A point of Pride: Canistota/Freeman’s Ortman is Mitchell Republic’s player of the year
CANISTOTA -- Tyce Ortman was thrust into action as a freshman and a playmaker was born.
Midway through Canistota/Freeman’s 2017 season, it faced Viborg-Hurley and the Pride needed help in the defensive secondary. Ortman logged 4.5 tackles, a handful of pass deflections and, perhaps most importantly, gained coach James Strang’s trust.
“He hasn’t left the field since,” Strang said. “We don’t tend to put freshmen on the field very often. Our upperclassmen tend to have a better idea and understanding of what’s going on, but since that moment, he hasn’t left the field in a variety of ways.”
Ortman has been making plays ever since. After a 6-4 season in 2017, Ortman and the Pride put together three magical championship seasons. Canistota/Freeman recently completed its third consecutive 11-1 season and another Class 9A state football championship. Canistota/Freeman joins Freeman (1997-99) as the only programs to win three straight Class 9A titles. Canistota won three straight titles (one 9B and two 9A) from 2010-12.
“It’s very special,” Ortman said about the three championship seasons. “Not many guys can say they won a state championship -- let alone a three-peat. To be able to witness that three-peat back when the Hawks played ‘10, ‘11, ‘12 and now to get to experience it … it’s pretty incredible.”
Ortman polished off his incredible prep football career with the Joe Robbie MVP Award and Most Outstanding Back honors in the state championship. He’s also been voted as the Mitchell Republic’s player of the year in 2020. The quarterback/linebacker finished his senior campaign with 795 passing yards, 1,268 rushing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, 22 rushing touchdowns, 41 tackles and two interceptions on defense. He finished his career with 2,799 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns.
Since 1994, the Mitchell Republic football player of the year has been selected by the newspaper's sports staff, and conducted via a point-based voting system that awards five points to the top player, four points to the second player on the ballot and so on. Ortman received three first-place votes and 19 total points.
Other players receiving consideration were Mitchell’s Parker Phillips, Platte-Geddes’ Grayson Hanson and Kelby VanDerWerff, McCook Central/Montrose’s Jacobi Krouse, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan’s Koby Kayser and Rylee Schultz and Winner’s Sam Kruger.
Ortman has just about done it all for Canistota/Freeman.
Offensively, he’s lined up at wide receiver, running back and quarterback each of the past three championship seasons. Defensively, he’s played cornerback and linebacker. He’s also been a dangerous returner on special teams.
“He’s such a diverse athlete with great strength and speed that he’s everything you could ask for,” Strang said. “He’s a film study. He works hard. He pays attention and he does everything you could possibly ask him to do.”
But his senior presented his biggest challenge. Tyce’s brother -- Trey Ortman -- quarterbacked the Pride to state championships in 2018 and ‘19. After Trey graduated, the quarterback position was up for grabs between Colbe Scott and Chase Merrill. But Scott transferred to White River and Merrill was forced to miss the season with a back injury.
Ortman, who idolized Canistota all-state running backs Jeb Olsen and Alex Robertson, never envisioned playing quarterback his senior year. But a week before the season opener the decision was made and Ortman was Canistota/Freeman’s 2020 signal-caller.
“It was definitely hard playing running back my whole life and then switching to quarterback my senior year,” said Ortman, a 2019 all-state running back. “It was definitely difficult, but I had to show courage and pride.”
Ortman, who stands a compact 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, played the quarterback position with a running back’s mentality. Ortman’s team-high 167 carries featured a variety of jukes, spin moves, stiff arms and stutter steps.
Playmaker in space
Ortman completed 45 percent of his 118 pass attempts, but when games were tight, he tucked the ball and made a play with his feet.
Ortman busted game-clinching touchdown runs in Canistota/Freeman’s final two games. In the semifinal game against Howard, the Pride trailed 7-6 in the third quarter of a defensive slugfest.
The next score felt like it would determine the outcome and Ortman delivered it. He took the shotgun snap, bounced it to the outside and out-sprinted four Tigers for a 36-yard score.
