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Hot Springs dethrones Elk Point-Jefferson, Bison win first football title

Josh Jurgens
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

For the first time in state history, Hot Springs has won a state football championship. The Bison defeated Elk Point-Jefferson, the defending state champs in 11B, 13-7 on Friday in Vermillion to claim the title.

Twenty years ago, when Hot Springs played for a championship, they got beat by West Central. This time in the closing moments, when it mattered most, the Bison came away with a mammoth interception to clinch the win.

“Our defense has been huge all year,” said Bison head coach Ben Kramer. “We just knew we had to get some points on offense and then just let our defense do its thing.”

Anytime you win a first state championship, it’s special, and coach Kramer was almost at a loss of words for how he was feeling.

“I’m just trying to hold back emotions. I’m so proud of this team, I’m so proud of this program, my assistant coaches, and the hard work that everyone’s done. And the support of amazing crowd, I don’t know if there’s anyone left in Hot Springs, I hope someone turned the lights off before they left,” he said with a smile. “This is unbelievable, I can’t even describe it.”

The Huskies got the ball to start the game. It didn’t take long for them to find a rhythm. Keaton Gale hit a big pass to Garrett Merkley that went for 38-yards, which put Elk Point-Jefferson into Bison territory. The opening drive was capped off with a three-yard touchdown run by Jacob Gale. Early on it was a 7-0 lead for the Huskies.

Hot Springs found success on their first drive of the game as well, thanks to the running of Camron Maciejewski. He carried the ball four times on the possession, with his longest run of 32-yards going for six. This tied the game at 7-7 with 3:25 to play in the first quarter.

A holding penalty crippled Elk Point-Jefferson’s second offensive drive, which led to a three-and-out.

End of the 1st Quarter: Elk Point-Jefferson 7 Hot Springs 7

Braden Peterson led the Bison into their opponents’ side of the field with a 25-yard run on an option play, that nearly was fumbled. Josh Kleinsasser attempted a 30-yard field goal to give Hot Springs the lead, but it missed left of the uprights.

On the play following the missed field goal, the Huskies were launched onto the Bison side of the field thanks to a 40-yard run by Gale. Carson Timmins then got a chance at a field goal to try and put Elk Point-Jefferson ahead, but that 41-yard attempt fell short.

Two plays later, Colin Iverson hit Peterson for a 79-yard touchdown on a perfect throw. A bad snap doomed the extra-point try, but with 4:54 to play in the half, Hot Springs jumped out to a 13-7 lead.

The Huskies would put together a promising drive to try and answer back before halftime, but the momentum changed when Maciejewski jumped in front of a Gale pass for an interception for return of 57-yards. Three plays after the turnover, Elk Point-Jefferson got the ball right back, as Merkley picked off an Iverson pass.

This kept it a one possession game going into the break.

Halftime: Hot Springs 13 Elk Point-Jefferson 7

Hot Springs received to start the second half, but a bouncing kickoff pinned the Bison inside their own 10-yard line to start. They would find some positive yardage from there, but the drive eventually stalled out near midfield, forcing the Bison to punt.

Elk Point-Jefferson spent the remainder of the quarter moving the ball downfield getting into the red zone on an efficient drive.

End of the 3rd Quarter: Hot Springs 13 Elk Point-Jefferson 7

Faced with a fourth and five on the first play of the fourth quarter, Gale threw a pass to the end zone intended for Fairbanks, but it fell incomplete. The Bison regained possession.

Hot Springs picked up one first down on their next drive, but that was all. On the punt, Kyle Fisher bobbled the snap. He did recover it, but his knee was down at the time of recovery, which gave the Huskies the ball on the Bison’s 20-yard line.

Elk Point-Jefferson had four chances to punch it into the end zone, but the Hot Springs defense held strong on the two-yard line.

The Huskies defense would eventually get a critical spot to give their offense one more chance to go the length of the field with 1:17 to play in the game. On the very next snap, Grayson Girard found Gale on a double pass that went for 38-yards. A facemask at the end of the trickery gave Elk Point-Jefferson another 15-yards, putting them just outside the red zone. Two plays later, Hot Springs sealed the game as Peterson intercepted a deflected Gale pass in the end zone.

Final: Hot Springs 13 Elk Point-Jefferson 7

Camron Maciejewski had one touchdown on 99-yards of rushing for Hot Springs. Colin Iverson only completed three passes, but one of them was the 79-yard score to Braden Peterson. Peterson also had the game-clinching pick.

For Elk Point-Jefferson, Jacob Gale finished with 82-yards of rushing and a touchdown. He also threw for 112-yards and two interceptions.

Joe Robbie MVP: Camron Maciejewski
Outstanding Back: Braden Peterson
Outstanding Lineman: Caleb Rickenbach

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.