Monday, September 27, 2021
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Hot Springs Savage Heat slams North Star, 55-0

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley Press | September 15, 2021 12:00 AM

On paper, the 55-0 shellacking that host Hot Springs laid on the boys from Rudyard Friday night should not have happened.

In fact, if you go just by the dimensions of the players on the roster, Friday’s encounter would likely have been a nail-biter to the max.

But the game is played mostly on grass fields in these parts, not paper.

And nowhere on any roster sheet is there a category for size of heart, also known as size of the fight in the dog.

Getting off their bus, the Knights from North Star School in the northern Montana border town present a big first impression that grows as they run onto the field.

But waiting for the Knights were the athletic, quick and extremely well-coached Savage Heat, a traditional power in Montana six-man football.

And the Heat were ready to roast the Knights, who feature a sophomore who stands 6-7 and weighs 275 pounds, along with five other players who have grown past the six-foot mark and tip the scales above 200 pounds.

However, as followers of six-man football know all too well, size does not matter as much as speed in this wide open brand of football played by the smallest of schools in the Treasure State.

It’s sanctioned backyard football with uniforms and real stadium lights.

In the opening moments of the game, the visitors from the north looked like they might be able to give the unbeaten Savage Heat a good game.

They opened with a drive that moved quickly downfield, behind the blocking of Gavin Clawson, the extra-large size lineman who as a 10th grader measures in at 6-7, 275 pounds.

Hot Springs quickly realized their speed and swarming defense was more than up to the task of halting the behemoths initial drive. When that drive stalled at fourth and five, the Knights went for the first down only to watch a pass fall into the hands of Hot Springs defensive back Quincy Styles-Depoe.

A handful of plays later, Savage Heat senior Kyle Lawson broke through the Knights’ defense on his way to a 17-yard scoring run that gave the home team a 6-0 lead with 3:58 to go in the 10-minute opening quarter.

On North Star’s next possession, the Heat’s standout quarterback and defensive back Jack McAllister picked off another errant pass by the Knights, giving Hot Springs the ball on their own 15 yard line. On the first play after the interception, McAllister showed how quick the Savage Heat are when he dropped a lateral, hustled to gather it back into his grasp, then unleashed a brutal stiff arm that crumpled a North Start defender who got in his way.

With just over two minutes to play in the opening quarter, Lawson once again ran for a touchdown, this time from seven yards out.

Neither of the first two point after touchdown tries by the Heat were good, leaving them with a 12-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter got underway with another solid defensive stand by Hot Springs and possession of the ball when a fourth-down try by the Knights fell short of first down territory.

With runs by Lawson and McAllister carving up the North Star defense, it was not long before Lawson scored for the third time in the first half, plowing into the end zone from one yard out to boost the Savage Heat lead to 18-0 with 6:21 to go until halftime.

The Hot Springs defense continued its ball-hawking ways, forcing North Star to punt. It appeared Lawson had yet another score when he ran the punt all the way back into the North Star end zone, but the run was nullified by a block in the back penalty on the Savage Heat.

No problem for the Heat, which is loaded with overall team speed. A pair of first down runs by McAllister and Lawson moved the ball to the Knights’ 17-yard line where it was McAllister’s turn to romp for a 17-yard TD. With just under four minutes to go in the opening half, Hot Springs led 24-0.

Hot Springs wasted no time clamping down on the Knights, forcing them into another punting situation. Two plays from scrimmage later, Hot Springs was watching the scoreboard wrack up another six points on a 20 yard TD strike from McAllister to senior Vania Afonin.

The first half came to an end with the host Heat holding a 30-0 lead.

With the Mercy Rule clock running non-stop at the beginning of the third quarter due to the large Hot Springs lead, North Star opted to try an onside kick, which was recovered by the Savage Heat’s Styles-Depoe on the Hot Springs 39 yard line.

One play later Lawson was off to the races again, bolting past the Knight defense on his way to a 41-yard touchdown run and a 36-0 Hot Springs lead.

With 3:37 to go in the third quarter, Savage Heat freshman Weston Slonaker ripped through the Knight’s tired defense and sprinted for a 50-yard touchdown run. For the first and only time of the game, the extra point attempt was good and Hot Springs owned a 43-0 lead.

Hot Springs tacked another six points to their lead before the third quarter came to an end when they scored from two yards out.

Entering the final 10 minutes of play, Hot Springs was up 49-0 and reserves from both teams were entering the game.

A light rain, punctuated by some strong gusts of wind, blew through the home field as Hot Springs sophomore running back Allan Peters closed out the game’s scoring on a 60-yard touchdown run with six minutes to play.

The win boosted Hot Springs to 3-0 on the year. The Savage Heat have a bye this weekend and will return to action Sept. 25 with a game in Missoula against Valley Christian.