. 25 Oct. 26 Oct. 31 Nov. 2 Nov. 7 Nov. 8 Nov. 14-16 vs Carroll College at Rocky Mountain at Dickinson State vs UM Western vs Westminster College at Montana Tech at Carroll College vs Great Falls at Great Falls at Lewis-Clark State vs Lewis-Clark State vs Montana Tech at UM Western at Westminster College vs Dickinson State vs Rocky Mountain at Frontier Conference Skylights aim even higher George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com The 2012 season the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team completed last November could be summed up in many ways. But putting it simply, it was a magical ride. However, after coming within a mere two points of beating Carroll College for the Frontier championship, after finishing the regular season with 18 wins and a 10-6 record in the Frontier Conference, and after completing the winningest season Northern has had in almost a decade, the Skylights weren’t, and aren’t, satisfied. No, the 2013 Skylights, who re off to a solid nonconference start and will open Frontier Conference play Friday against the vaunted Fighting Saints, are aiming even higher than the magical ride they went on a year ago. Though Northern returns one of the most talented lineups in the Frontier, the motivation moving forward falls squarely on what happened to MSU-N in last November’s Frontier title bout with the Fighting Saints. “It’s an exciting time, I’m excited and they (Skylights) are excited,” MSU-N fifth-year head coach Bill Huebsch said. “We have a really talented group of veteran players back, and each of them have really improved in their own way. They know this team has a lot of potential. The goal is to be very good again this season. “But on the other side of that,” he added, “I think this team is already practicing and playing with a chip on their shoulder. They use that loss to Carroll in the championship match as motivation every day. It comes up every day in practice. I think this group feels like they have some unfinished business, and it’s led to these girls working really hard and already playing at a real high level.” And the Skylights should be playing well, considering they lost just two seniors from last year’s remarkable squad. Gone is twotime All-Conference hitter Hillary Isleifson, as well as middle blocker Victoria Polo. But a core group of very talented Skylights return, including First-Team All-Conference standout Abby Nicholas. Nicholas (6-0), played mostly in the middle last season and racked up 379 kills, 69 blocks and 45 service aces in a breakout campaign. She’ll slide over to the right side this season and fill the void left by the hard-hitting Isleifson. Also back for Northern is outside hitter Kelsey Williams (5-10), who will start for the third straight season. Williams totaled 286 kills during a strong junior season. Two of Northern’s floor generals return as well. On the defensive side of the ball, senior Holly Cartwright will start for the third straight season at libero, while senior setter Joni Nagy is back for her second season at MSU-N. Cartwright racked up 552 digs a year ago, and made a strong case for the libero of the year award, while Nagy totaled 883 assists last season to along with 161 kills. In the middle ■ See Volleyball Page 6 5 Sept. 2013 FALL SPORTS PREVIEW MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com Football: Lights' offense should be even more dangerous and explosive this fall ■ From Page 2 “But we also understand that just gaining big yards every game isn’t enough,” he added. “We have to put points on the board when we get those opportunities. We have to be smart offensively. We have to eliminate dumb penalties that back us up, and we have to take care of the football. Things aren’t going to be perfect all the time, and some of those things happen in football. But last season, as an offense, they happened way too often. And it really hurt us in a bunch of close football games. So those are things we have to be better at this season in order to become a really good or great football team.” Mistakes aside, the Lights do indeed have the personnel to really put heat on opposing defenses this season. And it starts with Lear and Johnson, two players who have seen it all when it comes to Frontier football. Lear (5-11, 190) had a breakout sophomore season in which he earned First-Team AllConference honors, while leading the league in both passing and total offense. He followed that up with a stellar 2012 campaign in which he threw for 2,798 yards, a school-record 26 touchdowns and rushed for nearly 400 more yards. Lear finished second in the league in total offense and third in passing and was rated in the NAIA’s top 10 in both categories at season’s end. Lear, a native of Fairfield, now enters his senior season a two-time All-Conference performer, as well as the holder of 13 different MSU-N passing records. Lear has thrown for 7,125 yards and 65 TD’s in his brilliant career, while also holding nearly holding every singlegame and single-season passing mark in the MSU-N record book. “Derek Lear is a really good football player. He’s already a really good quarterback,” Samson said. “He’s proven that over his career. He’s put up a lot of great stats in his career. But I told him way back in the spring, now he has to go out and be the guy that wins football games consistently for us. Not to say he has to do it all by himself, because he’s got a