Cavalier comeback: Bon Homme overcomes 20-point deficit for first state title since 1995
VERMILLION -- For 23 long years, Bon Homme High School fans have waited for a berth in a state championship football game.
On Thursday in the DakotaDome, the fourth-seeded Cavaliers battled No. 7 Kimball/White Lake for the Class 9AA title, but after the first quarter, Bon Homme fans feared the championship drought would be prolonged.
The WiLdKats raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter, but Bon Homme slowly chipped away at the lead behind Joey Slama’s 369 total yards and five touchdowns, while its defense snapped awake and suffocated its way to score 35 unanswered points in a 35-20 win.
“(It was) definitely worth the wait,” Bon Homme head coach Byron Pudwill said. “I wish it hadn’t been so long, but it was definitely worth the wait.”
To start the game, Kimball/White Lake appeared to be the favorite, showing no signs of nervousness on the biggest stage. The WiLdKats held Slama in check for the first 12 minutes of the game, while also carving up the vaunted Bon Homme defense.
Carter Fredericksen ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run on the second offensive play of the game, followed by a 50-yard pass down the seam from Javen Holan to Cody Westendorf to take a 14-0 lead. Moments later, Caden Lenz stepped in front of a Slama pass and returned it to the Bon Homme 15-yard line, setting up another Holan scoring strike.
“Our kids came out right away and took it to them,” KWL head coach Dale Taylor said. “They were prepared, we caught them off guard on a couple plays and defensively, we got some good stops.”
With their backs against the wall, the Cavalier defense rose to life, while Slama began to catch fire, starting with a seemingly harmless scramble, but he was able to weave through would-be KWL tacklers until he reached the end zone on a 30-yard touchdown run.
It was just the first of five touchdowns on the day for the senior, who etched himself in Bon Homme lore, going 17-of-26 passing for 215 yards and three touchdowns, along with 154 rushing yards and two scores, complimenting an interception and fumble recovery on defense and earned the Joe Robbie Most Valuable Player award.
“They were in zone (coverage) most of the game and they didn’t want to bite on anything,” Slama said. “I tried to find the openings and I found a couple of them.”
KWL began the third quarter with the ball, clinging to a 20-12 lead, but a quick three-and-out gave the ball back to Bon Homme, which marched right down the field to tie the game as Slama followed his blockers for a three-yard score.
As the WiLdKats attempted to regain the momentum, the Cavaliers dug in deeper on defense -- led by Josh Kubal’s four sacks -- not allowing a first down in the second half until there was 6:15 left on the clock.
With the defense holding its ground, the offense continued to score, as Bon Homme went from being down 12 to start the third quarter, to up nine at the end and KWL couldn’t find any buttons to push to take back momentum.
“Maybe things happened a little too fast for us,” Taylor said. “We should have maintained some more drives in that second quarter. Momentum was definitely on their side and we definitely couldn’t get it back.”
Fredericksen finished with 69 yards on 11 carries for Kimball/White Lake (8-4), while Holan was 9-for-18 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns and Westendorf had three grabs for 102 yards.
This was the first nine-man state championship in school history for Bon Homme (11-1), with the program’s back-to-back wins in 1994 and 1995 coming Class 11B.
NOTES: Slama was also named the game’s most outstanding back, while the Cavaliers’ Cole Bares was the game’s most outstanding lineman. … As members of the Missouri Valley Conference, the teams met earlier this season in what was a 25-7 Cavalier win in White Lake on Sept. 7
KWL 20 0 0 0 — 20
BH 0 12 17 6 — 35
KWL: Carter Fredericksen 53 run (Run failed)
KWL: Cody Westendorf 50 pass from Javen Holan (Justin Becker pass from Holan)
KWL: Becker 8 pass from Holan (Run failed)
BH: Joey Slama 30 run (Pass failed)
BH: Nate Scieszinski 34 pass from Slama (Run failed)
BH: Slama 3 run (Josh Crownover pass from Slama)
BH: Scieszinski 56 pass from Slama (Kick failed)
BH: Crownover 24 field goal
BH: Noah Heesch 6 pass from Slama (Kick failed)
RUSHING (ATT-YDS): KWL: Carter Fredericksen 11-69, Ty Namanni 4-21, Caden Lenz 6-12, Cody Westendorf 1-2, Javen Holan 12-(-31); BH: Joey Slama 22-154, Christian Uecker 5-39, Josh Crownover 4-13, John Kubal 1-10, Nate Scieszinski 2-9, Zach Cuka 1-3.
PASSING (C-A-TD-INT-YDS): KWL: Holan 9-18-2-0-164, Fredericksen 0-1-0-1-0; BH: Slama 17-26-3-1-215, Crownover 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING (REC-YDS): KWL: Westendorf 3-102, Justin Becker 4-43, Lenz 1-11, Fredericksen 1-8; BH: Scieszinski 7-116, Noah Heesch 2-34, Crownover 4-32, Josh Schmidt 2-21, Kubal 1-8, Cole Bares 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS (No./Yds): Kimball/White Lake: Caden Lenz 1-33. BH: Joey Slama 1-0.SACKS (No./Yds): KWL: Tyler Resick 1 / 4, Kordel Kiehn 1 / 4. BH: John Kubal 4 / 27, Joshua Crownover 2 / 12, Josh Schmidt 1 / 3, Tyler Kopp 1 / 2, Cole Bares 1 / 1.