BIG SANDY — Big Sandy Football has had an identity crisis for years.
For the past half-decade of Montana 6-man football, the Pioneers have been considered the elite, but never the best of the best. Evidence of this is no more than the fact that they have lost to the eventual champions in the playoffs and semifinals in the last three seasons for the past four seasons.
That was what made Big Sandy special for four years – great, but always one step away from being the greatest. A program with a talent for winning everything but never really at the top of the totem pole.
Now no one can deny the Pioneers their long-awaited title as Kings of 6-Man.
— Briar Napier (@BriarNapier) November 19, 2022
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Big Sandy finally pulled itself out of the title game misfortune and many other near misses in its history by winning its first-ever soccer state championship on Saturday, beating Broadview-Lavina 67-27 as the Pioneers raged into a dominant undefeated season with few major challenges .
In addition to three straight seasons with their last four losses, Big Sandy (13-0) went into this weekend having won all three of his previous title games in 1931 (in Class B), 2003 (8-man) and 2012 (6-man). . But the Pioneers left little doubt this time, and football-rich Chouteau County now has another city within its borders with a title plaque in a trophy cabinet.
“That’s what we’ve wanted and expected for the past four years,” said Big Sandy coach Larry Jappe. “Finally it happened. We have it.
“They really made an effort. These kids did what they had to do to win a state championship. They work off-season (and) they work in-season.”
Listed by 406mtsports.com as the state’s No. 1 team for much of the season, neither team had scored a goal in the Pioneers’ starting defense until Custer-Hysham-Melstone did so in the quarterfinals, and even that was partly due to the fact that All-State linebacker Kody Strutz went down with an injury during the game.
But Big Sandy goes much, much deeper than a player. It showed in his state title win.
Junior wide receiver Cooper Taylor set the tone, running to a long rushing touchdown on the first pull after scrimmage, giving the Pioneers a lead they never lost.
Still, Broadview-Lavina (11-1) did his best to keep things interesting for much of the first half, trailing just 18-15, 6:05 in the second quarter after quarterback Kade Erickson William sanguined for one of them at the tight end, Ericksons found three passing scores.
But as almost every team Big Sandy has played against this year has pointed out, a game-changing Pioneers goal is a matter of when, not if.
Big Sandy beat the Pirates 49-12 from that point on (paused by a 31-point third quarter), with senior quarterback Braydon Cline brightening the stats by finishing with seven total touchdowns — six from the air and one another for a good measure on the floor.
Senior running back Rusty Gasvoda scored a 61:21 with 3:57 left in the third quarter, setting the running clock on as the Pioneers just waited for their trophy presentation from there.
“That’s Big Sandy football to you,” Cline said when asked about the team’s third quarter. “We’ve been watching films about (Broadview-Lavina) since the very first week of football. … When the running clock came in, we knew we had to keep working, but we had the win in the back of our minds. So it was pretty awesome.”
The mutual respect between the two programs was evident as the Pirates, playing in their first state championship game in school history, put up a lot of combat but, like everyone else that year, faced the Big Sandy boater. It also didn’t help that All-State senior running back Hank Tuszynski went down with an injury in the first half.
Still, Broadview-Lavina coach Brian Heiken looked positive – after all, this year’s team is the most successful in the school’s history.
“That was a big trophy that they lifted at the end of the day,” said Heiken of his team’s second place finish. “Wasn’t what we wanted but I’m really proud of her. You played hard.
“When Hank went down that first half, it’s hard to get over that. He guides us so much on defense and also carries the workload on offense. It’s just hard to come back from that.”
As the Pirates hope to capitalize on the post-season run, having to engage themselves in constant conversations among the 6-man elites, Big Sandy – after working just outside the top spot for a long, long time – finally had his day in the sun.
And no matter what the future holds for the program, the Pioneers 2022 team will forever have an identity.
“I believed in her,” said Jappe. “I knew they would do it. … It’s taken a long time, we’ve become close several times, but it’s great to finally have that trophy and banner in the gym.”
Email Briar Napier at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @BriarNapier