The 2013 Northern Arizona University football team will host five home games highlighted by Big Sky rival Montana on Family Weekend and games against South Dakota and North Dakota who will visit Flagstaff for the first time in program history.
"The schedule will again be challenging from start to finish with our goal set on a berth in the FCS playoffs in 2013," head coach Jerome Souers said. "We had several great accomplishments in 2012 but finished last season unsatisfied."
The Lumberjacks open the season with a pair of games on the road starting with in-state rival Arizona on Aug. 30. The Wildcats are coming off an 8-5 season and a win in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. The game will be televised nationally by the Pac-12 Networks at a time to be announced.
The Wildcats will feature potential Heisman trophy candidate Ka'Deem Carey against NAU's Payton Award finalist Zach Bauman in a matchup of two of the top running backs in each level of Division I football.
After a bye week, NAU will travel to UC Davis on Sept. 14 to play the Aggies in a non-conference game outside of the Big Sky Conference schedule.
South Dakota will visit the Walkup Skydome on Sept. 21. The Coyotes are coached by former Montana coach Joe Glenn.
"We upgraded our non-conference schedule this year," Souers said. "Playing games against Football Championship Subdivision teams UC Davis and South Dakota will not only help our team better prepare for the Big Sky season but offers our fans quality games against new FCS opponents."
Montana opens Big Sky Conference play for Family Weekend on Sept. 28 in a highly anticipated game that could draw a capacity crowd. NAU defeated the Griz on the road last season as part of a school-record tying five road wins.
The Lumberjacks travel to Montana State and Sacramento State on consecutive weeks Oct. 5 and 12. The Bobcats finished No. 5 in the country last season after reaching the FCS quarterfinals.
The Lumberjacks finish the regular season by hosting three of their final five games at home in the Walkup Skydome. NAU plays host to Idaho State on Oct. 19 for Homecoming before taking on 2012 FCS playoff participant Cal Poly on the road on Oct. 26 for the first time since the Mustangs joined the conference in 2012.
North Dakota visits Flagstaff for the first time on Nov. 2. The Lumberjacks take their second bye week of the season on Nov. 9 before Northern Colorado closes the regular season home state on Nov. 16.
NAU travels to Cedar City, Utah, to play Southern Utah in the second meeting for the Hinton Burdick Grand Canyon Trophy to end the regular season on Nov. 23.
The Lumberjacks finished with an 8-3 overall record and a No. 20 national ranking in 2012. NAU posted several milestones during the season, including winning eight consecutive games for the first time since the 1958 season (11 games). NAU also beat an NCAA FBS opponent for the first time since 1987 with its 17-14 victory on Sept. 8 over UNLV and won at Montana on Sept. 22 for the first time since 1997.
"The strides we made as a program in 2012 are going to be the foundation of an exciting season of Lumberjack football," Souers said. "Our fans are going to enjoy the team we put on the field this season."
Games times and ticket information will be announced at a later date.
The Lumberjacks begin spring practice on March 26 with the first of 15 workouts. The annual spring game will be held on April 27 at 2:30 p.m.
TRACK AND FIELD
The Northern Arizona University track and field teams wrapped up two days of competition at the Willie Williams Classic Saturday in Tucson. True freshman Julia Viberg led the charge with a phenomenal discus outing in her first collegiate meet, tossing 165 feet, 1.25 inches (50.32m) to place third in the event.
"Julia was poised, kept a positive mental attitude, and just got better and better as the competition went on," NAU associate head coach Oscar Duncan said. "From here we'll head back to Flagstaff and continue working on both her shot put and discus in preparation for our meet next weekend."
Junior Edgar Panford led the men's effort Saturday with a second-place mark in the men's triple jump. Panford's outdoor career-best jump of 50 feet, 1.5 inches (15.28m) was a mere half-inch from taking the meet title.
