WOLSEY-Byron Pudwill was roaming the sidelines as the defensive coordinator during Bon Homme High School's run to the Class 11B state championship in 1995.
Twenty-three years later, Pudwill, now the head coach, is still on the sidelines, as his Cavaliers are finally headed back to a state championship game after a 44-22 win over top-seeded Wolsey-Wessington on Friday night in the Class 9AA semifinals. Bon Homme (10-1) now moves on to face Kimball/White Lake on Nov. 8 in the DakotaDome for the Class 9AA championship.
The only blemish on the schedule for Bon Homme, of course, was an Aug. 24 double-overtime loss to the Warbirds. The Cavaliers held a 22-8 halftime lead in that game and Pudwill's biggest regret in that game was not putting more points on the board when they had the chance.
The second time around, Bon Homme went up two scores and kept its foot on the gas pedal, rolling to a 29-0 lead at the intermission.
"We talk to them all year about being aggressive and when you get to the big stage, you can't wait," Pudwill said. "We told them to believe and just go after it and they did. I said all year that these guys were as good defensively as any team we've ever had and they proved it tonight."
That defense was suffocating for most of the night, holding a Wolsey-Wessington offense that averaged more than 600 yards of offense without a point and to just one first down.
Standout running backs Devante Luellman and Lynden Williams both came in with more than 3,400 yards combined and were held to just 82 on the night by the Cavaliers.
"We've got a lot of good seniors, they work hard and they're super smart," Pudwill said. "There's a lot of 4.0 guys so they know the film better than I do. They're just football junkies."
While the Warbirds struggled to gain traction on offense, Bon Homme quarterback Joey Slama gave dual-threat a new meaning.
Slama went 14 of 20 passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for 149 yards and two scores on 24 carries. The play that helped the Cavaliers pull away, however, was a touchdown reception.
Late in the second quarter, he pitched the ball to Josh Crownover, who then found a wide-open Slama streaking down the sideline for a 20-yard score to put Bon Homme up 29-0.
"Coach drew it up and we kind of messed up on it, but we made a late adjustment," Slama said. "As soon as I made the pitch, I saw that opening and I started smiling."
Wolsey-Wessington wouldn't go down without a fight, though, as Williams capped off an 80-yard touchdown drive with a three-yard run in the third quarter.
Bon Homme would respond by driving the ball to the Warbird one on the ensuing possession, but a penalty that negated a touchdown (third such occurrence on the night) and a fumble, gave Wolsey-Wessington new life.
After a 51-yard run by Williams, the Warbirds were knocking on the door, but Mark Hamilton was stripped on the final play of the quarter and Bon Homme responded as Slama hit Nate Scieszinski for a 49-yard touchdown to seal the win.
"It was scary," Pudwill said. "We had three touchdowns called back due to penalty and we fumbled it on the six. Luckily it didn't matter. We don't want to do that too many times."
Williams finished with 83 yards on the ground and seven receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns for Wolsey-Wessington (10-1).
Up next, the Cavaliers face Kimball/White Lake, which defeated Garretson 42-14.
"We've all been dreaming of this since we were little kids and it's finally coming true," Slama said.
BH: Christian Uecker 3 run (Joey Slama to Nate Scieszinski)
BH: Joey Slama 3 run (Josh Crownover kick)
BH: Slama 6 run (Crownover kick)
BH: Slama 20 pass from Crownover (Kick failed)
WW: Lynden Williams 3 run (Diedrich Offt)
BH: Scieszinski 49 pass from Slama (Crownover kick)
WW: Williams 54 pass from Skylar Zomer (Run failed)
BH: Nate Schmidt 5 pass from Slama (Slama to Scieszinski)
WW: Williams 34 pass from Zomer (Zomer run)