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Cavaliers and WiLdKats make long-awaited return to DakotaDome

Bon Homme running back Christian Uecker makes a move on Parkston's Nathan Boettcher (10) during a game on Aug. 17. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Class 9AA championship football game pits a pair of familiar opponents in an unfamiliar situation.

Bon Homme (10-1) enters the DakotaDome for today's matchup in Vermillion as the No. 4 seed, while its opponent Kimball/White Lake (8-3) is the No. 7 seed. The Cavaliers and WiLdKats met earlier in the season, with the former coming away with a 25-7 win on Sept. 7, but playing in a state championship game is unfamiliar territory for both teams. Kimball/White Lake and Bon Home square off for the Class 9AA championship at 1 p.m. today at the DakotaDome.

Bon Homme is making its first appearance in the title game since winning back-to-back championships in Class 11B in 1994 and 1995. Kimball/White Lake's lone appearance as a co-op came in a 2011 loss to Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.

"You walk through the hall, you go a gas station, you go to church, you go anywhere—there's something special about stuff like this in a small town where you just hear it all the time," Bon Homme head coach Byron Pudwill said. "That's a good thing. There's a lot of well-wishes and it's definitely a rush."

A lot has changed since that first meeting, however, as KWL has won six games in a row and has allowed just 28 points during that span, which has included a win over Jones County/White River in the first round, followed by back-to-back romps over a pair of previously unbeaten teams in Arlington/Lake Preston and Garretson, respectively.

Offensively, the WiLdKats are also averaging 42 points per game during the winning streak, up from 15.6 in the first five. Quarterback Javen Holan has 1,203 yards and 11 touchdowns, while running back Carter Fredericksen has 17 scores and is one yard shy of 1,000 for the season. KWL will need points against a stout Bon Homme defense that held Wolsey-Wessington's tandem of Lynden Williams and Devante Luellman to 82 rushing yards, 266 below their combined average.

"I think our offense has gotten better. We've been able to put a few more points on the board," KWL head coach Dale Taylor said. "I'd like to think we've improved in all aspects of the game. We've improved more than they've improved since we played."

One of those improvements for KWL is the addition of South Dakota State University commit Bo Donald, who was injured during the first meeting. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, Donald helps anchor a group that also features Justin Becker (6-8, 195) and Kordel Kiehn (6-6, 195).

That could become the feature matchup, as the WiLdKats must slow down Bon Homme quarterback Joey Slama, who scored five total touchdowns, threw for 274 yards and ran for 149 in a 44-22 rout of top seed Wolsey-Wessington on Friday.

"I would like to think that (Donald) would make a difference," Taylor said. "That's one thing we're hoping for. He think he's made a difference in these last games since he's been back. We've been able to move people around and put them where we think they belong."

Perhaps the biggest key to the game may be the first team to adjust to the atmosphere of a state championship game and everything that comes with it.

It has been a while since either fan base has experienced a state championship and they are both salivating at the thought of leaving Vermillion with a trophy.

"What else are you going to in the middle of November in South Dakota?" Pudwill said. "On Thanksgiving we all eat food and watch college football, but on the second weekend in November, you head to the Dome or turn the TV on and watch the games."