HAVRE — Spend enough time around MSU-Northern spring football practice, and you start to hear a common theme from players and coaches.

Continuous effort, continuous improvement and the score will take care of itself.

That’s the mantra that first year head coach Andrew Rolin and his staff have been drilling into his players since Monday’s first practice. Keep working hard and eventually the wins will come.

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“We talk about it all the time,” Rolin said. “We’re a process team, so day in and day out we’re going to continue to take care of the details, and the score will take care of itself. As long as we’re giving great effort and making sure we’re the best football coaches and players we can be, if we’re doing that then we’re doing our job.”

It’s a change of pace for the Lights, who have only won two games in the past three years under former head coach Aaron Christensen – but the results of trusting the new coaching staff and his process are already starting to show on the field. Practices are tightly organized and structured, and players are soaking up instruction from the experienced group of assistant coaches.

“It’s definitely different,” said Lights senior quarterback Tommy Wilson. “Everybody is coming in new and it’s a different energy. This coaching staff just brings in a great energy. It just travels across through the locker room and to the field, you can really just tell throughout the entire practice, they’re really just getting on us and making sure we stay energized, and continue to go hard throughout practice.”

Rolin, who turned just 31 earlier this year, has brought on a youthful, energetic staff and the players have connected with them instantly.

“All the coaches, they hype you up, they’re ready all the time,” said freshman linebacker Jaren Maki. “They’re energetic, it’s awesome. I love how much they care about this team, I love how much they care about football. They’re like family to me.”

It’s been a roller coaster for many of the veteran players on the Lights roster. There are a few fifth-year seniors on the roster that have gone through four head coaches in their college careers. So the new outlook is refreshing.

“We’re not worried about the past, we’re worried about the future and handling our business and how we do things,” Rolin said. “And these guys have bought in. One hundred percent bought in to what we’re doing and into the program. What we’re doing here is creating a culture of winning. We build the foundation with how we hold ourselves accountable each and every day.”

A new coaching staff means building the team from the ground up. Past playing time and experience don’t necessarily mean players will see the field this fall.

“It’s easy to say we will start off the depth chart based off of film last year, but things change,” added Rolin. “It’s a new staff it’s a clean slate and I let the guys know that. You might have been a starter last year, but it’s a clean slate everyone is given even reps right now. We have 15 practices to prove that you’re a starter or you’re not.”

Rolin has four goals for the program. They’re simple, but lofty. The first is to graduate.

“We’re going to walk out with a degree,” Rolin said. “I tell every single recruit, I tell every single guy on this team and they know it. We’ve done a nice job academically this semester.”

The second is to beat their rival. Rolin laughed about that one.

“We don’t have a rival yet, but we’re going to find a rival,” he said. “Whoever that may be. I think it’s important. That’s what is unique about college sports, I believe in rivalries.”

The third and fourth are to win a Frontier Conference title and a National Championship.

“Those last two goals, probably no one in the city of Havre or the state of Montana believe that it’s going to happen except for these guys out here and our coaching staff,” Rolin said. “That’s the only time I talk about winning or losing, the rest is taking care of the process and the score will take care of itself.”

The Lights have nowhere to go but up this year. But don’t be surprised if they get there sooner than you think.

Players line up before a snap. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

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