He again shined on the state’s biggest stage the following week. Ortman scored both Canistota/Freeman’s touchdowns in a 12-0 win, while his third-quarter score sealed it.
He again took the shotgun snap, found a seam and darted 64 yards for the clinching score.
“When the pressure is on,” Ortman said. “I like to have the ball in my hands in my hands for sure. I think coach (offensive coordinator Brad) Struck wants it in my hands, too.”
Ortman was also a ball hawk on defense. He finished with 13 career interceptions lining up at both linebacker and cornerback.
“I’ve said before that all the players I’ve coached over my tenure here at Canistota, he has one of the best noses for the football and gets downhill quicker than any player I’ve seen,” Strang said.
Ortman is also a member of Canistota’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), National Honor Society and Student Council. He maintains a 3.92 grade-point average, while he also participates in basketball and track and field.
He plans on playing college football. Ortman has scholarship offers from Northwestern College, Dakota Wesleyan University and Dakota State University, while he’s been in contact with South Dakota State University and Northern State University.
He admits playing at a bigger college intrigues him, while also playing with his brother at NCAA Division III Buena Vista University (Iowa) also piques his interest.
But no matter his decision, Strang said Ortman will succeed because of his determination and dedication.
“He’s going to do great things,” Strang said. “At some poin,t he’s going to make a decision where he’s going to play the game and there’s no doubt out of the players that we’ve had come out of here, that he is going to stick with it and he’s going to be successful on Saturdays.”
Here's a look at the other players who received consideration, with their vote-point totals in parentheses:
Parker Phillips, Mitchell (13): Phillips finished his senior season with 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns. He added 2,151 all-purpose yards. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound running back finished his career tied for third with 29 rushing touchdowns and 2,607 rushing yards.
Grayson Hanson, Platte-Geddes (8): Hanson recorded 777 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns for the Class 9AA state champs. He added 225 receiving yards and four more scores, while throwing six touchdown passes. The junior added 116 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four interceptions and three forced fumbles on defense.
Jacobi Krouse, McCook Central/Montrose (7): The 5-10, 200-pound running back rushed for 1,930 yards and 21 touchdowns his senior campaign. Krouse also rushed for an 11-man record 421 yards against Mount Vernon/Plankinton this season. He rushed for more than 4,000 yards the past three seasons.
Sam Kruger, Winner (4): Kruger rushed for 810 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Class 11B state champs. He added four touchdown receptions and 45 tackles on defense.
Koby Kayser, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (3): Kayser led the Seahawks with 1,375 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. He racked up a team-high 1,848 all-purpose yards, while posting 56 tackles and three interceptions on defense.
Rylee Schultz, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (3): The all-state linebacker logged 82 tackles and five interceptions on defense. He added four touchdown receptions on offense, while he also handled kicking responsibilities.
Kelby VanDerWerff, Platte-Geddes (3): The senior quarterback threw for 1,388 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had four rushing touchdowns and two touchdown receptions. Defensively, he had 22.5 tackles at his defensive end position.
Previous award winners: 1994: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1995: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1996: Glen "Andy" Thomas, Gregory; 1997: Jeff Schultz, Freeman; 1998: Chris Mikkelsen, Gregory; 1999: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2000: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2001: Tim Dacy, Gregory; 2002: Justin Horn, Tripp-Delmont; 2003: Michael Veskrna, Gregory; 2004: Doug Carlson, Howard; 2005: Jim Williams, Hanson; 2006: Jake Steffen, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2007: Josh Endres, Emery-Ethan; 2008: Earv Archambeau, Avon; 2009: Jayd Knodell, Winner; 2010: Jeb Olsen, Canistota; 2011: Jason Greenway, Mitchell; 2012: Jaden Bartling, Gregory; 2013: Brandon Kocmich, Avon; 2014: Luke Loudenburg, Howard; 2015: Windsor Barry, Winner; 2016: Spencer Neugebauer, Mitchell; 2017: Andy McCance, Gregory; 2018: Jackson Kinzer, Colome; 2019: Brady Hawkins, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan; 2020: Tyce Ortman, Canistota/Freeman.