Canistota defense shines in title gamesVERMILLION — Fourteen points.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
VERMILLION — Fourteen points.
That’s the combined number of points Hitchcock-Tulare, Wall and Warner put on the board against Cansitota’s dominant defense within the Hawks’ three championship title games in the past three seasons.
In this year’s 9A championship game, Canistota gave up more than half of that total — eight points — to the Warner Monarchs in its 52-8 victory.
The Hawks gave up 161 total offensive yards to Wall in last year’s championship game and 210 yards to Hitchcock-Tulare in the 2010 9B title game. Along with shutting down those opponents, the Hawks only allowed Wall to score six points and shut out Hitchcock-Tulare.
Canistota’s defensive coach James Strang said the defense has been so successful because it be-lieves it is a family.
“We preach family and preach to rally around that family, and when we come together and play enthusiastically, we’re a real tough thing to beat,” Strang said.
The Hawks played 10 seniors on defense, which gave up 250 total yards against the Monarchs.
“This group of boys started playing junior football together, and I think that really was their foundation,” Strang said, referring to the senior class. “They are really a tight-knit unit, and we’ve got great senior leadership.
“Each year we’ve had to replace five or six kids on that defensive front due to graduation. These guys have grown up running other people’s defenses, so their knowledge base is just great to make adjustments on the fly. They’ve worked everything that they’ve seen and done into our system and made it successful.”
Senior Eric Tieszen said he’s enjoyed being a Hawk throughout his high school career and credits his coaches and teammates for the success. The school has won 36 straight games.
“Our coaches make it fun at practice and it’s so much fun to play with all of these guys that I’ve grown up with,” Tieszen said.
Head coach Lenny Schroeder said the Hawks have some special players and talent that earn their successes.
“We’ve had some very good safeties in Sam Jolley, Cody Bunger and Alex Robertson,” he said. “They run very well in the space and teams will think there is something open, and it’s really covered. We do a good job of forcing teams to throw the ball where they really don’t know where we’re at.”
In the 9A title game, senior Cody Bunger picked off Warner quarterback Clay Rozell three times, while senior Jason VanWinkle, who has started on defense the last two seasons for the Hawks, led all players with seven solo tackles, earning him the most outstanding lineman award.
“Defense is our focal point and we love playing defense,” VanWinkle said. “We have the most fun when we shut people down. This feeling is awesome; it’s like a dream.”