The Big Sandy Pioneers' agonizing wait for a chance at a Six-Man state championship is finally over. After back-to-back semifinal losses, in 2010 and 2011, Trevor Lackner's 15-yard touchdown pass to Jessey Bailey in overtime propelled the Pioneers to a 38-32 win over Northern C rival Valier, and into the Six-Man state championship game. The Pioneers will play Hot Springs for the 2012 Six-Man championship.
On a day when temperatures didn't get above 15 degrees, Big Sandy's running game was stout. Senior Jessey Bailey rushed for 260 yards on 48 carries, and he accounted for four Big Sandy scores. But Lackner was a hero as well. Big Sandy led 26-24 going into the fourth quarter, but the Panthers went ahead with seven minutes left on a 25-yard TD pass. However, Lackner returned the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for a TD, leaving the score knotted at 32-32. From there, both defenses came up with crucial stops, sending the game into overtime.
Big Sandy led 13-0 after the first quarter, as Bailey scored a rushing TD, and Zac Leader returned an interception for a score. Valier rallied in the second with two TD's, but Bailey scored again just before halftime to give the Pioneers a 19-16 lead at intermission. Bailey tacked on his third rushing TD midway through the third period.
The overtime victory avenged a regular season home loss to the Panthers, and put Big Sandy (10-1) into a championship game for the first time since 2003. The Pioneers lost to Drummond in the 8-man championship game that year. Big Sandy and Hot Springs will meet for the Six-Man title next Saturday at 1 p.m.
For full coverage from Saturday's game, see Monday's Havre Daily News. And see the HDN all week long for complete coverage of the Pioneers' drive for a state championship.