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MonDak comes 800 miles for win at Hot Springs

MonDak comes 800 miles for win at Hot Springs

The tiny towns of Westby and Grenora straddle the Montana-North Dakota border way up near where the United State meets Canada. Hot Springs in western Montana may as well be in a different country.

The MonDak Thunder 6-man football team, which comprises players from both towns, traveled almost 800 miles for its Class C quarterfinal playoff game at Hot Springs on Saturday on a journey split up into three days.

The drive home is always a little easier when there’s a win in tow.

MonDak upset third-ranked Hot Springs 32-22 for the Savage Heat’s first loss of the season, but the Thunder trailed by four at halftime. Coach Troy Walters chalked that up at least in part to the pilgrimage the boys had just endured.

“The bus rides and two nights in different hotels and eating out every night, they’re not in that good routine,” Walters said. “You could kinda tell after the first five minutes of the game we kinda settled down. All of a sudden we decided, ‘OK, let’s just play football and hit people and see what happens.’ ”

Westby-Grenora shut out Hot Springs’ dangerous offense, a unit that averages more than 55 points per game, after allowing touchdowns on the opening two drives.

The win capped a week-long football effort for the east-side boys. The bus left Westby back on Thursday as the team made for Bozeman for pit stop No. 1. The Thunder got in a practice first just up the road at Reedpoint on Interstate 90.

They stayed in Missoula on Friday and practiced again at Alberton’s field up the road before heading on to Hot Springs, the last 75 miles or so of the 797-mile one way journey, on Saturday morning.

For a little perspective – or maybe a geography lesson – on just how far the Thunder drove this week, Minneapolis is closer to Westby than Hot Springs. And, using the I-90 route the team took, by about 150 miles even.

The team could nearly have made it to Omaha in fact, though bus’s allotted mileage probably would have run out in the suburbs somewhere near Missouri Valley, Iowa.

It’s all par for the MonDak course. No team is close, even those in the Eastern C division.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been to northeast Montana where Westby is – or Grenora – but I’ll tell you what, we travel sooo much,” Walters said. “Our conference, they’re all five hours away. Our kids are used to that.”

The Thunder bought themselves another long bus ride next week. MonDak travels to Stanford-Denton-Geyser for the state semifinals. That one’s in Denton, a mere 400-ish miles away.

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  • 03 Feb 2015

    UPDATED: 2015 national signing day's western Montana football commits

    UPDATED: With fall camps just around the corner, the list of western Montana natives in the Missoulian's coverage area has swelled near 50. Take a look:
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  • 12 Feb 2015

    Entry to Montana wrestling's Four-Timers Club just got tougher

    Winning four straight state wrestling titles is hard enough, but the reclassification of weight classes in Montana that began this year will likely make the feat decidedly more difficult. When the Montana High Schools Association shifted from 15 to 13 wrestling classes, it eliminated the weight at which many four-timers wrestled as freshmen. The 98 and 105 weights were combined -- as were 195 and 220 on the upper end -- to form a new hybrid weight of 103 that will leave fewer holes in brackets and dual lineups. But it also adds new competition for the lightest weight, the one typically housing freshmen, by doubling the participants. "It's going to be interesting with the weight changes," said Columbia Falls wrestling coach Jesse Schaeffer, who has a senior in his wrestling room chasing state title No. 4 this week in Shonn Roberts. "I think that's going to maybe reduce that." Twenty-three Montana wrestlers have completed their four-peats and 11 of those started at 98 pounds of lower -- Gene Davis of Missoula County High, the state's first four-timer, won his freshman year at 95 pounds in 1960 before a similar weight shift later in the decade. Add in Roberts, who will compete at 138 pounds when state action begins Friday in Billings but won at 98 in 2012, and that's exactly half. "It's kind of weird since that's what I wrestled at as a freshman," Roberts began, "but 103, the 98-105 mix, I think that's reasonable. It'll make things a little bit tougher." That's hardly the thinking behind merging weights, though. At either extreme ends of the weight scale (195 and 220 became the 205 class) fewer teams -- especially at lower classifications -- could field a full lineup. Many times, too few entrants there led to a state bracket marred by automatic byes and regular season duals that might as well skip on to 105 pounds anyway. The unintended consequence is that 2015 may be near the last time wrestling fans will get a trio of four-time possibles all on the mats at the same time. Sidney's Gresh Jones joins Roberts in the Class A tournament this week at 126 pounds searching for his fourth, while Forsyth's Matt Weber will be the talk of Class B-C with a potential fourth title. Both boys won their first -- and lightest -- at 112 pounds, though.