Achieving a one-loss football season, and earning a spot in the state championship game is a big accomplishment for any prep athlete. But doing so as a senior, in your final season, that adds something a little more special.
That is the case for five Big Sandy football players, playing their final Class C Six-Man football game this weekend in the state championship.
The Pioneers house five very talented seniors this season. Zac Leader and Lane Martin have made their presence felt on both sides of the ball, as have players like Jessey Bailey, a 200-pound running back that has made a name for himself as one of the top backs in state. Kaden Beck is also a 6-1, 265-pound lineman that has been a four-year starter for the Pioneers. While Big Sandy also houses senior Trevor Lackner, a 6-1 165-pound quarterback/defensive back that has played a huge role in the teams success this season, and in seasons past.
This year the Pioneers have been able to achieve a 10-1 season to this point. They also reached the state semifinals for the fourth consecutive year, but finally broke in to the title game with a win over Valier last weekend. This is the first state championship berth for the Pioneers since 2003, and players like Lackner don’t even know what, or how to express just how big this accomplishment is.
“This is great,” Lackner said. “I don’t know, I just can’t really describe this feeling with words. It feels nice to finally get past the semifinals and know we are playing for a state title.”
And after the win over Valier last weekend, Bailey was also excited to be a part of the team that ended the longtime drought.
“This is awesome,” Bailey added. “This is the fourth year now, and I am glad we finally moved ahead to the championship game.”
Big Sandy head coach Greg King knows just how talented this group of seniors is, and also expressed how much they deserve to be in this position. This group of five seniors has been together since grade school, and has played football together since junior high. Now standing in this position they are in, all the hard work is finally paying off to very tight knit group of friends and competitors.
“This is great that they earned this,” King said. “They have worked very hard to be in the position.”
“And they really work well together,” He added. “They have been playing a lot for us the last three or four years, and they have done well. They have played together through junior high, and that has led to them working so well together. They are all on the same page, and it shows. They know each other well, they know each others strengths and weaknesses, and that really helps me and them on the field.”
The senior leadership has also been impeccable, especially this year. Each and every one of the seniors has stepped up as a leader, and it shows. They do what it takes to win and be successful, and in return the underclassman take note, already following in the seniors footsteps. King said if he asks them to do something, it gets done. And if the senior ask anything of the other players, it gets done just as fast and well.
It is great for the Pioneers to be led by great athletes and people, but is going to make for a tough group to replace.
“It will be tough,” King said. “All of these guys bring something different to the table, and they have something different they offer. They definitely will be tough to replace next year.”
But the season isn’t over yet.
Big Sandy has one more game left, and it is taking place on the biggest stage at the high school level. But the Pioneers are also entering the game feeling good about their most resent accomplishment. Advancing past the semifinals after three straight years of not doing so, the Pioneers have a clear mind entering this weekend’s matchup against Hot Springs on the road.
“We have been working hard for this forever,” Beck said. “The last team to make it was in 2003, but going out in the semis for the last three years was not very fun for us. It is a big accomplishment getting to the semis, but now making it to the championship game, that is such a big relief.”
The Big Sandy seniors will look to lead the team one last time on Saturday. Kickoff between Big Sandy and Hot Springs will be at 1 p.m. in Hot Springs.