BILLINGS -- Monday morning in the February snow -- with temps hovering around zero -- typically isn't a reason for fresh energy at Rocky Mountain College. But safe to say, very little on campus has been typical within the last year.
The Battlin' Bears picked up Monday almost exactly where they left off six months ago -- gearing up for an odd, but at least meaningful, regular football season with the projected NAIA football maze ahead expected to be anything but typical.
They were supposed to practice outdoors but, with the windchill still below zero, that plan was shifted indoors and broken down to small workouts by position groups. The weather-dependent hope is for players to hit the field Tuesday afternoon.
"They're relentless right now," Bears head coach Chris Stutzriem told MTN Sports. "It's been tough. You can't say what they're going through, (because) we've never been through this."
By this, he means opening regular-season camp in the February snow; dealing with months of highs and lows, wondering whether there would even be a football season; how many games they'll squeeze in; and if there will be playoff light at the end of this isolated tunnel.
As of Monday, that answer was yes.
"Absolutely, we'll have a conference champion after four games," Stutzriem said. "Everybody is not playing everybody (in the Frontier Conference), so there's a tie-breaker series and points and things like that we'll go off if we need to."
Here's how it breaks down for Rocky: Effective Monday, five weeks of organized practice. Players will take Sundays off. Rocky's season opener is a month from Saturday, on March 20 at home against Carroll College.
Prior to these below zero temps, players had at least been in the weight room, at times in the gym, and out on the field for some informal workouts. Now, Stutzriem and his staff find out how it adds up.
"We've got to make sure we can tackle, run, catch the ball, throw the ball, line up correctly, play assignment football," he said. "And then from there, it's just letting the guys go play."
When the Bears last left off in August, Nate Dick and Drew Korf were battling -- or more accurately -- taking turns at quarterback. Korf can sling it as more of a pocket passer while Dick adds mobility. Stutzriem is still keeping his starter decision close to the vest.
"I tell you what, we've got a few that are doing a great job," he said with a laugh. "Obviously, Drew and Nate are doing really well, they're both healthy, slinging the ball all over the place."
Safe to say, they'll both see time.
Frozen conditions or not, Stutzriem believes his guys will deliver great energy, and how can they not? After lockdowns, isolation and restrictions for the better part of a year, they're not only playing ball -- they get to shoot for conference and national championships in a season where a lot of teams, including Montana and Montana State, do not.