HOT SPRINGS — Even with a crushing loss, it is every prep athletes dream to get the opportunity to play for a state championship.
Win or lose, there is something about getting the opportunity, and that is exactly why the five Big Sandy seniors finished their prep careers on the field, and not on the sidelines.
The Hot Springs Savage Heat jumped all over the Pioneers in the first quarter, on the very first play. They took an early 17-0 lead through the first frame, but eventually earned the 77-0 win over the Pioneers on Saturday in Hot Springs. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Pioneers, but the five seniors knew just how special it was to still be playing in the final game of the season.
“It was a very big deal,” senior Kaden Beck said. “Playing in this game. Being a senior, we always wanted to compete for state title in football, and blowout or not, we still made it and earned second place.”
The more time that ticked off the clock, the more obvious it was that the Pioneers were not going to make a roaring comeback.
But instead of playing for the championship, the Pioneers instead kept playing for pride. Typically a blowout means a lot of playing time for the underclassman and backups, but that wasn’t the case for Beck, Jessey Bailey, Zac Leader, Lane Martin, and Trevor Lackner, as they started the game on the field, as well as finished the game on the field.
With 2:18 left on the clock, Big Sandy head coach Greg King called a timeout. The Pioneers were on defense, and King had prepared a handful of players on the sideline to enter the contest. But after a short huddle, it was clear the Pioneer seniors were not going to give up their careers without a fight.
“They wanted to stay in and they wanted to finish,” King said. “(Hot Springs) subbed in some of their kids so I was going to do the same and get our guys ready to go, but they wanted to finish. The seniors wanted to end their careers on the field.
“It meant the world for us to finish,” Lackner added. “Most of us just hope and wait for the football season to come around all year, and to have it end like this is hard for us. But we stayed in and tried to keep our heads up as much as we could.”
The Pioneers may not have had a lot of small victories on the field on Saturday, but they did end on a high note.
The Savage Heat were out to score as many points as they could, no matter how late in the contest. Martin Kvam had already crushed a 41-yard field goal earlier in the game, and with just under a minute left in the game, he was on the field for another field goal attempt on fourth down. The Big Sandy defense had put a stop to the Savage Heat’s final offensive drive, and was seconds away from getting their first stop of the game.
The seniors stayed in and got the job done, as they rushed with enough pressure to force the kick wide right.
“It was a big stop for them,” King said. “It was something positive they could end the game on, getting the stop at the bitter end like they did. And it just gave them a little something positive at the end.”
Beck couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to finish his career on the sidelines, and knows that stop meant a lot as well.
“We were not going to show everybody that we were just going to quit our senior year at state,” Beck said. “This is what we played all year long for. To not finish would have been devastating, and we were at least happy we accomplished something positive in the game. It was a big stop and I was proud.”
The No. 2 finish was much better finish for the Pioneers, compared to the last couple of years being sent home in the state semifinals.
It wasn’t the result they were looking for, losing 77-0, but it was clear that the Pioneers played with a lot of pride and heart, especially the five seniors that led the Pioneers to a 10-2 season that was very productive and positive overall.
Game Notes: Hot Springs finished the season averaging 73 points per game and allowing just seven. Saturday was Big Sandy's first trip to a Six-Man title game. The Pioneers lost the 2003 8-Man championship game at Drummond. Hot Springs won in its first MHSA state championship of any kind Saturday afternoon.