Pioneers are State Champions!!!
November 30, 2022
Champions are made! And when they win, it is huge! There was just something about this year. From the beginning of the season....no, it started last summer; I knew extra work was being done to prepare to win state. The boys had a positive attitude. There was no doubt in their minds.
From the very first game against White Sulpher Springs (46-6) to the last against Broadview/Livina (67-27), they proved there were the best. Of course, there was a great variety of offense plays made by athletic Pioneers, but there was also great defense. No scoring plays by the other teams until the scouting team took over in the 2nd half, and the Pioneers continued to score.
The Pioneers had matured and were playing like a team. The coaches, Larry Jappe, Ryan Labuda, and Tucker Taylor, brought new plays to the field. The Pioneers looked like they couldn't be stopped and weren't. By the second week of the season, they were rated number one. And if you were listening to any sports broadcasters, it was understood that the Pioneers would go all the way!
After the championship game, I walked out to my car with a fan from Broadview; we talked, and I congratulated him and the athletes from his town for winning every game but this one. He said they had no depth, but he titled his head and said, "But Big Sandy is a great team!"
As they approached the Championship game, there was a community-wide pep rally. Where the classes cheered "Sandy High, Sandy High, fight, fight, fight for Sandy High"-only it was Class of 23 or Class of 24. I was blown away when the kindergartners cheered, "Class of 35, Class of 35, fight, fight, fight, for the Class of 35"! I got tears in my eyes. This State Championship will be remembered by them and impact them believing they are winners too.
On Friday before, the team was invited to the Senior Center to eat lunch with our community's seniors. As the Big Sandy Rouser was sung, led by Carla Courtnage, an alumni cheerleader, the people in the kitchen said, "This just gives me the chill! It's just so awesome."
Breakfast was served every Saturday morning at the school during the playoffs, with the last Saturday serving over 300 people. Massive amounts of food were eaten. There were pancakes, sausage, bacon, breakfast burrito, potatoes, eggs, and sweet rolls. They made runs to The Grocery Store to get more.
The town bought signs of Pioneer Pride and put them everywhere. Homemade signs were made. Even the snow was painted.
On the day of the championship game, the Cat/Griz were playing in Bozeman with National Sportlight from the ESPN College Gameday, but according to Pioneer fans, this was a more important game. Two radio stations, two TV stations, and NFHS were present to record the win. There were representatives from many numerous colleges there watching. Coach Jerome Souers from Northern said, "I like every one of those boys."
After the game, downtown was busy all night.
On the following Sunday, there was a victory parade, with fire engines and celebrating with cake at the city center.
Kelly Rutledge said, "I am so proud of you, your accomplishments over the years, and the hard work you have put forth. As a former Big Sandy football player, this is a great feat that my team and I were unable to accomplish, and we are beyond proud of you for doing so. This is a historic event for you, your families, and our school. I am exceptionally proud of the senior leadership, and of course, a huge shout out to my favorite "double nickels," #55. Congrats!
Glen Terry said, "I watched these boys from Jr High School football. I saw a talented, athletic group of young men. As they aged and matured, they just kept improving. As I watched them at breakfast, they were so calm, and I thought they were so calm, and I remember thinking, they've got this, and boy did they!
They have become outstanding young men, too, and they are a great example to our school."
The Pioneers dominated the game itself. It showed off their skill. They continued to work hard until the end. But I also noticed good sportsmanship and support from each boy, even on the other team. I kept asking, "is it ok to celebrate now?" I was also impressed with their maturity and attitude. Well done, boys.