By Acra Samuels EBS Contributor
HOT SPRINGS, Mont. – The Ophir Miners six-man football team traveled to Hot Springs to take on the Savage Heat junior high team on Sept. 25. The 0-2 Miners were ready to turn their season around on their longest road trip of the year, a 5 1/2-hour drive.
The Miners started out strong and on the first series of the game the defense was stifling as eighth-grade middle linebacker Frankie Starz recovered a fumble just 1 minute into the game.
The Miners methodically drove down the field using a precision passing attack and seventh-grader Evan Iskenderian capped off the drive with a 10-yard-scoring run. Ophir missed the two-point kick, and Hot Springs responded with a score and successful point after. The Miners were down 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Ophir drove quickly down the field to start the second quarter, and Starz caught a 10-yard pass from Austin Samuels for a touchdown. Iskenderian then ran in the extra point to make it 13-7, Miners.
The teams traded possessions throughout the rest of the half and with 20 seconds left, Starz punched the ball into the end zone putting the Miners ahead 19-7. But a number of Miner miscues allowed the Savage Heat to score twice in the final moments of the half. Hot Springs ran in a touchdown with eight seconds left, and then the Miners received the kickoff and threw a last-second pass that was picked off and returned for a touchdown to make it a 19-19 tie at halftime.
The second half was a defensive struggle as neither team could get their offenses going. Miner seventh-grader Jack Lovely intercepted a Savage Heat pass with 1:21 to go in the third quarter to thwart the Hot Springs drive.
As time was winding down in the fourth quarter, eighth-grader Frankie Starz caused a Hot Springs fumble and fellow eighth-grader Nick Wade recovered with 22 seconds left in the game to ensure overtime, as regulation ended in a 19-19 score.
Overtime in Montana six-man football is run just like college, except that each team gets a possession starting at the opponent’s 15-yard line. The Miners lost the toss and went on offense first. Starz found eighth-grader Nick Brester on a tremendous pass from 14 yards out to put the Miners on the board. Then on the point after, a scrambling Starz threw to seventh-grader Caleb Unger in the back of the end zone to put the Miners up 26-19.
After two running plays that were stifled by the Ophir defense, Hot Springs turned to the pass. But Ophir outside linebacker Samuels picked off a pass sealing a dramatic 26-19 win for the Miners.