CANISTOTA-Canistota/Freeman defeated another Class 9AA foe on Friday, but this one wasn't easy.
The Class 9A No. 2 Pride hung on for a 34-30 win over the Class 9AA Baltic Bulldogs. It's Canistota/Freeman's fourth win over a Class 9AA team this season.
"It's a really big confidence boost," Canistota/Freeman running back Austin Thu said. "It makes our team a lot better just playing these 9AA teams. It just makes us better and it exposes some weaknesses in us and that just means we can get better in practice."
The Bulldogs, which were honorable mention in the latest poll, almost erased a 22-point deficit with a second-half rally.
"They put a lot of pressure on us late in the game and we panicked, which is great to have at this point in the season because it preps us for what's hopefully coming ahead," Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said.
Thu's 26-yard touchdown run put Canistota/Freeman (6-0) ahead 28-6 in the third quarter. Thu later scored a 78-yard kickoff return to make it 34-12.
However, the Bulldogs (4-2) had one last-gasp effort in the fourth quarter.
"They put the pressure on us," Strang said. "They recovered two onside kicks and they hit a couple of big home run plays on us late."
Zach Polzin's touchdown made it 34-18. After recovering an onside kick, Baltic's Sam Muston cut the deficit to 34-24 with a 26-yard touchdown run. Muston later connected with Alex Haagenson for an eight-yard touchdown strike with three minutes left.
The Pride recovered the next onside kick and ran out the clock for the win.
"It was a good wear-down game and they grounded us," Strang said. "They had opportunities late. So it was big all the way around and I am just happy our boys stuck it through and saw it to the end we got a win."
Both teams were committed to running the ball. Canistota/Freeman had 207 rushing yards, while Baltic racked up 252 yards on the ground.
Canistota/Freeman's Trey Ortman had 43 passing yards and two touchdowns. Muston finished with 205 yards and three touchdowns.
Thu finished with 119 rushing yards.
"I have to get it to our line," Thu said. "Our blocking was really good tonight and we know we can get better."
Muston scored on Baltic's second possession, but the Bulldogs were kept out of the end zone until fourth quarter.
"We were executing on all cylinders," Strang said about the defense. "We are running on gap control defense and we were hitting and we were trusting our reads."
Canistota/Freeman hosts Hanson on Oct. 5 in Freeman.
Notes: There was a 10-minute delay toward the end of the first half as a pair of light stands went out.
B: Sam Muston 30 run (conversion failed)
C/F: Trey Ortman 3 run (Austin Thu run)
C/F: Tyce Ortman 5 pass from Trey Ortman (conversion failed)
C/F: Tristan Pierce 8 pass from Trey Ortman (conversion failed)
C/F: Thu 26 run (Tyce Ortman pass from Trey Ortman)
B: Muston 1 run (conversion failed)
C/F: Thu 78 kickoff return (conversion failed)
B: Zach Polzin 11 run (conversion failed)
B: Muston 26 run (conversion failed)
B: Alex Haagenson 8 pass from Muston (conversion failed)