Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star
Hot Springs junior Modes Kerr gets set to haul in a 33-yard reception from quarterback Preston Iverson which brought the ball to inside the 10-yard line to set up the team’s second touchdown in last Thursday’s first-round playoff game versus Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – Hot Springs head coach Ben Kramer called it a “signature win for our program,” after his seventh-seeded Bison rolled over the No. 10 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (BEE) Seahawks by a score of 45-6 to win a first-round Class 11B playoff game last Thursday night at Woodward Field.
The dominant victory was Hot Springs first-ever playoff win since moving to the 11B ranks few years ago, and the first playoff overall win for the Bison since 2014, when they made it all the way to the Class 11A semifinals but lost on the road to the eventual state-runner up Madison.
“This was a great win for us on Thursday night,” said Coach Kramer. “Bridgewater ended our season two out of the last three years so we had an idea the level we needed to play at.”
Going into the game, the Bison were 6-2 and had won four straight but were relatively untested in those final four wins, having outscored their opponents 177 to 14.
In contrast, Bridgewater was 5-3 and had lost their final three games of the year, but versus three of the top-four teams in the state, in Winner, Elk Point-Jefferson and McCook Central/Montrose. To add to their playoff pedigree, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan has also played in the last five state Class 11B Championship games, winning it all in 2019 while being state runners-up in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021.
After their decisive win over the Seahawks, Coach Kramer emphasized Hot Springs’ “outstanding team performance in all three phases of the game. I do not think it could have been better for us.”
Looking at the team totals, Coach Kramer is most certainly correct, as the Bison outgained the Seahawks in total yards 445 to 124; had nearly twice as many first downs (13 to 7); won the turnover battle 4 to 0; and were nearly flawless on special teams, which included going 6-for-6 on PATs (Will Gilbertson) and 1-for-1 in field goal attempts (Josh Kleinsasser).
Leading the way once again was Hot Springs’ 5-foot, 6-inch senior quarterback Preston Iverson, who had one of his best all-around games of his career by passing 4-for-5 for 56 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing for 178 yards on 16 carries and scoring four more touchdowns.
Hot Springs got the ball first in the game, and despite picking up a first down, were forced to punt. They however got the ball back quickly when Hot Springs’ Camron Maciejewski forced a fumble which led to his team immediately capitalizing on a 25-yard Preston Iverson touchdown run to go up 7-0.
In the second quarter, Hot Springs mounted a seven-play, 72-yard scoring drive in 3:11 to take a 14-0 lead which ended in a 2-yard Preston Iverson touchdown run with 7:12 left in the first half. That score however was set up by a long run by Preston Iverson run which first appeared to go for a short gain, but Preston’s would-be tackler only cradled him while laying underneath Preston. Never touching the ground, Preston popped back up and then ran down the sideline and nearly scored.
After losing a few yards on the next couple of plays, Preston rolled to his right and threw a 33-yard pass completion to Modes Kerr, who was surrounded by three defenders but saw the ball land safely in his mid-section for his first catch of the season.
The Bison forced another Seahawks fumble on the ensuing drive on a strip-sack by Dylan Webb at the BEE 11, and recovered by Will Gilbertson. Two plays later, Preston Iverson rushed 7 yards for his third touchdown of the half to give his team a 21-0 lead with 5:50 left in the second quarter.
BEE managed their only score of the game right before halftime on a first yard pass from Macklen Weber to Sutton Arend. Their two-point conversion attempt however was snuffed when Matt Close picked off a pass attempt at the goal line.
In the second half, Hot Springs scored a total of 17 points in the third quarter, which included a 27 yard field goal by Josh Kleinsasser, followed by a 47 yard touchdown run by Preston Iverson and then a four-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Remington.
The Bison capped off their dominant performance with an 80-yard touchdown run by junior Camron Maciejewski, who finished the game with a total of 123 yards rushing on just six attempts.
Senior Landon Iverson also had a big game on the ground with 71 yards on 10 rushes, including a long of 51 yards. He also caught one pass for 13 yards. Matt Close also had one reception for six yards.
Defensively, Maciejewski led the team with 14 tackles (3 solo) including two for loss. Caleb Rickenbach had nine tackles (2 solo) along with one sack and one other tackle for loss. Colin Iverson also had nine tackles (1 solo) and one for loss. Dylan Webb had six tackles (2 solo) and two sacks. Gilbertson had four tackles, including two sacks and a fumble recovery. Matt Close had an interception and a fumble recovery, while Josh Kleinsasser had an interception as well.
This Thursday, Oct. 27, the Bison travel to Aberdeen to take on the No. 2-ranked Roncalli Cavaliers, who are 9-0 on the season and have five shutouts on the year, including a 46-0 win over Mobridge-Pollock in last week’s first-round playoff game.
“We have a week to get prepared and get better,” stated Coach Kramer after last week’s win. “We’re looking forward to seeing how we stack up to Roncalli.”