One of the powerhouse high school football programs in Montana is forfeiting the upcoming season due to low numbers.
Hot Springs High School, the defending state champs in Class C six-man, decided Aug. 14 to forfeit the season for eight-man football. The season-opener was scheduled to kick off Aug. 25.
Head coach Jim Lawson said the team only has nine players suiting up this fall and most are freshmen and sophomores. The team graduated 10 seniors from last year’s undefeated 13-0 championship team.
“We’re just really low on numbers and we’re really young,” Lawson said.
“We were just hanging on by a thread but we would just not get through the nine-game schedule. This is also better safety-wise for the team we have.”
Lawson said the team could hopefully play a few junior varsity games this fall if it works out for other teams.
Hot Springs has been one of the top Class C football teams in recent years and a rich source of community pride. Last year’s squad was a force to reckon with. With 15 players, the Savage Heat steamrolled through a perfect season, outscoring opponents 679-32 when the playoffs began. The team defeated Mon-Dak 54-20 in the title game. The team included Trevor Paro, who finished his unprecedented career with 135 touchdowns, the most in Montana history for any classification.
Last year’s championship marked the team’s second state title and first since 2012.
“We’ve been living the dream pretty much the last five to six years,” Lawson said.
Over the winter, the Montana High School Association changed the enrollment ranges for sports classifications. Hot Springs, which has historically had roughly 60 students in the high school grades, has recently jumped above 80, which bumped the football team from six-man football to the eight-man classification.
Lawson said he and other coaches will try to encourage more students to participate in football over the coming school year with the goal of fielding a team next season.
“That’s all we can do,” he said.
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