Viberg and Panford led a flurry of Lumberjacks with solid performances on the last day of the first outdoor meet of 2013. Sophomores Vernon Jamison (14.54) and Deante Kemper (14.73) took second and fourth, respectively, in the men's 110-meter hurdles, earning conference qualifiers in the process, to begin the day for NAU.
On the track, Isatu Fofanah, Shamelle Pless, and Darriel Banks all qualified for Big Sky Outdoors in the 100-meter dash, further cementing their place as NAU's short-sprints "triple threat". Fofanah (11.90) took third overall, followed by Banks (11.97) in fourth and Pless (12.09) in ninth. All three athletes qualified in the 200 meters Friday night.
On the men's side, senior Miles di Sabella ran a solid 10.72 in the 100 meters to take third overall and earn his first conference qualifier of the outdoor season.
In the women's 800 meters, sophomore Emily Bartz returned to the track after running the 1,500 meters Friday night, placing third overall in the event with a time of 2:17.11.
Junior Lauren Laszczak notched a second-place finish in the women's high jump, clearing 5 feet, 7 inches (1.70m) to finish just behind Arizona's Shayla McEaddy.
The Lumberjack student-athletes will enjoy Spring Break this week, and will return to the track Friday for the ASU Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.
Editor's Note: NAU's Sports Information Department contributed to this roundup.
Junior Gwen Smithberg led the Lumberjacks in the platform competition with a 19th place finish and freshman Chelsea Jackson was 24th on the final day of the NCAA Zone E Diving Championship hosted by the Air Force Academy.
Senior Kristy Ardavanis, who was hoping to earn an NCAA Championship berth after finishing sixth on 1-meter yesterday, ended up as an alternate for the national championship meet following the platform competition. The scenario that Ardavanis needed to earn an NCAA bid, in which three specific divers who had already qualified at the meet had to be the top three finishers on platform, did not play out but she is one of two alternates for the national championship after finishing just behind the nine qualifiers from the zone.
"She'd love to be traveling to Indianapolis (for the NCAA Championship) but she feels good about what she did," NAU diving coach Nikki Huffman said. "It was still a really good week for us altogether. Every single one of them had some good dives and some good performances. It was great that Kristy made two finals and Chelsea made one and Gwen was really close on 3-meter and platform. All in all it was a really good meet for us."
Smithburg, the 2013 WAC platform champion and NAU's all-time record holder on the board, slightly missed one dive but still managed to finish 19th in the field of 37 with a 199.55 total. Jackson concluded her superb freshman season with a 191.05 score to place 24th overall.
The three NAU qualifiers for the zone meet recorded two WAC titles this season - from Ardavanis on 1-meter and Smithberg on platform - and eight All-WAC honors for the 2012-13 year while Huffman was named WAC Diving Coach of the Year.
Senior Stephanie Kim shot an even-par 72 to finish in a tie for eighth place with a season-best tying 217 that was just one stroke off her career best for a three-round tournament. Kim led the Lumberjacks to a seventh-place finish with a three-round total of 882, the second-best team score for a three-round tournament in school history.
The Lumberjacks shot 307 in the final round to finish at 18-over par. The 882 trails only the school record 871 posted at the Lumberjack Shootout at Wigwam recorded in 2011.
Texas Tech won the team title with a one-stroke victory over San Jose State. Texas State, Kansas State, Missouri and Indiana were ahead of the Lumberjacks.
Freshman Savana Bezdicek finished tied for 20th with a collegiate-best 220, while junior Kaitlen Parsons carded an 81 to finish tied for 23rd at 221. Sophomore Laura Jabczenski improved in the third round with a five-over par 77. Darian Spivey posted an 82 in the final round was tied for 47th.
Teammate Melissa Olson had the second-best round on the day, tying her collegiate best for the second time in the tournament. Playing as an individual, she equaled the four-over par 76 she carded in the first round on Saturday, finishing with a collegiate-best 237 to tie for 67th overall.
After playing three tournaments in three weeks, the Lumberjacks will take a break before returning to the course April 8-10 at the Wyoming Cowgirl Classic.