Rocky to play night game due to weather

2012-11-09T14:52:00Z 2012-11-11T15:55:16Z Rocky to play night game due to weather The Billings Gazette

Rocky Mountain College's Senior Day and season finale for football will include a new twist.

The Battlin' Bears will play Montana State Northern in a rare night game Saturday at 6 p.m. at Wendy's Field at Daylis Stadium after a winter storm prevented the Lights from leaving Havre on Friday.

The game was originally set for noon Saturday on Herb Klindt Field on the Rocky campus, which doesn't have lights. Northern is now planning to leave for Billings on Saturday morning.

"It didn't make any sense to put anyone at risk with this weather, so we'd rather MSU Northern arrived safely to play," Rocky athletic director Robert Beers said.

Rocky last played under the lights at Daylis Stadium in 1998.

"It will be a unique experience for our fans," Beers said. "Of course, it's supposed to be freezing cold, so bundle up." 

Rocky, which can secure just its 13th winning season in 63 years by beating Northern, will come into the game at 4-5 in Frontier Conference contests and 5-5 overall.

Northern is 3-6 in league and overall.

The Bears' last winning season came in 2010 when Rocky won its final four games to finish 6-5.

Rocky will be saluting its nine seniors in a ceremony beforehand, including kicker/punter Nick Knell, receivers Jake St. John and Matt Concienne, cornerback Ridge Fuentes, linebacker Andy Desin, offensive lineman Mick Moos and defensive ends Brad Eliel, Doug Karmowski and Weston Merrill.

The Bears are coming off one of their biggest football victories in Rocky history -- a 31-28 triumph over Carroll College last weekend -- and Knell said this week, "it's hard to get one like that out of your mind."

However, with another chance to go down in history, the Rocky seniors believe they still have some unfinished business this season.

"The seniors are more than amped up and ready to go," said Knell, who contributed a decisive field goal against Carroll. "We need to send this team out with a winning season. It's very important to us. We've stressed that and we've talked about it a lot.

"I think we're ready to go do that."

Rocky coach Brian Armstrong praised this year's seniors for possessing "super intestinal fortitude" and the eagerness "to finish what they've started."

The defensive players alone have been in on 367 tackles over the years for the Bears. There has also been 51 pass receptions, while Knell has 25 field goals and 58 extra-points on his Rocky resume.

"There's not one of them that hasn't helped us," Armstrong said of his seniors.  "They work hard, they play hard. They're just fun guys to be around."

Seven of the nine will graduate next month, including Knell, a sociology major.

"It's a small class, but there's a bunch of hard workers in this senior class and I feel there's a bunch of leaders," he said. "A lot of impact players definitely come from this class."

While cold, snowy and windy weather remains in the forecast for Saturday, Northern has also been quite an obstacle for Rocky, with three consecutive victories against the Bears dating to last season.

The Lights won 42-19 when they hosted the Bears on Sept. 29 in Havre. Northern, which was picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll, is 0-4 on the road this fall.

"They've struggled with consistency just like us," Armstrong said. "It's not like they don't have the ability to win football games."

Northern defeated visiting Dickinson State 42-10 last weekend, while Rocky toppled Carroll for its first win over the Saints since the 2000 season. The victory ended a 24-game losing steak to the perennial NAIA power.

"I never will forget that win," said Knell, who transferred to Rocky from Eastern Oregon University in 2011. "Playing Carroll for five years and finally getting a win against them, it was just pretty monumental in my career.

"At the same time, this team needs to move forward and we need to concentrate on the task at hand, because if we take these guys lightly we're going to get beat."

The 6-foot, 180-pound Knell, a 22-year-old left-footed kicker and punter from Lander, Wyo., booted a 32-yard field goal with 2:18 to play against the Saints to put Rocky ahead 31-21.

"I told (the players) on Monday in our meeting that was a good win," Armstrong said. "If we can follow it up with a win on Saturday, that would become a great win."

Rocky, which began playing football in 1949, enjoyed winning seasons in 1951, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1984, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2010.

"Having a winning season is important for our seniors, our program and for our school," Armstrong said. "It's not something that happens all the time around here."

Knell has been Rocky's leading scorer for the past two seasons, with 133 points. He was also EOU's top point-producer in 2010.

He has booted 36 field goals over the past three seasons, along with 98 extra-points.

Knell, who was a preseason NAIA All-America selection, has been invited to compete in the D2 vs NAIA Senior Bowl set for Dec. 15 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"I'm really looking forward to that," he said.

He is also looking forward to having his nearly eight-month-old son, Owen, in his arms when he is saluted as a senior on Saturday.

"I'm sure I'll be thinking about all the games that I've played and all the stuff I've had to go through to get to where I am," Knell said. "I will be kind of thinking about the future, as well."

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