great group of players around him. He has a lot of weapons at his disposal. But he needs to be the difference maker. A quarterback of his caliber needs to go out and will his team to touchdown drives and wins when they need them. I know he’s capable of doing that. He’s a tremendous talent, he’s been a great leader and a great teammate, and I expect big things from him in his senior year.” Johnson (6-0, 200), one of Lear’s favorite targets through the years is also back. In fact, he’s the only returning starter at receiver for the Lights, who said good bye to productive standouts like Brandon O’Brien and Kyle Johnston, as well as Mick Miller after last season. For his career, Johnson has averaged 40 catches and over 500 yards per season, but as a senior, he should be even more involved in Northern’s passing game. “O.J. (Johnson) and Derek have become great friends,” Samson said. “They have a great relationship on and off the field. They were both Class B kids from the same conference and it’s really neat to see what they’ve done in their time here at Northern, together. O.J. is a guy we’re really going to lean on this season. He’s in great shape, he’s had a great fall camp, and he’s going to be the leader of what is a great group of receivers in my opinion. This group has the chance to be as good as any we’ve ever had.” Indeed. The Lights added speedster Lavorick Williams (6-2, 195), a drop-down from UTEP last spring, while senior Brandt Montelius (6-2, 190) will finally get a chance to be a full-time starter after making plays for the Lights in a backup role the last two years. Red-shirt freshmen Dylan Woodhall (5-9, 175) and Jake Messerly (6-1, 185) have also made a big splash in fall camp and should see plenty of action in Northern’s vaunted passing attack, while tight ends John Jansen (6-3, 250) and Jake Criner (6-0, 240) also have a chance to be very productive. Junior Travis Dean, a quarterback who could start at many other NAIA schools, will once again back up Lear. “I really like what our quarterbacks and receivers have done in fall camp,” Samson said. “And I’m really impressed with our tight ends. John Jansen really came on strong in the spring and we moved Jake Criner from the line to end, and he’s doing a great job. He gets better every day and he’s going to make an impact this season. Our receivers are fast and strong and they catch the ball. They are potentially a great group. We even have some younger guys down the depth chart that are going to be really good players for us some day, so our depth at the skill positions right now is very solid.” And despite losing the school’s all-time leading rusher in Stephen Silva to graduation last spring, the Lights seem to be in good shape with the running game too. Junior Jai Johnson (5-8, 210) transferred in last spring and immediately took the bulk of the carries in spring ball. But a healthy Zach McKinley (5-11, 210), a red-shirt freshman who missed all of last season with a leg injury, has emerged in fall camp and really burst onto the scene, making the competition for the starting tailback position fierce. Add in junior college transfer Chance Nevarez (5-10, 240), a bulldozer at fullback, and the arrival of freshman running back Mario Gabbato (5-8, 175), and the Lights’ future running the ball certainly looks bright. “It’s interesting at running back, because you lose a Stephen Silva, a guy who was productive for so long, and you’re wondering what you’re gonna do next,” Samson said. “But with Jai Johnson and Zach McKinley both doing so well, now we have a situation where we might have two starters. It’s tough to call right now, and ultimately, they’re going to have to share the carries because they both bring things to our offense we’re going to need. They both are running the ball really well, and they’re both going to help us win football games. “And watch out for Mario Gabbato,” he continued. “He’s young, but he is really talented. He’s having a great camp for us, and he’s going to do some great things in his career here. So we feel really good about where we’re at with our running backs.” Still, whether it’s protecting the passing attack, or blocking for the running backs, teams need a great offensive line, and Northern seems to have put together one for the upcoming season. Returners include senior Rostyn Pace (6-3, 275) at left guard and the massive Dylan Murphy (6-6, 300) at right tackle. After red-shirting last season, the highly touted Patrick Kiser (6-2, 295) slides into the left tackle position, while freshman Pete Morlaes (6-1, 285) will start at right guard. Junior college transfer Shomari Burton (6-2, 300) will be the starting center, while Northern’s depth on Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Montana State University-Northern quarterback Derek Lear is one of the top returning QB's in all of the NAIA. ■ See Football Page 7 6 Sept. 2013 FALL SPORTS PREVIEW Haley Russell (5-11) returns after earning 59 blocks a year ago. Junior hitter Dayna Jensen (5-9) also returns and will figure into a much more prominent role with Northern’s offense this season. In limited action in 2012, Jensen totaled 89 kills, and did an especially good job filling in when Isleifson and Williams were sidelined with injuries at different times. “It’s a very talented group of returners,” Huebsch said. “This is as strong a senior class as we’ve had here in a long time. It’s hard to single