The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Pioneers solidify No. 1 status after Chili Feed romp


October 16, 2019

Week 7 for 6-man high school football in Montana began with a consensus Top 5 and a disputed No. 1.

Then a season-high 88 points for undefeated Big Sandy (7-0) and a stunning result between the top two teams in the East left little doubt - number games aside - who has played the best season in the classification thus far.

The Pioneers overpowered their most overmatched opponent yet in an 88-6 rout to cap off Friday's Chili Feed against the Heart Butte Warriors (0-6).

Great Falls Tribune No. 1-ranked Big Sandy now stands to benefit when rankings are updated this week. Defending state champion Wibaux, the top team in the 406, and Treasure State Media polls, suffered its first loss of the season when a desperate Longhorn comeback fell short at Eastern rival Jordan (6-1), 47-41.

The Mustangs, whose lone loss came in Week 1, 44-28, at the hands of Big Sandy, now control their own destiny for home-field advantage through the state semifinals.

Home field in the state playoffs when same seeds collide is determined prior to the season on a rotating basis by MHSA rule. Unfortunately for Big Sandy, this is the year the North cedes that advantage to each of the other three divisions. The South has hosting priority, though none of its teams is ranked in the Top 5, and is followed by the East and West. Northern teams are left to go on the road any time they face a team of the same seed. The trade-off is that with 10 teams in the division this year, five from the North will make the 16-team field on Saturday, Nov. 2, whereas the West places just three teams into this year's tournament.

By virtue of its dominant season thus far, Big Sandy earned a bye this weekend. Meanwhile, all but one of its division foes are playing to shuffle seeds to the state playoff and some find themselves in a loser-out contest. The Pioneers will face the Power-Dutton-Brady Titans (7-0) on Friday, Oct. 25, or Saturday, Oct. 26, to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from the North into the state playoff bracket. The time and location of that contest will be determined this week by coin flip, according to Big Sandy Athletic Director Melanie Schwarzbach.

The 6-man football playoff bracket for next month can be viewed at by clicking on the link marked "2019 Class C-6 Championship Bracket."

In their final regular season tuneup, Big Sandy scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams.

Senior Ryan Roth threw his first touchdown pass of the season 21 yards to fellow senior Clint Darlington to begin the rout. Darlington recovered a Warrior fumble in their own end zone for the next score. Senior Parker Proulx returned a punt from midfield to make it 20-0 and the Pioneer defense then recorded a team safety.

Senior running back and the state's leading rusher, Kade Strutz, added a 35-yard TD jaunt and Roth ran a kickoff back 50 yards to make it 44-0. Senior Parker Proulx rushed 14 yards to help Big Sandy to the half-century mark before the end of the first quarter.

Darlington rushed for a 5-yard score with a safety sandwiched between it and Roth's 33-yard TD run to make it 65-0 at halftime.

Freshman Lance Rutledge caught his first touchdown pass of the season, delivered by fellow frosh Kody Strutz to open the second half. Kody Strutz added a pair of rushing TDs of his own, combining with another safety for the Pioneers' final tally. In the waning minutes, Warriors quarterback Tristan Kipp threw a 53-yard touchdown strike to avoid the shutout.

Senior Elijah Wagoner recorded a game-high seven tackles and junior Cam Schwarzbach added a game-high two sacks. Kody Strutz and Parker Proulx each intercepted a pass.

Big Sandy also registered a poignant win in sportsmanship related to the Friday night contest. Alia Heavyrunner, whose brothers play for Heart Butte, thanked Big Sandy for a display and honor given during pregame festivities to the Blackfeet Nation flag, representing the people of the reservation where the school is located, in a viral Facebook post.

"I Wanna give Big sandy a shout out! ... They did something pretty AWESOME!" Heavyrunner wrote.

The tribute contrasted with a controversy reported in statewide media earlier in the week. Heart Butte postponed a volleyball game against a nearby rival, following the opponent's homecoming video and alleged chants at a football game that were found disrespectful by school administrators.

"The Heart Butte kids are always respectful and kind when they visit our community even when things are tough. I have a ton of respect for what they represent," Shaud Schwarzbach, Big Sandy mayor and father of the Pioneers' Cam Schwarzbach, replied to Heavyrunner's post.

In addition to Big Sandy, Power-Dutton-Brady and Hot Springs are the only remaining undefeated teams in the 6-man classification. The trio are joined by Jordan and Wibaux as the four polls' consensus Top 5, though the order varies in each. The Hot Springs Savage Heat (7-0) are the West's top team and vanquished Sheridan, 52-15, on the road Saturday. PDB clinched its subdivision Saturday by crushing Geraldine-Highwood, 61-26, going away.


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