Canistota punches third straight state title game berthCANISTOTA — Thirty-five straight wins.
By: By OWEN REITZEL, The Daily Republic
CANISTOTA — Thirty-five straight wins.
But more importantly, Canistota earned its third straight berth to a state high school football championship game, defeating Arlington 56-6 in dominating fashion Saturday night in the Class 9A state semifinal playoffs.
The contest ended in the third quarter due to the mercy rule.
It didn’t take long for Canistota to jump on top. After holding Arlington to three plays and out to open the game, the Hawks needed one play to take an 8-0 lead when senior quarterback Cody Bunger raced 42 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, it looked like the rout was on as Bunger scored on a 4-yard run, giving Canistota a 14-0 advantage.
Bunger, who ran for another touchdown and added a touchdown pass, said being prepared was key to the win.
“(Arlington) is a pretty good team and we prepared for them and it helped in the end that we knew what they were going to do,” Bunger said.
Bunger was happy with his play but he gave credit where it was due.
“Without my linemen to help block for me, then I wouldn’t have had the stats I had,” he said.
Hawk coach Lenny Schroeder had nothing but praise for his quarterback.
“He understands where people need to be and he’s a nice athlete that pays attention to what he has to do and doesn’t care who gets the ball,” Schroeder said.
The Cardinals tried to make a game of it on their next possession. Sophomore quarterback Andrew King hit Lane Weber on a 49-yard pass to the Canistota 1-yard line. It was also the Cardinals’ first first down of the game.
Two plays later, Zach Warnke dived in for a touchdown to pull Arlington to with 14-6 and grab the momentum.
The turning point of the contest came in the second quarter. The Hawks had the ball, but after two penalties and a fumble recovery for a loss, they faced a third-and-23 yards from their own 29-yard line.
Bunger hit Boone DeKramer on a screen pass, which took the ball to the Arlington 35-yard line. On fourth-and-six, Nick Hofer ran 35 yards for a touchdown to give Canistota a 20-6 lead with just over seven minutes left until halftime.
Schroeder stated that the drive turned things around for his squad.
“Our kids were hanging their heads a bit and it did put a little pep in the Cardinals’ step,” Schroeder said. “We didn’t panic and after a timeout we said we’d get a (first down) in three chunks and not on one play. We did that, and on fourth down when Nick (Hofer) broke it for a touchdown, it took the wind out of their sails and got us focused again. From there on out, we were hitting on all cylinders.”
After forcing another Cardinal punt, the Hawks needed only three plays to score again. Bunger hit pay dirt from four yards out and Canistota led 26-6 at halftime.
The Hawks’ Alex Robetson ran the second-half kickoff to the Arlington 29-yard line.
Four plays later, Bunger hit Seubert on a 36-yard scoring pass and Canistota had a commanding 34-6 lead.
The Hawks’ offense gets a lot of the notoriety but their defense quietly played strong as well with six sacks.
“Our defense has done a great job all year long,” Schroeder said. “James Strang is our defensive coordinator and he does a great job of mixing up coverage’s and bringing pressure. We only have a three-man line, but we can usually put on a lot of pressure.”
Robetson led the Hawks in rushing with 10 carries for 87 yards followed by Bunger with nine carries for 78 yards. Hofer added four carries for 72 yards.
Bunger was 7 for 13 for 125 yards through the air with Seubert grabbing three passes for 95 yards.
Canistota finished with 424 total yards.
Jason VanWinkle led the Hawk defense with 11 tackles and Eric Tieszen followed with 10 tackles. Tyler Decker had three sacks and Nathan Nugteren recovered two fumbles.
Arlington (9-2) was held to 32 yards rushing and King was 4 of 9 for 90 yards.
The Cardinals finished with 122 total yards.
Warnke and James Kersting led the Arlington defense.
Canistota (11-0) takes on undefeated Warner at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Dakotadome in Vermillion for the Class 9A championship.
C: Cody Bunger 42 run (Boone DeKramer pass from Bunger)
C: Bunger 4 run (Run failed)
A: Zach Warnke 1 run (Run failed)
C: Nick Hofer 35 run (Run failed)
C: Bunger 4 run (Pass failed)
C: Dylan Seubert 35 pass from Bunger (Alex Robertson run)
C: Robertson 13 run (Robertson run)
C: Hofer 13 run (Hofer pass from Bunger)
C: Hofer 14 run - End of game