out any one particular player in that group because they all do so many important things for this team. “But what I will say is they’ve all come back improved,” he added. “They’ve all done the right things to get better. They’ve all worked really hard in the offseason, and they have come back really ready to go. I’m really impressed with that. And they all bring strong leadership qualities to this team, and we have a group of younger players who really get to see this group in action every day. They get to see what these girls do every day, and what it takes to get the job done, and how we want things done in this program. So that’s a really nice advantage to having such a strong and talented group like the returning kids we have.” And the young group behind the stars is what gives Northern perhaps the most depth in the Frontier Conference this season. A late addition to the recruiting class, 6-3 freshman Alexis Nelson could see time in the middle right away. Fellow freshman Erin Jensen (5-8), the younger sister of Dayna, could also play an important back-up role as a middle blocker, and Huebsch said she has come into training camp muchimproved. After a red-shirt season, setter Janell Hoff will be the backup setter this season, while freshman Cydney Auzenne (5-10) will compete for playing time as an outside hitter, and freshman defensive specialist Sydney Stolearcius will back up Cartwright for a year. “Our younger girls have come in and really shown us something right away,” Huebsch said. “They have come in and improved a lot. Erin Jensen is one to watch because she is doing a great job in the middle. She’s only 5-8, but she really gets up there and blocks. Our depth is really good. We have 14 kids on the roster, and we feel like we have good depth at every position on the floor.” The development of the younger players will be key as graduation will hit Northern hard next spring. But for now, the Skylights are primed for a big run in 2013, and Huebsch feels like he’ll have a balanced attack on both sides of the net. “It’s hard to single out one particular strength of this team,” Huebsch said. “With the offense we’re running and the talent we have, I feel like we’re going to be very hard to stop and very dynamic offensively. When our serve-receive is going right, when we get in system, I feel like we are going to be a handful offensively. “And on the other side of that, defensively, we should be very strong,” he added. “We’re bigger at the net than we were a year ago, we’ve got a senior leader in the back row and the girls behind the front row are flying around and digging up everything that gets to them. So the balance we have, and the pieces we have in place, we feel like we can be a pretty good team all the way around.” Of course, with talent, and on the heels of MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com Volleyball: Skylights poised to make the 2013 season even better than 2012 ■ From Page 4 one of the best season’s in recent MSU-N history, comes expectations and pressure. The Skylights have their sights set on competing for a Frontier title this season, but Huebsch doesn’t want his team looking too far ahead. Northern has already playing a challenging nine-conference schedule which was just a build-up to the Skylights’ home opener against the Saints, team MSU-N beat in the 2012 opener in Havre, a win which catapulted Northern off on its great season. Still, Huebsch also knows the Frontier schedule will be rough, with matches against top-tier NAIA teams like Carroll and Lewis-Clark State, as well as NAIA power Rocky Mountain College. Northern’s rivalry matches with UGF will also be a challenge, while Montana Tech and UMWestern look much improved this season. “You have to keep things in perspective,” Huebsch said. “Our kids know we have a chance to be good, and they know we have a chance to compete every night in our league. We proved that last year. These kids also know we can’t take a night off. That if we want to get to where we are hoping to be, we have to continue to work really hard each day in practice, and we have to be at our best every single night, in every single match, no matter the opponent. “We have high expectations, I expect a lot from this team,” he continued. “These kids have set a lot of goals, and they're capable of achieving all of them. We just have to keep working hard and keep improving and not rest on what we’ve already done. And I don’t think this group will do that. They’re motivated. They are working hard and practices, even two-a-days have been really good and really intense. So I’m just really excited to see what the season holds for us.” Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Members of the 2012 MSU-Northern volleyball team celebrate a win over then nationally-ranked Lewis-Clark State last September at the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights are hoping to build off last year's magical run. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Montana State University-Northern's Joni Nagy goes up for a kill during a 2012 Frontier Conference match in Havre. 