By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
BIG SANDY - It wasn't the best week for Big Sandy head coach Scott Chauvet. His team had a terrible week of practice and his quarterback came down with a case of mononucleosis.
But it was all better late Friday night after his Pioneers dispatched Northern C rival Chester 36-6 in Class C first-round playoff action on a blustery autumn evening.
"I was really worried on Friday morning," Chauvet said. "We had a horrible week of practice and I thought we weren't very focused. I called a team meeting to talk about getting more focused. When I saw them walking in before the game later that night, I knew they were focused."
With starting quarterback Gage Brumwell fighting fatigue and illness, Chauvet turned to the senior trio of Skylar Pearson, Mason Ophus and Adam Jesperson.
The threesome accounted for all six of the Pioneers' touchdowns in the game.
"Big players have to make big plays in big games and they did that," Chauvet said.
No one came up bigger than Pearson. With Chauvet not able to use his option attack to save Brumwell's energy, Pearson shouldered the entire rushing load, grinding out 258 yards.
"With Brumwell being sick, we weren't going to run the option and I think they knew it," Chauvet said. "Skylar shouldered the load. He had so many yards after contact. He's the type of kid who needs at least 15 or 20 carries. After that many carries, he gets even tougher to bring down. He carried us on the ground."
Pearson broke open a 12-0 game, with back-to-back scoring runs. His first score came on a 3-yard plunge. On the ensuing possession, the Pioneers found themselves pinned on their own 3-yard line. However, on the first play, Pearson broke two tackles and scampered 77 yards for the touchdown.
While Big Sandy's offense was marching down the field, Chester's offense was held largely in check. The Pioneer defense harassed and hurried Coyote quarterback Kevin May and bottled up the rushing attack of Patrick Wicks and Patrick Walstad.
"Our defense was flying around the field," Chauvet said. "Throughout the season, we might have one player get 15 tackles or more. Friday night we had four guys with more than 15 tackles."
Defensive end Alex Thornton led the defense with 21 tackles while Jesperson added 17 tackles.
Chester's lone score came late in the fourth quarter as Wicks dove in from 1 yard out.
With the win, Big Sandy improved to 9-0 on the season. The Pioneers will host Sheridan on Saturday.
"Sheridan beat Alberton and it wasn't an upset, even though Alberton was undefeated," Chauvet said. "Sheridan also played Drummond this season so we get to use the game as a measuring stick."
The question that remains for Chauvet and the Pioneer faithful is the status of Brumwell for next weekend.
"We're going to go with Gage as long as he can go," Chauvet said. "He's going to get plenty of rest. He doesn't need to practice. We'll prep him on paper and keep him out of the weather."
Chester 0 0 0 6 - 6
Big Sandy 6 6 18 6 - 36
Big Sandy - Adam Jesperson 27-yard run (run failed)
Big Sandy - Mason Ophus 8-yard pass from Gage Brumwell (run failed)
Big Sandy - Skylar Pearson 3-yard run (pass failed)
Big Sandy - Pearson 77-yard run (run failed)
Big Sandy - Jesperson 1-yard run (run failed)
Chester - Patrick Wicks 1-yard run (pass failed)
Big Sandy - Jesperson 2-yard run (run failed)