Canistota/Freeman sets sights on three-peat: Pride plays Warner in 9A state championship

Canistota/Freeman's Isiah Robertson makes a cut while following his blocker Clayton Smith (44) through the Howard defense on Nov. 6 in Howard.

VERMILLION -- Canistota/Freeman is 48 minutes away from a three-peat.

The Pride (10-1) will play Warner (10-0) at 7 p.m. today in the Class 9A state championship at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Canistota/Freeman would join Freeman (1997-99) as the only teams to win three straight Class 9A titles.

“They want to go out and get three,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “It doesn't really matter if you talk about it being three championships or one championship, it’s still a pretty big deal. In order to get three, you have to get this one.”

So naturally, this stage is nothing new for Canistota/Freeman’s core. The upperclassmen have played on the big stage and in tight games for three straight seasons.

Leading the way is senior quarterback/defensive back Tyce Ortman, whose key 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter helped propel Canistota/Freeman over Howard in the semifinals. Offensively, Ortman has racked up 753 passing yards and 14 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1,011 yards and 20 scores. Defensively, he has 41 tackles and one interception.


After today, Ortman will have experience playing wide receiver, running back and quarterback in the state championship.

“Tyce does it without complaining,” Strang said about Ortman switching positions. “He does whatever is best for the team.”

Ortman, who didn’t attempt a single pass the previous two seasons, said the offensive attack starts with the offensive line. Clayton Smith, Cole Papendick, Logan Heinzmann, Logan Katzer and Riley Heiberger anchor the lines.

“They protect me and our receivers are pretty solid,” Ortman said. “They are fast and can catch the ball. All I do is throw the ball and everybody else does the work.”

Running back Isiah Robertson (760 rushing yards/11 touchdowns) also powers the ground game. But he injured his ankle in the semifinal game and his status for today is to be determined.

Katzer has hauled in 15 catches for 238 yards and five touchdown receptions. Collin Helma has recorded four touchdown receptions. Blake Anderson (268 rushing yards/six touchdowns) also contributes out of the backfield.

Standing in Canistota/Freeman’s way are the Monarchs, who knocked off Wall (26-0) in their semifinal game. Warner, a member of the Lake Region Conference, is making its third-ever appearance in the state championship. The Monarchs are 0-2 all-time, including a 52-8 loss to Canistota in 2012.

The Monarchs are powered by freshman quarterback Hunter Cramer, along with senior running backs Ty Cramer and Jackson McNeil, who stands 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds.


Strang anticipates the Monarchs will throw multiple looks at the Pride.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a team that has as many small intricacies and different formations -- both offensively and defensively -- that we have to try and dissect,” Strang said. “Hopefully that’s something we can try and get figured out as a coaching staff through scouting, They’ve got a few more irons in the fire than some of the other teams we’ve played, but they are definitely a balanced team with run and pass and so we have to be prepared for that.”

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