Canistota/Freeman experiences own three-peat: Pride soaks up impressive gridiron run

Canistota/Freeman Head Coach James Strang, center, and the Pride sideline raise three fingers signaling their three-peat run of championships at the conclusion of the Class 9A state title game against Warner on Thursday in Vermillion at the DakotaDome.

VERMILLION -- Tyce Ortman watched a three-peat from the stands and delivered one on the field.

Ortman and Canistota/Freeman put an exclamation point on the Pride’s three-peat on Thursday, outlasting Warner 12-0 at the DakotaDome in a Class 9A defensive battle.

It marked an impressive stretch for Canistota/Freeman, which finished with three straight 11-1 campaigns and another three-peat. Canistota/Freeman joined Freeman (1997-99) as the only program to win three straight Class 9A titles.

Canistota won three straight titles (one 9B and two 9A) from 2010-12, planting the seeds for its most recent one.

“We’ve always dreamed about that since watching the Hawk days when they won that three-peat back in the day,” Ortman said. “We’ve got to watch that and now we get to experience that. It’s pretty cool.”


Canistota and Freeman joined forces on the gridiron in 2017 and they’ve been nearly unstoppable since. Canistota/Freeman has gone 39-7 the past four seasons and it remained perfect in state championship games.

“It’s truly amazing being able to know that our legacy is a three-peat,” said Canistota/Freeman senior lineman Cole Papendick, who was named the game’s most outstanding lineman. “It’s awesome.”

In addition to its three-peat in the early 2010s, Canistota claimed the 2015 Class 9A state championship. The Flyers won their first state football championship in 1981 and then steamrolled through the competition with four-straight championships from 1996-99. The 1996 championship happened in the 9B ranks.

The spotless DakotaDome résumé continued on Thursday, but not without some adversity. The Pride relied on Ortman’s 64-yard touchdown romp in the third quarter and a key goal line stand to hold off the Monarchs. Ortman finished as the game’s Joe Robbie MVP and most outstanding back, finishing with 253 rushing yards and two scores.

“It was extremely difficult and just a tremendous ballclub in Warner,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “They did so many things defensively that we had to try and adapt to on the fly and make things happen. It was just a tremendous effort from them.”

Strang has had a major hand in the dynastic run, first as the defensive coordinator and the team’s head coach since 2013. He praised the Pride's own effort through all the ups and downs during the three-year stretch

“The games have been tight this season to cap off that three-peat,” Strang said. “Coming into it that’s one thing I can always say about this group is effort. … Defense wins championships and defense takes effort. It was a team effort and I am so proud of these boys.”

And Strang hopes more seeds are planted for the future.


“Hopefully we have some guys that understand what it takes to get to this point and hopefully we can get back to it,” Strang said.

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