Hawks look for second straight titleIf Canistota wins the Class 9A state football championship game today against Wall, it will be the Hawks’ 24th straight victory.
By: Justin Rust, The Daily Republic
If Canistota wins the Class 9A state football championship game today against Wall, it will be the Hawks’ 24th straight victory.
Canistota (11-0), which won the Class 9B championship last year over Hitchcock-Tulare by a score of 66-0, has not lost since the second round of the playoffs in 2009.
But for the Hawks, today’s championship contest is just another game.
“It’s stressed as the next game,” Canistota head coach Lenny Schroeder said. “Whatever the score is, that’s what it is, and that’s been the focus for them since junior high.”
Schroeder said he would be surprised if most of the players knew how many games in a row they have won.
“These kids don’t talk about it, and I would be surprised if they could tell you,” he said. “They really don’t focus on it, and you don’t hear them talk about the streak, their record or last year’s state championship.”
The Hawks have let their play on the field speak for itself.
Coming into today’s championship game, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, Canistota has allowed just 1,066 total rushing and 250 yards passing. That’s an average of only 119 yards allowed per game.
During the playoffs, Canistota has yet to allow a point. In the first two rounds, Canistota’s games were over by halftime because of the mercy rule.
“Our kids have just played phenomenal defense, and it has probably been our trademark,” Schroeder said. “We expect our defense to dictate the game, and they are playing some very good football on that side of the ball.”
Linebackers Eric Tieszen and Troy Hofer have led Canistota’s defense. Tieszen leads the team with 107 tackles and Hofer has 101.
Trevor Schroeder had seven sacks on the year. Safety Cody Bunger leads the team with six interceptions. The Hawks have a total of 11 interceptions and have recovered 15 fumbles.
With Canistota’s defense holding opponents to so few yards, it has allowed the team’s offense more chances to score. The Hawks have taken advantage of that.
Canistota has averaged 50 points per game. The scoring is split mainly among three players — quarterback Bunger, fullback Hofer and running back Alex Robertson.
Bunger leads the team with 1,031 yards rushing and is tied with Hofer with 14 rushing touchdowns. Bunger has also passed for 765 yards and 16 touchdowns. Robertson has rushed for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns. Hofer has 795 yards rushing to go along with 25 receptions for 411 yards and eight touchdowns.
“The total stats have been there, and we knew we would have to share the football so we wouldn’t have to be so one-dimensional,” Lenny Schroeder said. “People thought we were going to be all about Troy, and they converged on him. So that allowed others to be part of the success.”
Wall gives the ball to primarily two players — Chavis Shull and Travis Trask.
Shull leads the state in rushing with 2,043 yards to go along with 22 touchdowns. He also has caught five touchdown passes. Trask has added 808 yards and seven touchdowns.
“We have to go out and run the football and eat time off the clock,” Wall coach Dennis Rieckman said. “We have to play mistake free, and I think that is more important in this game because Canistota is an explosive team.
“When they get a turnover, they try and take it right at you, so the less opportunities they have to put it in the end zone, the better off we will be.”
Lenny Schroeder said Wall is the fastest team Canistota has played in two years.
“They have a ton of speed,” Lenny Schroeder said of Wall. “They are very patient runners, and when they hit the hole, they are gone.”
Rieckman said Wall is going to primarily stick with the two players that got them to the championship game.
“They got us here and we have to count on our ground game,” he said. “We might try and throw more than we usually do, but we hope to run the ball with those two.”
Wall is also 11-0 and Schroeder said his team will have to execute well.
“I told the kids to do their job and don’t turn the ball over,” he said. “Defensively, we have to maintain position at the end and force them into the heart of our defense.”