HELENA – For years Carroll College football players have prided themselves on bringing a certain fire and passion to the stadium on game day. From Brian Strobel pumping up the team with big hits to Tyler Emmert zinging touchdown passes to streaking receivers downfield, the Saints have always found ways to bring intensity to the gridiron.
The Fighting Saints have struggled the past two weeks, losses at Rocky Mountain College and MSU-Northern – teams they have dominated over the past 10 years or more, and players and coaches have noticed the raw emotion may be missing.
“On and off the field we need to continue to have that fire,” said defensive lineman Beaugh Meyer. “Unfortunately, in recent years we haven’t had as much. That’s a big emphasis we were working on this summer. A lot of us have that fire and if we’re willing to be that leader and give it to the team, it really does fire everyone up and gets everyone excited. That makes it more fun.”
Meyer is one of the athletes that showcases his emotions for the Saints. After partially blocking a punt on Saturday against the Lights, Meyer’s celebration seemed to bring an energy to the Carroll sideline.
“There are a few of us who have that fire already and we have to keep pushing through,” he said. “Sometimes it can be difficult but if we’re able to pick each other up we’re able to get through it.”
“That goes with success and we always talk about, everybody that comes out of the locker room, no matter what your record is, on Saturday for the first 10-15 minutes everyone will play their best game,” said Carroll head coach Mike Van Diest. “Now, who can match the intensity the rest of the game? And when things go south who can bring it in the second half? We didn’t do that on Saturday (against MSU-Northern).
Van Diest knows which players he can expect to lead the program, both vocally and with their demeanor on the field. Still, he wants and expects more from the team as a whole.
“I saw more emotion from some of our players, not so much the rah-rah on the field, I just saw some of the hurt and disappointment when they came off the field that I haven’t seen from these guys,” he said. “You have to have some fun, they have to have success and they have to go out there and know that what they’re doing is for the love of the game.”
The Saints’ biggest struggles have occurred on the road. Carroll has dropped six of its last seven games outside Nelson Stadium, leaving players and coaches searching for answers.
“Coach had the captains in for a meeting and they spoke about the things that could possibly be distracting us while we’re on those trips,” said Meyer. “What do we need to focus on more? It’s just one of those oddities that’s been happening in the past and it’s something we need to change and something I think we will change.”
“I met with the captains the other day and there are a couple things that came up, not major issues, and they didn’t say, ‘Hey this is the reason why we’re losing coach.’ They just wanted to change some things up and that’s our job as coaches to look at the little points,” said Van Diest. “You still have to go play on Saturday and these guys love the game of football, I love coaching them and we just have to get them back on track.”
Van Diest and the Carroll coaches have encountered road woes in the past and have tinkered with various approaches to keep players mentally prepared.
“Our job is, whether it’s a road game or a home game, are we doing anything entirely different? Is there something that’s a different routine for the players? We want to try and keep things the same. We changed that about 10 or 12 years ago where Friday night at home was the same as on the road and vice versa.”
Carroll hosts Southern Oregon on Saturday at Nelson Stadium. The Fighting Saints and Raiders will kick off at 1 p.m. Carroll will celebrate its homecoming during the game.