Courtesy GoBearkats.com / Brandon K. Scott / Bearkat Athletics
Clear your Friday night schedule. If you have plans for that evening, cancel them because that’s when the undefeated Bearkats are hosting Montana (11-2) in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.
This will be the marquee game of the weekend, with Sam Houston televised again on ESPN, while the other semifinals matchup (Georgia Southern at North Dakota State) will be played Saturday on ESPNU.
The Grizzlies are a familiar foe for the Sam Houston program through the last 10 years.
It was Montana that crushed the Bearkats’ national championship aspirations in the 2001 quarterfinals and ’04 semifinals.
A lot has changed at Sam Houston since then, but Montana is still the powerhouse it was when it was victimizing Sam Houston earlier in the decade.
Despite missing the playoffs last season after 17 straight appearances, the Grizzlies will play in their sixth national championship game in the last 12 seasons if they defeat the Bearkats. Montana has won the national title twice.
Both teams appear to be primed and ready for a trip to Frisco next month.
Sam Houston is on a 15-game winning streak which dates back to last season. The squad hasn’t been derailed since early November 2010 and ripped through its Southland Conference schedule like a tornado this season.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are Big Sky Conference co-champions and have won each of their last five games by at least 25 points, including a 41-14 whipping on the Southland Conference’s Central Arkansas in the second round of the playoffs.
Sam Houston beat Central Arkansas 31-10 in its second game of the season.
Montana State has the best feel for what both Sam Houston and Montana bring to the table, having lost to the Bearkats most recently and the Grizzlies last month, 36-10.
“It’s going to be a really good game, I think,” Montana State head coach Rob Ash said of this week’s semifinal matchup. “They’re built differently. Montana’s big and strong and very veteran on defense. Sam Houston’s strong also, but very quick.
“I think it’ll be a fantastic football game. I’d hate to try to pick who’s going to win that one.”
Instead of practicing on Sunday, as originally planned if the upcoming game was scheduled for Friday, the Bearkat coaching staff elected to go with their regular routine.
So the players were off and report back to practice today, minus strength and conditioning.
“Normally we just lift weights and run on Monday, but we’re going to go ahead and practice,” Sam Houston head coach Willie Fritz said on Sunday afternoon. “We’re not going to lose our strength in one week.
“The crowds and the excitement level at Bowers Stadium the past two weeks has been the best ever,” Fritz continued. “The fans have been a big factor in our success and we need every body back in the stands Friday night.”