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Pioneers hope to run to the Six-Man semis

Big Sandy travels to Bridger tonight for a second-round playoff battle


November 3, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Duke Darlington and the Big Sandy Pioneers have a Six-Man quarterfinal showdown with the Bridger Scouts tonight in Brider. The winner will advance to the semifinals next week. Tonight's game kicks off at 7.

The Big Sandy Pioneers ran their way to a first-round victory in the Six-Man football playoffs last weekend, but tonight, on the road, they will be tested by one of the best teams in the state.

Big Sandy, which is 8-2 on the season and the No. 2 seed out of the Six-Man North, advanced to the state quarterfinals following a 55-32 win over Richey-Lambert last Saturday. Next up, will be the Bridger Scouts, the top seed from the South, which sports a 9-1 record and comes into tonight's game fresh off a 66-0 domination of Manhattan Christian. Kickoff between the two teams is scheduled for 7 in Bridger.

The Scouts' only loss came back in the opening game against Westby-Grenora, the No. 1 team in the state, and since then they have been steamrolling the competition, winning nine in a row. The Scouts average 52.5 points per game and have allowed teams to score in double figures just four times, while allowing just two teams to score more than 20.

Bridger not only has an explosive offense, but it also has a dominating defense, thanks to three high-caliber players that contribute on both sides of the ball. Colten Zentner, Kaleb Buessing and Russell Zenter, all earned Six-Man All-State honors a season ago. Buessing is a quarterback and defensive end, while Russell Zentner is the running back and defensive end. Colter Zentner is a tight end and linebacker. Bridger also gets contributions from Nick Althoff, Keaton Ruston, Jake Mitzel and Eric White and will be led by long-time head coach Mike Mathis, who has an overall record of 64-30.

The seventh-ranked Pioneers, who knocked off sixth-ranked Richey-Lambert last week, will now try to slay No. 3 Bridger. Big Sandy may not have a high-powered offense like the Scouts, but the Pioneers do have a dominant running game that features Kade Strutz and Weston Allderdice. Strutz rushed for 334 yards last week as the Pioneers racked up 471 on the ground in their 23-point win.

"We are going to stick to our identity," Big Sandy head coach Ronnie Simpson said. "Bridger is a good team and it's going to be a big challenge for us. But we are going to stick to our philosophy of playing good defense and running the football."

Throughout the season, the Pioneers have shown just how good their defense is and against three top-10 opponents, they allowed just 74 points or just under 25 a game, including just 19 points to second-ranked Valier, which beat Big Sandy 19-7.

Allderdice, who was an All-State player a season ago, is stellar as a defensive end in addition to his role as the fullback. Allderdice is a key player up front for the Pioneers, who also rely heavily on Tanner Allderdice and Duke Darlington.

Tanner Allderdice and Darlington are also top options in the passing attack as well at tight end. Freshman quarterback Parker Proulx is another key player for Big Sandy, who also is a starting defensive back on defense. Strutz also starts at linebacker.

While many Six-Man football teams are high-flying, Big Sandy is the exact opposite and with Darlington and both Tanner and Weston Allderdice, as well as Strutz, the Pioneers are about as old-school on offense as you can be.

"We are going to have to take a long trip to play them," Simpson said. "But we aren't going to change who we are. We want to play physical football and that's what we are going to stick to."

Big Sandy and Bridger will play tonight in Bridger at 7. The winner will meet the victor of Wibaux and White Sulpher Springs in the state semifinals next week.


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