By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer
“Big Sky’s darlings,” as head coach Missy Botha has dubbed her Lady Big Horns, have had a busy schedule the past two weeks with three wins and two losses.
On Sept. 14, the Lady Big Horns lost their first match of the season to the Gardiner Bruins in three sets, 25-17, 25-14 and 25-18. Consistently one of the better teams in the league, Gardiner gave the Big Horns a tough run. Nevertheless, the Big Horn crowd roared their support of their volleyball team with a resounding student-led “Three, two, one—Yessir!” every time the bears wound up and served.
Away at Belgrade High School on Sept. 18 the Big Horns played a tight match, overcoming the Panthers in five close games.
In their homecoming match against Manhattan Christian School on Sept. 20, the Big Horns lost in four well-met games, winning the first 25-21, and losing the following three. The first game may have been the best-played game the Lady Big Horns have had this season.
The Eagles started off with the stronger hand, staying just a bit ahead of the Big Horns, but it didn’t last. When the score was 7-10 in the Eagles’ favor, Big Sky’s darlings rallied as junior Dounia “Solid” Metje began beaming serves over the net. A 5-point Big Horn scoring spree ensued, complete with senior Solae Swenson’s soaring kills, hammer-spikes by Brooke Botha, the sly tips of junior Emma “The Dilemma” Flach, and dialed passing that showcased how these young women have gelled this season.
The crowd roared as the Big Horns trounced the Eagles 25-21 the first game.
The following games were tight, beginning similarly to the first with Manhattan leading before Big Sky caught up and kept neck-and-neck until the end when the Eagles pulled away.
“The first game they played out of their minds, so we know that we match up well with them,” Botha said after the game. “I’m very proud of the way they played. It was probably one of the best passing-to-target games that they’ve played so far.”
The next day, Lone Peak swept Sheridan Public Schools Panthers in Sheridan in three games.
On Sept. 25, the Lady Big Horns celebrated Senior Night with a decisive win over the West Yellowstone Wolverines in three games: 25-8, 25-14, 25-13.
“Our big hitters put on a show for the Big Sky crowd with Solae ‘Killshot’ Swenson putting down 12 kills, and Brooke ‘Hawaiian Punch’ Botha with 10,” Botha wrote in an email to EBS.
Prior to the match Big Horn fans paid tribute to graduating seniors Kodi Boersma, Solae Swenson and Brooke Botha.
“These special student-athletes are all National Honor Society members, have long resumes of school-club involvement, and have big plans for after graduation,” Botha said.
“I had to thank Brooke for ‘putting up’ with me being her coach,” Botha added. “It isn’t easy having your mom as a coach, but I think we worked well together and it has been an absolute joy sharing the court with her.”
The Big Horn football team lost to the Tri-City Titans on their home turf on Sept. 15, 54-16, and won their homecoming game against Harlowton Public Schools Engineers Sept. 21, 36-22, setting records at both.
“[The Titans] will vie for the top spot in our conference for sure,” Lone Peak coach Chris Samuels wrote in an email. “This was a team with six seniors and an all-state running back.”
Although the undefeated Titans stacked the scoreboard, they didn’t stop Big Horn senior halfback Kegan Babick from running two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.
Junior receiver Austin Samuels, who scored the other conversion, had 12 receptions for 80 yards—a new school record, according to coach Samuels. Junior quarterback Frankie Starz threw all the passes.
In the Big Horns’ homecoming game under the lights against Harlowton, Starz and Austin Samuels kept the magic going as Starz hucked a 20-yard pass to Samuels in the endzone for the first points of the game. On the Big Horn’s next possession, Starz and Samuels did it again to put 12 unanswered points on the scoreboard.
The pair connected repeatedly throughout the night; Samuels had nine receptions for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
“It felt great,” a sweaty and excited Samuels said after the win. “We’ve been doing it since we were in fourth grade, playing touch football on the recess field.”
Head coach Adam Farr was pleased with the performance the offensive line allowed Starz.
“It was nice to see Frankie Starz have some time in the pocket and the ability to roll out and actually throw the ball,” Farr said. “The passing game really got going for the first time in quite a while.”
After the Engineers completed a 2-point conversion, they booted it deep to senior and homecoming king Cole March, who blurred up the sideline for an immediate response.
“The homecoming king takes his throne—in the endzone,” Lone Peak athletic director John Hannahs announced over the speakers to the rousing cheers of the audience.
The running game for the Big Horns stayed strong, though, as Babick broke wall after wall of Engineers and relentlessly drove his feet. Late in the 3rd quarter, with a score of 26-16, the Big Horns enacted a big stop when the Engineers came within 10 yards of the endzone.
The ball was turned over and, then next play, Babick ran a 70-yarder, outstripping the yellow helmets in pursuit, trotting into the endzone.
On the defensive front, Big Horn junior defensive lineman Nick Wade sacked the Engineers’ Begger for a 6-yard loss in the 2nd quarter. As a linebacker, Samuels tracked the ball like bloodhound, stuffing runs on the inside and racking up open-field tackles. He broke another school record with 18 tackles.
“Pound for pound, that kid has to be one of the best tacklers in all of 8-man football,” Farr said of Samuels. “It was great to get a victory and play a team that has a little more equitable talent,” Farr said.
In their home game against Billings Christian School on Sept. 15, the Big Sky Futbol Club won 7-2. Evan Iskenderian had a hat trick with Bo Wikans and Tony Brester both putting up 2 goals apiece.
“The team is starting to really come together,” coach Tony Coppola wrote in an email. “They are playing as a team and I am pleased with their effort.”
“We obviously played offensively strong,” coach Jaci Clack added. “We have not been challenged yet, but believe we will be this coming Saturday against Heritage Christian [School]. They have skilled players we haven’t really seen yet.”
Heritage Christian certainly proved to be a challenge when Big Sky played them for their homecoming on Sept. 22, beating Big Sky 9-2.
Before anyone had a chance to play after Heritage’s second goal, Evan Iskenderian booted the ball from midline for an incredible goal.
Not long after, striker Bo Wickans drove toward the goal but the Heritage goalie fell in front of the ball before Wickans could shoot. The ball rolled away to the left where Brester put in on net to tie the game, 2-2.
Big Sky was not able to answer the next 7 goals by Heritage, although the Futbol Club was far more aggressive offensively in the second half. Throughout the game Big Sky goalie Caleb Unger was kept busy.
Although coach Coppola said he thought Big Sky came out of the gates slower than usual, he said, “I’m proud of my players. They played [hard] and they didn’t give up, they just played a really good team.”
On Sept. 25, Big Sky played another high caliber of opponent in Petra Academy, losing 5-3 at home. It was the first co-ed team the Futbol Club has played this season.
“Caleb Unger put in another solid performance with about 15 saves,” Coppola said. “It was also exciting to see Sophia Cone, Sara Wilson and Nehalem Manka mix it up at the half back and defense line.”