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Montana, Richmond Make Themselves at Home at Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WRC – The banner hanging inside Finley Stadium says it all: The champions are here.
Indeed, the two teams vying for the Football Championship Subdivision national title arrived in Chattanooga Tuesday night and held their first practice on the Davenport Field turf Wednesday in preparation for Friday night’s national championship contest.
Montana is making its fourth trip to Chattanooga. The Grizzlies finished runner-up behind James Madison in 2004, but beat Furman to win the national title back in 2001.
“All the redshirt seniors, we came here our first year and won a bunch of games and played for the national championship (in 2004), so we’re thinking if we made it this year, we’ll be coming back every year,” Montana quarterback Cole Bergquist said before Wednesday’s practice. “But obviously, more and more years went by before we got back, but it’s just so great to be back here this year.”
As usual, the Missoula-based school is expecting a raucous crowd on hand thanks to a passionate fan base that follows “The Griz” across the country.
“I would say we’re the pride of the state of Montana,” head coach Bobby Hauck. “People follow us closely because we’re kidn of like Boise State. We don’t have a professional team or another major college nearby, so a lot of these kids grow up wanting to play for us.”
Richmond, on the other hand, is making its first trip to the Scenic City.
The Spiders lost in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs a year ago, and then a few weeks later lost their head coach Dave Clawson, who left to become offensive coordinator at Tennessee.
“After we lost that semifinal game, we made this one of our goals to get back to the semifinal game and then get to this point,” Richmond quarterback Eric Ward said. “I think everybody put in the hard work. Everybody bought in. It’s just so satisfying to finally reach this game.”
Especially for first-year head coach Mike London, who returned to his alma mater to take over the Spiders.
“Somebody’s gotta pinch me here,” London said. “You can’t write a script like this as a first-year head coach. I’ve been a part of a lot of good teams, but to come back to your alma mater and be in the position we’re in now, to be playing for, and now have a chance to win a national title, is just really special.”
London’s Spiders will be underdogs when the game kicks off at 8pm Friday night after upsetting two of the FCS bracket’s four seeded teams on its way to Chattanooga.
Richmond (12-3) won at three-time defending national champ and this year’s No. 2 seed Appalachian State two weeks ago before knocking off No. 3 Northern Iowa in the semifinals last week.
Montana (14-1) enters as the No. 4 seed in the playoff bracket, and beat top-seeded James Madison last Friday to advance to the championship game.
Montana, Richmond Make Themselves at Home
WRCB 3 Chattanooga Report