Hot Springs can win a state championship for the first time since 2012 - MTN Sports photo

HOT SPRINGS – As one heads west towards Hot Springs on Highway 200, they must turn onto State Highway 382. Travelers don’t need maps to know they’re headed the right way. A message painted on the road’s concrete barrier reads “State Champs 77-0”, pointing towards the the tiny Montana high school that shut out the Big Sandy Pioneers in the 2012 Class C 6-man championship game.

That message may soon change though if the 2016 Hot Springs Savage Heat continue its scorching of 6-man football this Saturday. All that’s left is defeating the 11-1 Westby-Grenora Thunder.

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Hot Springs (12-0) is winning at a historical pace this season. The Savage Heat have won each of its games by 50 points all but once–its Week 3 win over the Lincoln Lynx was by a measly 49 points. The team broke Montana’s 6-man single-season record for shutouts, defeating the North Star Knights 66-0 in the first round of the playoffs; a game in which running back Trevor Paro broke the state’s record for most touchdowns in a career.

But the Savage Heat still have one more game to win, just like its opponent.

“Once you get towards the end of the playoffs, every [team] is good,” said Paro. “[Westby-Grenora] is on a big win streak right now, so they’re coming in with a bit of momentum.

“We still have got to play on the same field as them, and they’ve got to do the same thing that we do.”

Westby-Grenora, a.k.a. MonDak, has won its last 11 games after suffering a season-opening loss to the Bridger Scouts. The Thunder got revenge by handing Bridger a loss in the semifinals, but now it’s Hot Springs turn to get revenge on the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in 2014. Head coach Jim Lawson knows that won’t be easy, though.

“They’re a good football team,” said Lawson. “They have a lot of speed and they do a lot of things on offense that we’re trying to wrap our heads around.

“We’re probably going to work on defense more this week than we have all season,” Lawson said Tuesday.

“We’ve got to block really well,” added running back Kane Lawson. “And we’ve got to run the ball really hard and just do all the little things well. We’ve been doing it all year so I think we can do it for one more game.”

For 8 of Hot Springs’ 15 players on its roster, this will be their final game. Lawson and Paro are among two of those senior student-athletes, and admit that it’s a bittersweet feeling.

“It’s crazy, everything this week is a lot of last’s,” said Paro. “Last Monday practice, last running practice, last offensive practice; just a lot of last’s and we’re going to make some memories with it.”

“We’re really excited,” added Lawson. “It’s kind of hard to concentrate in school, but it’s definitely really fun and it’s really exciting.”

Senior center Sean Shea remembers the 2012 championship game vividly as an eighth-grader, and hopes he can do his part to replicate it for others.

“It was great,” he said. “Everyone was just running down onto the field, it was a great time.

“We’ve been looking to bring back a state championship for 4 years, so it would be awesome if we could bring one back.”

Hot Springs’ chance to bring a state title back will happen Saturday afternoon at 1 o’clock. If the team regains possession of the state trophy, it will have to be brought back all the way from Plentywood, the site of this year’s 6-man championship game.

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