It has been a long and difficult road, but after a 10-1 season thus far, the Big Sandy Pioneers should be primed and ready for a run at the Class C Six-Man state championship.
The Pioneers haven’t been in this position since the 2003 season, where they suffered a tough loss in the 8-man state championship game. And after three consecutive seasons ended in the state semifinals, the Pioneers are looking to parlay their current success into state hardware.
This season, the Pioneers earned regular season wins over Richey/Lambert, Box Elder, Stanford/Geyser, Augusta, North Star, Heart Butte, and Geraldine/Highwood. Big Sandy also took down Lone Peak, Westby/Grenora, and Valier in the state playoffs, all leading to a berth in the state championship game on Saturday at Hot Springs.
But the Pioneers also dropped one game this season, a 46-44 loss to Valier in week five. Since the rare loss, the Pioneers have put together seven consecutive wins, and have done a lot of improving from the beginning of the season until the end of the season.
“They have improved a lot,” Big Sandy head coach Greg King said. “From offense to defense, to playing their positions and helping and encouraging each other. From the beginning to the end of, they have all done something to improve every week. Hopefully everything comes together in our final game, and everybody shows up and everything works like it should.
“We need our special teams to improve,” King added. “We have been a little shaky on some of our kicks this season, and that is something we have been working on (since the loss to Valier). We need to get that fine tuned, because we know Hot Springs kicks a lot of those (PAT’s), so we need to be able to match that. But as a group, we have been working on everything as a whole.”
But having just one loss, that means the Pioneers had some very memorable wins.
The win over Geraldine/Highwood, the final regular season game of the year was crucial. The Pioneers won 54-48 in four periods of overtime, and did so with strong defense down the stretch. The win over Westby/Grenora in the state quarterfinals was also huge, as the Pioneers have never seen the newly assembled Montana/North Dakota co-op. Big Sandy defeated the MonDak Thunder 46-44. That road playoff win kept Big Sandy's season going.
Big Sandy played as tough a schedule as any Six-Man team in the state. The Pioneers had some big wins, as well as some tight wins, but overall, they should be well prepared for the biggest game of the season, and maybe the decade.
Saturday, the Pioneers will face Hot Springs on the road at 1 p.m. with the state championship on the line. Hot Springs defeated Big Sandy's Northern C rival, Geraldine-Highwood in last Saturday's other semi.
On to State!
Follow the Pioneers' road to the state championship game all week long with the Havre Daily News.