(RMC Athletics release)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The Frontier Conference released the 2018 Football Preseason Coaches’ Poll on Tuesday at the league’s annual Media Day held at the Great Falls Holiday Inn. The poll selected Rocky Mountain to finish second in the poll after the Battlin’ Bears received 39 points and one first-place vote.
Rocky is coming off the program’s first winning season since 2013 after finished 6-5 last year. That team was 6-4 in the conference to end in a three-way tie for second place.
The 2018 Battlin’ Bears return 40 players that played in at least one game last season, including 23 that made at least six starts. Among that group of returnees is AFCA-NAIA 1st Team All-American Keenan Fagan coming off a year in which he led the NAIA in interceptions.
Rocky’s defense also returns its top three leading tacklers from 2017 in Billy Williams, Dallas Mack, and Chase Bertelsen. Ryder Rice is also back after posting 9.5 sacks last season to rank 11th in the country.
Drew Korf started the team’s final five games last season at quarterback as a true freshman. He ended the season with 1,595 passing yards and 14 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Jacob Bakken returns for his senior season coming off an injury that limited him to six games last season.
The offensive backfield welcomes its top two leading rushers back in 2018 behind 699 yards from Mason Melby and 581 yards from Sam Sparks. That duo accounted for 13 rushing touchdowns and 212 carries last season to spark a running game that averaged 194.5 yards per game.
Max Gray heads a core of receivers and tight ends returning in 2018 after he went for 555 yards on 48 catches and six scores last year. Lucas Overton added 41 grabs for 621 yards and six scores, including 15 catches for 223 yards and two TDs in the season finale at Montana Western. Darneail Jenkins and Brandon Mosley are back at tight end after combining for 65 catches and 687 yards a year ago.
Rocky looks to replace kicker Griff Amies who ended last season as the NAIA leader by making all 37 of his PAT attempts. Amies hit 13 of 17 field goals and led the Battlin’ Bears with 76 points scored. The 2018 squad will look at a few newcomers during fall camp to find Amies’ replacement.
Matt Larson is back after he finished 22nd in the NAIA last season in averaging 38.6 yards per game. Larson had five kicks of 50-plus yards and 14 of his 45 total punts ended up inside the opponents 20-yardline.
Southern Oregon was picked as the favorite to win the Frontier Conference in 2018 after the Raiders received 48 points and six first-place votes in the poll. SOU went 10-0 in league play last season and advanced to the semifinals of the NAIA Football National Championship.
College of Idaho and Montana Teach each received 30 points in the poll to tie for third with Carroll College earning 28 points and one first-place vote to rank fifth. Eastern Oregon (27 points), Montana Western (15 points), and MSU-Northern (7 points) round out the voting.
Frontier Conference coaches voted in the preseason poll and weren’t allowed to vote for their own teams. Points were awarded seven points for first-place, six points for second-place, and continuing down the line.
Rocky will hold its first practice of fall camp on Friday when returners take to the field at 1:40 p.m. The Battlin’ Bears will hold a total of 19 practices during fall camp – including one scrimmage – leading up to the season opener against Carroll College on Thursday, August 23 at 5 p.m. on Herb Klindt Field.