HELENA — Montana State Northern football coach Andrew Rolin knew Carroll College had some talented young players.
Carroll coach Troy Purcell just joked that they are great recruiters.
Whatever the reason may be, the Saints’ freshman class was showcased as they pounded the Lights 54-26 Saturday afternoon at Nelson Stadium.
Whether it was Helena High alum Zach Spiroff intercepting his second pass this season or running back Matthew Burgess running for his third straight 100-yard game, Purcell said there is plenty of praise to go around.
“There is a reason why we recruited them,” Purcell said. “You always wanted to recruit better than you have. We have some great kids. Sometimes you hit and sometimes you miss and these kids are hits. It’s been pretty special.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Devan Bridgewater started off the game with another deep pass on its way to wide receiver Shane Sipes.
The pass was offline but, six plays later, he found Sipes on a 43-yard touchdown pass.
Another six minutes after that, Bridgewater threw his second touchdown pass, this time to tight end Tony Collins.
Bridgewater finished completing 11-of-20 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns, but more than that, Purcell is seeing improvement in his young quarterback.
Before this season, Bridgewater hadn’t made a start in two years.
“He has developed some confidence, but there was some good learning today too,” Purcell said. “There are some definitely learning opportunities and he made some good decisions, especially with his legs.”
Carroll extended its lead to three touchdowns on a seven-yard run by Major Ali, but not before it was set up by some runs by Burgess.
While the Saints were showing off some freshmen, so where the Lights.
Northern sent out redshirt freshman quarterback Brenden Medina for his third career start and didn’t waste any time showing off his arm.
He found Marvin Williams Jr. on a 11-yard touchdown pass midway through the second half, and then once again with 54 seconds remaining in the first half.
Medina finished the game throwing for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns, but Rolin knows there is still room to improve.
After all, Medina did throw a pair of interceptions.
“He makes some freshman mistakes, but he can also look like a veteran out there,” Rolin said. “He is going to have a bright future in this program.”
Northern got the ball to start the second half, but after a quick three-and-out, its momentum was halted.
And all the Saints had to do was hand the ball back to Burgess.
He scored his first touchdown on a 29-yard run early in the third quarter and finished with 117 net rushing yards.
Even his teammates don’t look forward to tackling him.
“In our fall scrimmage we had a tough time tackling him, and it is good to see other teams have a tough time tackling him too,” junior linebacker Nate McGree said.
Carroll’s offense kept pushing forward in the second half as Ali scored his second touchdown and junior fullback Griphen Le broke free for a 38-yard score.
Over the last two games, the Saints combined for 98 points and 996 total yards. Purcell could only describe it as his team just having fun.
“These players are believing in what we are doing and they are excited in what we are doing,” Purcell said. “The kids want be out there and want to improve. Everything is positive.”
While things might be all positive for Carroll, Northern has suffered a third straight loss and knows that there needs to be more than just a potent air attack.
The Lights finished with just 49 total rushing yards.
“We have to be able to run the football better than that if we want to beat a team like Carroll,” Rolin said. “We have to see what adjustments we can make. You are never satisfied after a game like that.”