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How the west was won

Savage Heat swat down Hornets, earn No. 1 seed heading into State playoffs


October 24, 2019

John Hamilton

JACK MACK ATTACK - Hot Springs' Jack McAllister sacks White Sulphur Springs quarterback Anthony Gudmundson during the Savage Heat's 44-6 win over the Hornets in Hot Springs Friday.

HOT SPRINGS – To the victors go the spoils.

The Hot Springs Savage Heat stopped the White Sulphur Spring Hornets 44-6 in the Spa City Friday night to clinch the 6-Man Western Conference football title and at least one home playoff game.

Now 4-0 in conference play and 8-0 overall, the Heat wrap up regular season action hosting 2-2, 4-3 Gardiner this Friday. Now 3-1 in conference and 5-3 overall, the Hornets host 3-1, 5-2 Noxon Saturday with second place and the No. 2 playoff seed from the west on the line.

"The kids really performed well, that may have been our best effort of the season," coach Jim Lawson said. "We were pretty worried about White Sulphur coming in, they have a ton of team speed and some really good athletes.

"But we put together a defensive game plan that the kids executed perfectly," he added. "It was kinda crazy to be able to hold them without a touchdown until like three minutes were left. We really played great team defense."

As lopsided as the final score would appear, the game was much more competitive than the numbers would indicate.

The main difference, besides the incredible running of Brandon Knudsen, who rushed for 276 yards on 34 carries, was the Heat's ability to capitalize on their opportunities while denying the Hornets on theirs.

Hot Springs scored first with Knudsen capping a game-opening drive with a six-yard touchdown run by Knudsen and the ensuing two-point kick by Jack McAllister to take an 8-0 lead with 7:18 left in the first quarter.

That's precisely when the Heat created their first big opportunity of the night with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, which Kyle Lawson recovered.

Again, mostly behind the running of Knudsen, the Heat quickly marched downfield for another touchdown, this one scored by Luke Waterbury on a one-yard run. Although the conversion kick was no good, the Heat already led 14-0 with 5:20 left in the first period.

After holding White Sulphur on defense and getting the ball back, the Savage Heat scored again on a six-yard pass from Knudsen to McAllister with 43.6 seconds remaining in the first quarter. With the conversion kick falling no good, the Heat were now firmly in control with a 20-0 lead.

The second quarter was a defensive back-and-forth tussle on Hot Springs' cold, wet field and neither team managed to score. Although the conditions were not ideal, the Heat soldiered through and played solid football on both sides of the ball, particularly on the defensive side.

"The cold and rain didn't faze the kids, we knew what was coming," Lawson said. "I am really proud of the way they played against White Sulphur."

John Hamilton

KYLE LAWSON heads downfield after catching a pass from quarterback Brandon Knudsen. Heat host Gardiner in their final regular season game Friday.

The Heat seemed to close the deal on the kickoff in the third quarter when Knudsen stripped the ball from the Hornets and recovered the fumble deep in White Sulphur territory. Knudsen completed that scoring opportunity with a seven-yard touchdown run a few minutes later.

Nominated for western Montana player of the week honors based on this huge performance, Knudsen earned the praise of his coach. "Brandon had an incredible game," Lawson said. "He was our workhorse and we rode him hard in this game."

Knudsen finished the game with four touchdowns rushing and passed for another 99 yards, in addition to the 276 he gained on the ground. Kyle Lawson caught three of those passes for 85 yards.

Playing through some shoulder issues, Waterbury still scored two touchdowns and pulled down six tackles on defense.

McAllister led the Heat defense with eight tackles, including a quarterback sack, and Knudsen, Lawson and Lincoln Slonaker had seven tackles each.


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