Troy Purcell

Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell works with his team during spring practice. Purcell returns to Havre for the first time since 2004. 

HELENA — Carroll College football coach Troy Purcell vividly remembers the last time he coached a football game at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre.

His Class A Havre High School Blue Ponies won the State Championship by defeating Billings Central Catholic, 34-21.

“There were sure some great times and some great memories up there,” Purcell said, smiling. “My daughter was born (in Havre), and I am so fortunate to be a part of that community and bring home a state championship.”

Now 15 years later Purcell returns to the same field.

He no longer wears the blue and white. He traded up to purple and gold and now brings the Carroll College football team with him as they prepare for the second meeting against Montana State Northern.

This is the second meeting between the Saints and Lights. The first came six weeks ago and resulted in a 54-26 win in front of a homecoming crowd at Nelson Stadium.

But Purcell knows previous meetings don’t matter.

Nor does the fact that the Lights are still searching for their first conference win since 2016.

“I don’t really look at that,” Purcell said. “We just wanted to get better. We have to see what (Northern) does and what kind of schemes they are going to bring.”

A NEW QUARTERBACK

If things stay similar to last week, Carroll will see a new quarterback in true freshman Tre Long.

The Lake Stevens, Washington native received the majority of the snaps last week in Dillon where the Lights were handed a 59-13 defeat by Montana Western.

He threw for 106 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions, which wasn’t an upgrade from weeks prior.

Freshman quarterback Brenden Medina has also struggled this season. Although he ranks second among Frontier Conference quarterbacks with 1,610 passing yards, he has completed just 48 percent of his passes and has 17 interceptions to his 15 touchdowns.

Regardless of who will be under center, the Saints will look to exploit Northern’s struggling passing attack.

During their first meeting, the Saints secondary came away with three interceptions and now they are looking for more.

“We have to come out and simply do our jobs,” said sophomore defensive back Rex Irby, who finished with a pair of interceptions last week. “We have to trust our teammates and play with good eyes.”

ABILITY TO COME BACK

Historically, Carroll hasn’t had to orchestrate a rally when it faces Northern. It’s last loss in Havre came in 2016, when they were upended, 28-14.

But, if needed, the Saints have figured out how to answer the bell.

Last week, Carroll put together a 35-0 run on the road against Rocky Mountain that was sparked by Devan Bridgewater’s 249 passing yards.

With three games left on the season and the Saints a game out of a three-way second place tie with Montana Western and Montana Tech, Purcell said their mindset is just to stay the course.

“We just need to continue to do what we need to do, and that’s not be too high and not be too low,” Purcell said. “I’m just really proud of our kids.”

UNDER THE LIGHTS

Saturday will be Carroll’s first night game since Aug. 31, 2017 against Montana Tech.

But that doesn’t bother Purcell and his players.

All season, the Saints have scheduled early morning practices that started before the sun came up, so they had to power up generator lights to see the field.

“I’m pumped to be playing under the lights,” Irby said. “It’s the only thing going on in Havre on a Saturday. It should be a lot of fun.”

SETTING NEW STANDARDS

Bridgewater currently has 1,472 passing yards and is on pace for the most since Mac Roche threw for 2,295 yards in 2015.

Running back Matthew Burgess is also on pace for 1,124 yards, the most since Dustin Rinker’s mark of 1,675 yards in 2014.

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Ryan Kuhn covers Carroll College athletics for the Independent Record and 406mtsports.com. Email him at ryan.kuhn@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @rskuhn

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