7 Sept. 2013 FALL SPORTS PREVIEW MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com Football: MSU-Northern looks to make even bigger strides on defense in 2013 ■ From Page 5 the line is solid with backups like Alex Cummings (6-0, 270), Matt McKeen (6-1, 275), Zach Bangert (6-1, 285) and Wes Ostby (6-2, 295) all able to play multiple spots on the line. And Samson should feel good. With all the talent listed above, with all the weapons the Lights can trot out onto the field each Saturday, Northern’s offense should be lights-out for opponents this fall. And that’s exactly what Samson, along with offensive coordinator Kyle Samson are expecting. “I’d be disappointed if we weren’t a really good offensive football team this season,” Samson said. “That’s the expectation. We have the talent, we have the personnel. Now they have to go out and want it. They have to really carry that attitude and belief that we’re going to score points and win football games this season. This offense has to believe we can score when we need to. We have to have that attitude right out of the gate this season. As an entire unit, they have to believe they can get the job done every time they go out there. They just have to go out and execute like we know they’re capable of doing.” Defense Having a top-rated defense is almost a must if teams are going to be successful in the Frontier Conference. That’s because it seems like almost everybody has a high-powered offense these days. Though the Montana State UniversityNorthern Lights finished the 2012 season ranked right in the middle of the Frontier in most defensive categories, the Lights know, and want, to be better in 2013. In order for Northern to be an improved defense, several things need to happen. The Lights have to mesh a young front line with an experienced secondary and group of linebackers. They also have to be much better than they were a year ago against the run, and they have to get more takeaways. In 2012, the Lights were fourth in the Frontier in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense, but MSU-N gave up nearly 200 yards a game rushing, which was second only to Dickinson State. And they were -9 in turnover margin. MSU-N’s offense turned the ball over 24 times, while the Lights got just 15 takeaways, including just five interceptions in 10 games. But as the 2013 season draws near, MSU-N head coach Mark Samson knows his defense has plenty of potential but also plenty of work to do. “We’ve had to make some adjustments there in camp,” Samson said. “We have lost so many kids the last couple of years on that side of the ball. We’ve had to rework some things, move some kids around. I think we have a lot of talent defensively, but we don’t have a lot of experience at some positions, and we don’t have the depth we’d like to have in certain spots either. I think our defense has a chance to be good this season, but we’ve got to keep working hard to get there.” Northern’s experience on defense comes in the secondary. The Lights return three fulltime starters to a unit which lost safety Matt Reyant to graduation. Back is All-Conference safety Josh Baum (6-1, 205) to anchor the unit, while junior Hunter Chandler (5-9, 188) steps in to replace Reyant in the starting lineup. MSU-N returns both starting corners, including senior Tanner Varner (5-11, 195) who had five picks and was an All-Conference performer two years ago, and he’s starting for the fourth straight season. Junior Trevor Baum (6-1, 195) returns at the other corner. He had a strong sophomore campaign, and gives the Lights a ton of stability in the back row. Northern also has good depth in the secondary with corner Mike McCrary (5-9, 170) having started several games a season ago, as well as safety Butch Hyder (6-0, 190), who also saw extensive playing time in 2012. “The secondary is where we have our most experience,” Samson said. “It’s the best unit we have on defense. We have a group of guys who played a lot of games last year and beyond. They are athletic, they have speed and they are all good football players. We’re going to really lean on that group this season.” MSU-N also returns three experienced players at linebacker. Senior, and former Havre Blue Pony Jordan Van Voast (6-1, 220) returns for his fourth season at linebacker. Van Voast has racked up over 70 tackles in each of the last three seasons for the Lights and is the leading returning tackler from 2012. His experience will be huge for Northern’s front seven, as many of the rest of the guys up front haven’t seen a ton of game action. Senior David Arteaga (5-11, 230) will start on the outside as well, while Kaima Kanehailua (6-1, 235) moves in to take James Chandless’ spot in the middle. Chandless had a monster season for the Lights a year ago, racking up 91 total tackles for defensive coordinator Jake Eldridge’s defense. Depth is a concern for MSU-N. At linebacker is freshmen Jordan Brusio, Jesse Morales and Austin Schroeder are all listed as backups. “That’s the big concern, we’re pretty thin at that position,” Samson said of the linebackers. “Jordan Van Voast has played a ton, and David (Arteaga) started some games there last year. But after that, we just don’t have much experience. I think those guys are all athletic, and the young guys we have are going to be good football players in this program.” Northern returns just a handful of players with starting experience on the defensive line. Senior defensive tackle Logan Nathe (61, 230) is among them. Alongside Nathe will be newcomer Weston Mudge (6-1, 310). Mudge is a monster nose guard and could learn to be a run-stopping force, but he’s been out of football for a while and is really working hard to transition his way back into the level