The final week of Interstate 8 play saw three teams enter with a tie atop the conference table. Battle Creek Harper Creek, Hastings and Jackson Lumen Christi posted 5-1 marks in their opening six games, and victories in the final week would give any of these teams at least a share of the title. Hastings travelled to Coldwater on Thursday, and in the first game of the three, secured at least a share of the league crown. They topped the Cardinals 39-20.
Hastings got off to a hot start in this game, wasting no time to set the tone. TJ Russell, just twelve seconds into the game, reeled off an 80-yard sprint for a score. This gave the Saxons a quick 6-0 lead.
At the end of the first quarter, Coldwater scored to take the lead. Cam Torres powered across the goal line from two yards out, and an extra point gave them a 7-6 edge.
Early in the second quarter, the teams exchanged touchdowns. Lanny Teunessen got things rolling for Hastings with a 23-yard carry to the end zone. Just seventeen seconds later, Cam Torres bolted through the Saxons’ defense for a 78-yard score, extending Coldwater’s lead to two points, 14-12.
Hastings would regain the lead on their next possession, as TJ Russell returned to the scoring column. Russell capped off a scoring drive with a 17-yard touchdown. Just thirty seconds before halftime, Russell extended the lead with a 5-yard score. The Saxons took a ten-point edge, 24-14, into the locker room.
Coldwater scored first in the third quarter, as Torres found the end zone for a third time. His 25-yard carry brought the Cardinals within four. They would not draw closer, as the Saxons put two insurance touchdowns on the board over the final sixteen minutes.
For just the second time this season, Mason Denton tossed a touchdown for Hastings. He found Teunessen on a 30-yard scoring connection. With just under five minutes to play, Robby Slaughter capped off the night with a 22-yard touchdown run, pushing the Hastings lead to an insurmountable amount.
Hastings outgained Coldwater 443-303 in this victory. As is their standard, the Saxons thrived on the ground, rushing for 401 yards. TJ Russell led the way with 13 carries, 195 yards and three scores. Robby Slaughter added 81 yards on fifteen carries, and Lanny Teunessen finished with 61 yards on seven carries.
Cam Torres had a remarkable individual performance for the Cardinals in defeat. Coldwater’s tailback toted the ball on 33 of their 53 plays from scrimmage. He turned those carries into 257 yards and all three Coldwater touchdowns. Torres also caught Coldwater’s lone pass, a 9-yard reception.
This is the first time Hastings has secured consecutive league titles since 1978-79, when the Saxons were in the Twin Valley Conference. Dating back to the 1942 West Central Conference crown, this is the 11th time that Hastings has captured a conference title. The Saxons won the West Central Conference in 1942, 1952, 1953, 1961, 1962 and 1965. They captured three titles in the Twin Valley Conference in 1978, 1979 and 1990. In 2001 the Saxons secured their lone OK Conference championship, an OK Gold crown. This is their second straight Interstate 8 championship, securing the title outright in 2020.
Next week, Hastings will conclude their regular season by welcoming Escanaba to town, a Saturday evening affair with a 6:00 PM kickoff. Coldwater will wrap things up by travelling to Pinckney on Friday.