PLENTYWOOD – Most fans of the Hot Springs Savage Heat football team drove more than 600 miles to Plentywood to support their team in Saturday’s championship game. But for Andrea Degel, the route to the championship meant crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Andrea is the mother of Hot Springs quarterback and foreign-exchange student Marco Degel. The Degels reside in Feldkirchen, a municipality in the district of Munich, Germany, so getting to Plentywood, Montana was no easy feat.
Flights from Munich to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Missoula, then a drive to the corner of the state totaled more than 12,000 miles of travel one-way.
“I thought it was a crazy idea for one week, I only have one week of holiday,” said Andrea Degel. “He’s played for six, seven years in Germany, and every game I’m there and I make photos and I’m his biggest fan.”
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Marco left his home country of Germany in August to begin a year of school as a foreign-exchange student at Hot Springs. Never had the junior thought he would be playing in an American high school championship game three months later.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Marco. “I only can realize it when I play in the game. I still can’t believe that we’ve come this far, but we still have one more game.”
The undefeated Savage Heat (12-0) are four years removed from their last state title in 2012. The team is fueled by a disappointing loss in the 2015 semifinal round, and sending its eight seniors out on top with a championship. But for Marco, who has no recollection of Hot Springs ever losing — or winning by less than 49 points — he’s playing this one for his mom.
“I still can’t believe it, because I never thought she would come here,” said the junior quarterback. “That means a lot to me. It shows me how much my mom supports me in everything I do.”
“It’s great, it’s so great, because I only know of the pictures of my son playing [Hot Springs] football. I’m so excited to meet all of the people,” added Andrea.
“I hope that they’ll win, I’m sure that they’ll win. But I want to see him, and I want to see where he lives, and everything else, too.”
For Andrea to witness her son celebrate a state championship, the Savage Heat will have to defeat the Westby-Grenora Thunder (11-1). Kickoff in Plentywood is set for 1 p.m.