he wants to be at. Senior Tyler Phillips (6-2, 230) and redshirt-freshman Tyler Craig (6-1, 240) have the makings of a great pair of bookend defensive ends, as they both possess speed and strength, and Northern will look to those two to create a solid pass rush this season. Junior Will DeVos (6-1, 250), freshman Patrick Barnett (6-3, 245) and sophomore Marc Evans (61, 245) will also see plenty of action on the line this season. “Again, we don’t have a lot of game experience on the line,” Samson said. “But I really like what that group has done in pre-fall. They’ve worked hard and they’ve gotten better every day. I think we have some really good football players in that group. Some of those young guys have really stepped up so far this fall, and have done a great job in practice.” Indeed, Northern’s defense, which really returns just five full-time starters from a year ago, has made big strides in training camp. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Montana State University-Northern defensive tackle Logan Nathe, left, is part of an important group of experienced leaders on the MSU-N defense this fall. ■ See Football Page 8 8 Sept. 2013 FALL SPORTS PREVIEW Sept. 14 Sept. 21 Sept. 28 Oct. 5 Oct. 19 Oct. 26 Nov. 2 Nov. 16 the test will come when the Lights line up against opposing Frontier Conference offenses. But one thing is certain, the MSU-N defense has been practicing against Derek Lear and an explosive Northern offense since the beginning of August, so nothing the Lights see from here on out will come as a surprise. “The big thing for this defense is just playing hard and sticking to fundamentals,” Samson said. “They’ve seen everything they’re going to face this season. They will be very well-prepared for what they’re going to see every week in this league. So what we’ve got to do is make sure we play hard every snap, play fast and physical and cut down on the mental mistakes that hurt us last season. “And to be a good defense, you have to be fortunate too,” he continued. “You have to stay relatively healthy, and you have to get some breaks. That’s another thing we have to do better this year, we have to get more turnovers. We can’t sit back and wait for them, we have to create them. That’s how your defense helps win football games for you. I really like the players we have on defense. I think they are capable of being a very good unit this season. Now, they just have to go out and do it.” Special Teams The biggest difference the Lights will have on special team’s this season is the addition of a full-time place kicker. As a sophomore, cornerback Trevor Baum handled the place-kicking duties, and while Baum did a good job for the Lights, Northern went out and recruited a full-time kicker in the spring in Jordan Rueschoff, who comes to MSU-N from Glendale Community College in Arizona. Already in fall camp, Rueschoff has shown off his powerful leg, and he looks to be very accurate, so he gives the Lights a threat they just didn’t quite have a season ago. “Jordan Reuschoff is really going to help our football team,” Northern head coach Mark Samson said. “I thought Trevor (Baum) did a good job out of necessity for us last year, but adding a full-time place kicker will be a big plus for us. I think it just gives as an added scoring dimension when we’re in field goal range.” Baum will still handle the punting duties for the Lights. A year ago, Baum did an excellent job as Northern’s punter, averaging 37 yards per punt. Baum will also back up Rueschoff, while Rueschoff will back up Baum on punts. Northern’s long snapper this season is Austin Schroeder, while Owen DeBruckyer will be the short snapper. Though MSU-N lost two great returners last season in Kyle Johnston and Stephen Silva, the Lights want to see improvement in the return game. Northern didn’t have a single score from a punt or kick return a season ago, but MSU-Northern www.havredailynews.com 2013 Lights Football Schedule vs Eastern Oregon vs Dickinson State at UM Western at Rocky Mountain at Southern Oregon vs Carroll College vs Montana Tech vs Rocky Mountain Football: Lights picked to finish fifth in the Frontier Conference ■ From Page 5 By Jim Potter The 2013 Montana State University-Northern football coaching staff. Back row, left to right, Darold DeBolt, Kennedy Anderson, Jake Eldridge and Jorge Magana. Front row, left to right, Scott Leeds, Kyle Samson, Mark Samson, Ron LaTray and Brandon O'Brien. Havre Daily News/Daniel Horton Montana State University-Northern wide receiver Brandt Montelius, left, hauls in a pass during a 2012 Frontier Conference game against Carroll College at Blue Pony Stadium. The Lights open their season this weekend against Eastern Oregon, and also host rival Dickinson State in September. MSU-N also has three home games to finish the regular season. with all of the talent the Lights have in the return game, that trend could be turned around quickly. Senior wide receiver Orin Johnson will be the top punt returner for the Lights, while redshirt freshmen wide receivers Jake Messerly and Dylan Woodhall will also be in the rotation. Messerly, Trevor Baum, Lavorick Williams and Woodhall will all have a chance to return kickoffs this season. “Special teams is an area where we need to be really good, and right away too,” Samson said. “I think we can be. It’s a big part of being successful, and I think we have players who can do that for us this season.”