With the top seed in the football state playoffs from the Class C 8-man Western Division at stake, Hot Springs closes the regular season by hosting Lima on Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Savage Heat recorded a seldom-seen shutout in 6-man, blanking Valley Christian 67-0 last Friday on its home field in Alberton.
Hot Springs, West Yellowstone and White Sulphur Springs all have 6-1 Western Division records going into the last week of the regular season.
Since all are 1-1 against the other two teams, a tiebreaker is necessary to determine seeding for the Class C State Playoffs the weekend of Oct. 26 and 27.
Hot Springs gets the tiebreaker nod, based on a “plus-22” in scoring differential against West Yellowstone and WSS. If WY beats Gardiner this Friday and WSS takes care of Sheridan, along with a Hot Springs win over Lima, then WY would get the No. 2 seed and WSS would be seeded No. 3.
HOT SPRINGS head coach Jim Lawson does not want to talk much about the playoffs, since his team gets the No. 1 seed with a win, but is seeded third with a loss along with WY and WSS wins.
However, Lawson did say that the Heat would host a first-round playoff game. That would be against No. 4 from the 6-man North, likely either Denton-Geyser-Stanford, known as DGS, or Sunburst. Those team play each other Saturday for state seeding.
“There are four really good teams coming out of it (the North Division),” Lawson said, and the focus is now on Valley Christian. “It’s a big game for us this week. We wanted to win the conference (title). That w as one of our goals this year.”
In Hot Springs’ win over Valley Christian, the Savage Heat led by two touchdowns — before the offense had its first play from scrimmage.
Brandon Knudsen returned a punt on Valley Christian’s first possession 64 yards for a score. Then Tyler Knudsen pounced on a VC fumble in the end zone after a botched pitchout.
The Brandon Knudsen punt return was one of four good ones for the junior, the others going for 30, 40 and 35 yards to give the Savage Heat excellent field position, the story of the night for Hot Springs.
BY HALFTIME, Hot Springs had built a 46-0 lead. Lawson was not able to “sub down” very much, with only 10 players suited for the contest.
“Our defense played really well,” the coach said. “This (VC) is a good football team and they have a winning record. I’m pleased to be able to shut them down and get our first shutout of the season.”
Lawson commended the Hot Springs defensive line for its pressure on senior quarterback Branson Becker. “Our linebackers tackled well. We did a really good job of stopping the run.”
Offensively, the Heat were able to “capitalize on just about every drive,” the coach added.
Hot Springs did not have a turnover.
Tyler Knudsen had another good game running the football, and Lawson credited the supporting cast. “We have a lot of guys who can get involved offensively,” he said.
Knudsen carried 11 times for 131 yards and scored three touchdowns, while Luke Waterbury added two TDs, and Brandon Knudsen ran for another.
Lawson was pleased with how the less experienced Heat players held their own and kept VC from scoring in the second half.
“That’s tough,” he said of getting a 6-man shutout. “Kudos to the defense.”
Brandon Knudsen and Tyler Carr led the Heat defense with 14 and 13 tackles, respectively. Carr also had a quarterback sack.