By George Ferguson
BIG SANDY As the high school football season winds down, some games gain the added importance of having play-off implications.
Nowhere was that case more evident than in Big Sandy on Friday night as the Chester Coyotes defeated the Big Sandy Pioneers, 18-12, in a huge Northern C clash.
The Coyotes got on the board first by marching 60 yards in just over four minutes in their first possession. The drive was capped off by a Mitch Violett 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down and goal. The two point conversion failed, giving the Coyotes a 6-0 lead.
The game would remain there until the Pioneers scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gage Brumwell to Skylar Pearson with 7:12 remaining in the half. Brumwell was nearly sacked on the play, but escaped two Chester linemen to hook up with Pearson. The Pioneers also failed on their two-point attempt, leaving the game deadlocked 6-6 at halftime.
The third quarter belonged to both teams' defensive units, as neither team could score. It set up a dramatic fourth-quarter finish.
With 10:33 left in the game, the Coyotes were faced with another fourth-and-goal situation from the two yard line. Again Violett was able to power the ball in for his second TD of the game. The PAT failed, leaving Chester with a 12-6 lead.
It didn't take long for the Pioneers to answer, however, as Brumwell hit Danny Larrish with a 60-yard TD strike just 29 seconds later. The Pioneers then recovered a gutsy on-side kick, but were unable to move the ball.
With the game tied at 12, the Coyotes used a pair of long runs to take the lead back. A 30-yard scamper by Violett would set up Patrick Wicks' go-ahead score.
Big Sandy drove all the way down to the Chester ten yard line on the ensuing possession. After three incomplete passes, the Pioneers were faced with a fourth-and-nine situation. Brumwell completed the pass to Mason Ophus, but Ophus came up a half a yard short giving Chester the ball and the win 18-12.
Chester head coach Jim Graham was elated with the close win.
"We knew the winner of this game would be in good shape for a playoff berth," Graham said. "We just hung in there and gutted it out to the end and got the win."
"This was as an emotional a game as I have ever been a part of," said Big Sandy head coach Scott Chauvet. "We had a couple of key mistakes that killed our momentum and I knew this game would probably come down to who made the least mistakes."
"You have to give coach Graham and his team a lot of credit, though," Chauvet added. "They came to play and this was one intense battle tonight."
The win puts the Coyotes at 4-2 on the season while Big Sandy drops to 3-3. Although the loss is a setback for the Pioneers, both coaches feel like there is still work to do.
"We still have hope," Chauvet said. "We need some help along the way, but we can still make the playoffs."
"We are definitely in control of our own destiny now," Graham said. "But we still have to win out and we still have to play Blue Sky/KG. They are a very good football team."
The Coyotes will host KG/Blue Sky on Friday night. Big Sandy will travel to Hays-Lodgepole on Saturday.
Also on Friday night, the Harlem Wildcats were defeated by nonconference foe Winston Churchill High School of Lethbridge 21-7 in Harlem. Harlem's Tom Cochrane got the lone score of the night for the Wildcats on a one-yard TD run in the second quarter. Derek Fusezy had six carries for 88 yards in the loss. Harlem is now 2-4 on the season and will host Wolf Point on Friday night.
In Valier, the Valier Panthers ripped the Hays-Lodgepole Thunderbirds 49-6. The T-Birds only score came in the first quarter on a 1-yard TD run. Kyle Jannusch threw three TD passes on the night for the Panthers. The T-Birds (1-5) will host Big Sandy on Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon, the KG/Blue Sky Eagles picked up a key Northern C win over the Centerville Miners 27-12.
The Eagles scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to take the victory. KG/Blue Sky was led by quarterback Jon Lipp, who rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns. His 4-yard TD run in the fourth quarter began the 21-point onslaught that sealed the Eagles' fate. KG/Blue Sky is now 4-2 and still very much alive in the playoff picture. They will visit Chester on Friday night in a pivotal Northern C matchup.
In Joplin, the host J-I Rams routed the Brockton Warriors 95-0. The Rams led the game 61-0 at halftime, and used a stingy defense to keep Brockton out of the end zone for the entire contest. Zach Ramberg threw for three touchdowns, rushed for another and returned an interception for yet another score. John Wolery also ran for two scores on the day. J-I (2-4) will visit the Lambert Lions on Saturday.
The Box Elder Bears' tough season continued on Saturday as they were downed by the Geraldine Tigers 70-34. Neal and J.R. Rosette combined for four touchdowns for the Bears. Dane Haley also returned an interception 34 yards for a late fourth-quarter touchdown. The Bears are now 0-6 and will visit Rocky Boy on Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, in Rocky Boy the Stars fell victim to Geyser 57-6. A.J. The Boy caught a TD pass from Dustin Sunchild in the second quarter for the Stars' only score of the day. Rocky Boy (1-5) will host rival Box Elder on Saturday.