Hot Springs scored three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to open up a tight game last Friday night in Noxon, and the Savage Heat went on to earn a 64-36 victory over the Red Devils.
With five games to go in the regular season, Hot Springs is 2-1 in Western Division of Class B 8-man football, while Noxon drops to 1-2.
Both teams have long road trips in their next encounter. Noxon travels to Sheridan for a Friday game at 7 p.m. It’s the Red Devils’ first road game this season. Hot Springs plays at Gardiner on Saturday, with the kickoff set for 1 p.m.
Hot Springs faces a Gardiner team that lost at home to West Yellowstone last Saturday.
“They have a really good running back, one of the best in the state, and they have a lot of size,” Hot Springs head coach Jim Lawson said, and Gardiner (2-2 conference) will be the biggest team the Savage Heat will face this season. “They’re stout up front defensively.”
“We’re going to make a day of it on the bus,” Noxon head coach Bart Haflich said of the long journey to Sheridan on Friday. “Hopefully, we’ll get our legs underneath us.”
The Red Devils are focused on bouncing back after disappointing losses to White Sulphur Springs and Hot Springs.
“We want to get the sour taste out of our mouths,” Haflich said.
Sheridan is a high-scoring team, as the Panthers rolled past Heart Butte 60-25 last Friday.
Haflich has lots of respect for the Panthers. “They’re getting better. They have some pretty decent athletes,” he said. “We have to show up and play every single week to get into the postseason. Sheridan is no different. They’re a very capable team.”
HOT SPRINGS set the tone of the game against Noxon early. The Savage Heat fumbled the ball away on the first play from scrimmage in their own territory, but the Hot Springs defense held Noxon on downs.
Tyler Knudsen then scored the first of his four rushing touchdowns on a 34-yard jaunt to the end zone. Tyler Carr kicked the two-point conversion.
With Noxon pinned in the shadow of its own goal line, quarterback Jeriko Smith was hit during his throwing motion. Brandon Knudsen picked the ball out of the air at the 1-yard line and fell into the end zone for a 14-0 Hot Spring lead.
The teams then traded touchdowns, as Levi Brubaker caught a 30-yard scoring pass from Smith before Luke Waterbury scored on a four-yard run for the Savage Heat. Then Rylan Weltz hauled in a 20-yard TD aerial from Smith to get Noxon within 24-16 at halftime.
Hot Springs owned the first portion of the third quarter, scoring on a 70- and two-yard runs by Tyler Knudsen for a 36-16 advantage.
Brubaker ran nine yards for a Red Devils touchdown, but Hot Springs had the next three scores in the third quarter — on runs of two and six yards by Tyler Knudsen, sandwiched around a 25-yard TD pass from Brandon Knudsen to Bert DeTienne. Carr converted after two of the touchdowns, and Hot Springs led 58-24.
There were three more scores in the wild fourth quarter, the first on a 60-yard kickoff return by Noxon’s Edison Van Vleet, then a 32-yard run by Tyler Knudsen, and a 40-yard pass from Smith to Brubaker.
NOXON HAD four turnovers in the contest, and Hot Springs had two.
“It was physical football,” Lawson said. “Noxon is a really good team. We were able to create some turnovers and get our running game going. They (Noxon) kept battling back.
“It was a big game. A lot can be determined by some of these early-season games,” he added.
The Red Devils’ defense did not stop Brubaker, but contained him on most plays.
“He’s pretty elusive … He’s a hard kid to get wrapped up (to tackle),” Lawson said.
Despite giving up size on the line, Lawson thought the Savage Heat did a good job blocking, and opening up lanes for the Knudsens.
Defensively, freshman Kyle Lawson led Hot Springs with 12 tackles and two fumble recoveries. Tyler Carr added 10 tackles, and Jack McAllister recovered a Noxon fumble. Tyler Knudsen had two quarterback sacks.
“THEY DID what they needed to do,” Haflich said of Hot Springs. “They outplayed us most of the night and the score showed … We didn’t come out ready to go. We dug ourselves an early hole.”
The Noxon coach indicated the Red Devils are looking forward to “cleaning up some things” this week against Sheridan.
One critical area is turnovers.
“That hurt us,” Haflich said of the Hot Springs game. “You can’t beat a good team by turning the ball over four times.”