HAVRE — A few Frontier Conference schools have opted out of the unusual 2021 spring football season. But MSU-Northern isn’t one of them, as the Lights opened practice Wednesday in frigid temperatures.
For the next few weeks, Northern is looking at five days a week of practice (sometimes at the crack of dawn) with two days off during the middle of the week for academics. It's quite the contrast from fall camp in August, but for head coach Andrew Rolin’s guys, it’s all worth it.
"NAIA is unique in the sense that we are having a championship series for football, unlike everyone else in the spring," Rolin said. "So, our kids are obviously competing for the love of the game and love of competition, but also for an opportunity to win a conference championship and going into the playoffs."
The Lights have familiarity at starting quarterback in redshirt sophomore Brenden Medina, but Rolin said he’s also confident in the new guys, freshman Davonte Armstrong and redshirt freshman Oakley Kopp. Actually, Rolin said delaying the fall season has paid dividends all over the roster.
"I think the silver lining in all this is the incoming freshmen that we did bring in had an opportunity all fall to not only get bigger, stronger, faster, but we got 15 practices in in pads. And so these guys are no longer freshmen in my view," he said. "We've brought in mid-year transfers, we brought in freshmen, and so some guys that are out there that had an opportunity to get better."
Another thing that playing in the spring brings for Northern is the opportunity to break in the brand-new Tilleman Field with a real, regular-season game.
"We haven't played against another color jersey since fall of 2019. And in that time, we've built a brand-new stadium," Rolin said. "You know, a lot of things have changed and here we are now."
Before this week, Northern had five games on its schedule, but Montana Tech and Montana Western have since announced they would join Southern Oregon in opting out of the season. Rolin expects alterations to the Lights' schedule soon.
Until then, the Lights open the season on the road at the College of Idaho on March 13.