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Cavaliers' defense clamps down in title win

Kimball/White Lake's Carter Fredericksen (20) makes a cut move on Bon Homme's Zach Cuka (10) during the Class 9AA state championship game Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)

VERMILLION—Kimball/White Lake looked ready to run by, through and around Bon Homme's defense in the first quarter.

The Cavaliers' defense had more openings than a colander as it allowed 20 first-quarter points, but then it turned into a brick wall. Bon Homme rode that defense to a 35-20 Class 9AA state football championship on Thursday at the DakotaDome.

Bon Homme failed to get pressure on WiLdKat quarterback Javen Holan in the first quarter and couldn't stop the run, leading to a 53-yard touchdown run by Carter Fredericksen on his second carry of the game, as well as touchdown passes of 50 and eight yards to Cody Westendorf and Justin Becker, respectively.

Both Kimball/White Lake head coach Dale Taylor and Bon Homme head coach Byron Pudwill said the WiLdKats simply came out more prepared than the Cavaliers.

"I have to tip my cap to Dale Taylor and Kimball/White Lake," Pudwill said. "He had his guys ready to go. He just out-coached me. We weren't ready to go, he was and then we finally got things going."

It resulted in just the third time the Cavaliers allowed 20 points in a game this season, with the first two times coming against No. 1-seeded Wolsey-Wessington.

However, Bon Homme played quicker, more man coverage and momentum shifted in the final three frames. It led to a WiLdKat offense without anywhere to go.

Holan took a beating in the backfield as the Cavaliers' once non-existent pass rush turned into constant hits on him, even if Bon Homme didn't always get there in time for a sack. That said, Bon Homme finished with seven sacks, including four from defensive end John Kubal.

"(Kubal) is quick," Taylor said. "This is a very quick defense and they get off blocks. We didn't maintain our blocks like I wanted to tonight, and they came after us and got us a little bit out of sync."

With its offense stuck, Taylor opted toward trickery on a halfback pass. It backfired, though, with Fredericksen throwing an interception to the Joe Robbie MVP Joey Slama, who finished with five tackles.

The Kimball/White Lake offense was unable to gain momentum until it picked up its first first down of the second half with 6:15 left in the game. Despite picking up four first downs on that drive, it ended with a Josh Crownover interception.

Kubal still found a way to be a nuisance, too. Despite being bent over and breathing hard, Kubal hit Holan on a 29-yard completion to Westendorf, then sacked him a couple of plays later.

"It's the state championship, I can fight through (fatigue)," Kubal said. "If there's a title on the line, I'll be able to fight through it."

The WiLdKats gained 61 yards on that drive, while it only managed 85 yards in the final three quarters after a 152-yard first quarter. Fredericksen was held to 69 yards on 11 carries and Holan completed just 9 of 18 passes.

Without its 1,000-yard rusher and quarterback able to break through, the WiLdKats' offense was held in check and without points.

"Everything we worked toward right now just paid off," Kubal said. "Ever since we were little kids, we dreamed of this moment and it's finally here. It's amazing."