By Tiffany L. Rehbein
The Northern Lights have waited 28 years and three football games and good things have finally come.
The MSU-Northern Lights won their first game as a full member of the Frontier Conference by downing non-conference Minot (N.D.) State Beavers 27-21 in an overtime victory Saturday.
With no clock in the overtime, freshman quarterback Chris Jackson hit wide receiver Andy Smith on a third-and-18 situation for the game-winning, 31-yard score.
The kids did just a tremendous job, said an emotional Walt Currie, head football coach. In the second half they showed what they are made of, especially after the beating they took last weekend.
The Lights, 1-3 overall, fell to Frontier Conference foe Carroll College, 69-0, at Helena last Thursday.
Against Minot (0-2), the Lights, down 21-6 at the half, under the eye of veteran defensive coordinator Mickey Williams, made some defensive adjustments and held the Beavers scoreless in the second half.
Northern lit up the scoreboard with 12:05 remaining in the first quarter when Jackson hit Smith, who simply out-ran his defender, for a 69-yard touchdown reception. Smith leads the Frontier Conference in receiving.
Mark Lane, an NAIA champion wrestler, missed the point-after attempt, leaving the Lights ahead, 6-0.
Jackson threw for three touchdowns and went 13 of 30, with two interceptions, for 309 yards in the contest.
Exactly 10 minutes later, quarterback Brent Hysjulien hit Dave Kimura for a 71-yard Beaver pass reception, with the point-after attempt good, the Beavers stole the lead, 7-6.
The second quarter was all Minot State as June Bryant blazed through the Lights middle for a 4-yard touchdown with only three minutes ticked off the clock. A dropped Beaver snap left the Lights in control at their own 24-yard line with the Beavers on top 13-6.
The Beavers struck again with 6:47 remaining in the quarter when Hysjulien hit Bryant on a 13-yard reception. Hysjulien then hit Brian DiFonzo for the two-point conversion. The Beavers led 21-6 going into the half.
As the sun appeared from behind rain clouds in the second half, the Lights came to life. Minot State opened the quarter and on a second down, defensive end Dan Polk and defensive tackle Steve Spangler combined for a quarterback sack to spark the Lights.
Beaver Ian Hewitt punted the ball out of bounds and the Lights took over at their own 31-yard line.
On the Lights first possession of the half, Jackson connected with Smith on a 69-yard TD score with 11:47 remaining in the quarter. Jackson then hit Smith for the two-point conversion to bring the Lights within a touchdown at 21-14.
Lanes kick-off to Mike Klein resulted in a Minot fumble that Joel Onsager recovered for the Lights.
However, the glory was short-lived when Jackson threw an interception two plays later.
But the Lights defense came to life again three plays later when Havre native Anthony Alvarado recovered another Beavers fumble.
With 9:08 remaining in the third, Minot played a tough defensive stand, rushing Jackson to cause an incomplete pass and then throwing him down for a five-yard loss.
However, the Beavers were nailed with three penalties as the Lights controlled the ball for the remainder of the quarter notching six first downs in the stand.
Richard Jarvis of Havre then scored on a two-yard run to open the fourth quarter while Lanes PAT evened the score at 21.
Free safety Troy Martin had two interceptions in the fourth quarter for the Lights.
In the overtime, Minot ran five plays before the ball was turned over to the Lights who scored the game-winning touchdown in three plays.
Jarvis led the Lights running attack with seven carries for 26 yards. Northern had 32 carries for 77 total ground yards.
Smith again led the receiving game with six receptions for 195 yards. T Artis had three receptions for 61 yards in the victory.
Offensively, we cut out the little things the offsides, penalties and ran the ball well in the second half, Currie said. The offensive line just buckled down in the second half and went to work.
The Lights will play at Blue Pony Stadium Thursday when they meet Frontier Conference rival Rocky Mountain College, 1-2 overall, at 6:30 p.m.