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No.5 Canton upsets No. 1 Winner in 11B semifinals

Winner quarterback Nathan Galbraith drops back and looks for a receiver to throw to in the fourth quarter of the 11B semifinals Saturday in Winner. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

WINNER — The top-ranked Winner Warriors’ bid for a second straight Class 11B state championship appearance came to an end they were upset 19-7 by No. 5 Canton in the semifinal football game Saturday.

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The Warriors, who brought a 22-game win streak into the game, had difficulties slowing down Canton's vaunted rushing attack all game and in the end, it cost them.

“Canton is a very good football team,” Winner football coach Dan Aaker said. “We were concerned about the physicality that some of their skill position players had coming in to the game. Our guys played hard, but we couldn't slow down the run when we needed to.”

The C-Hawks finished the game with 285 yards of total offense, with 233 yards rushing. Canton (10-1) plays Parkston at 2:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 11B state championship at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. The C-Hawks are making their first trip to the Dome since 2006.

The Warrior defense had success holding Canton in check in the first half, but Winner (10-1) couldn’t seem to get its own offense started. Both teams were scoreless after the first quarter but Canton grabbed a 6-0 lead in the second quarter on a 1-yard run from senior quarterback Cody Majeres. Canton senior kicker Brywn Ractliffe had his extra point blocked by a host of Warriors.

The Canton defense continued to shut down Winner, which tried several plays up the gut but had little to no success in the first half.

Despite being outmuscled in the first half, the Warriors got on the board with a 2-yard run from junior quarterback Nathan Galbraith. Winner junior running back Sam Naasz gave Winner the lead after he booted the extra point through the uprights. Galbraith finished the game with 19 yards rushing. He also completed 7-of-16 passes for 79 yards zero touchdowns and one interception.

“Canton has been good all year up front,” Aaker said. “They get to the ball really well. We had some good success on the outside a couple times, but they stopped our off tackle game so you have to give them credit.”

The Warriors finished with 152 yards on the ground. Senior fullback Trace Meyer had a team-leading 66 yards on 15 carries, while junior running back Nick Hossle had 53 yards on two carries.

With the ball in their hands early in fourth quarter, the C-Hawks went to work, pounding the ball through the Winner defense.

Canton senior fullback Tanner Broughton bulldozed his way through Warrior defenders in the final quarter. Broughton finally reached pay dirt on an 11-yard run with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter to give Canton a 12-7 lead.

The fullback finished the game with 72 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, with the majority of his runs coming on an up-the-middle run play. Senior running back Gabe Dolen led Canton in rushing with 78 yards on 10 carries.

“We just tried to pound the ball and play a little smash-mouth football,” Canton football coach Rich Lundstrom said. "Winner is a good football team. We told the team this was going to be the best squad we would play all year and they were.”

With a little over seven minutes to go in the game and trailing 12-7, Winner hoped for some late-game heroics. But on the first play of the drive, Galbraith dropped back and aired out a pass down the middle that found the hands of Canton junior cornerback Anders Peterson.

Canton again called on Broughton and he knifed through the Winner defense and capped off the drive with another touchdown run. Brougton's 2-yard scamper ended any hopes of a second trip to the DakotaDome for the Warrior faithful.

“We knew they were going to come right downhill at us,” Winner defensive back Sam Naasz said. “Broughton is a good player and a big dude and hard to stop. I am proud of everybody on our team and I wouldn't have wanted to play with anybody else.”

Naasz led Winner with 8.5 tackles, while senior linemen Jay Brandis and Scott Assman each had 6.5 tackles.

Second Quarter

C: Cody Majeres 1 run (Brywn Ractliffe kick blocked)

Third Quarter

W: Nathan Galbraith 2 run (Sam Naasz kick)

Fourth Quarter

C: Tanner Broughton 11 run (Majeres pass failed)

C: Broughton 2 run (Ractliffe kick)