ALEXANDRIA -- Canistota/Freeman’s defense put another feather in James Strang’s patented backward cap.
Class 9A No. 2 Canistota/Freeman pitched a 40-0 shutout against Class 9AA No. 5 Hanson in the Mitchell Republic Game of the Week. The Pride (7-1) handed Hanson (6-2) its first shutout of the season, giving the defensive-minded coach Strang reason to smile after the victory.
“I love coaching defense and I loved the way the boys played tonight,” said Strang, who sports a backward Canistota/Freeman cap on the sidelines.
The Pride held the Beavers to 173 yards and bottled up Hanson running back Hadley Wallace and quarterback Kade Waldera for much of the night.
“They have good backs and a decent line,” Canistota/Freeman quarterback/defensive back Tyce Ortman said. “They are a good team and our defense is just responsibility-based and we came out and got it done.”
Hanson, which gave Class 9AA No. 1 Viborg-Hurley fits last week, couldn’t duplicate the same effort on Friday. The Beavers fell into a 22-0 halftime hole and couldn’t dig out of it against the Pride.
“It didn’t seem like we had the same fire (as last week),” Hanson coach Jim Haskamp said. “But they had a lot to do with us not being able to come back.”
The Pride’s offense complemented the defense, too. Blake Anderson scored a 25-yard touchdown to cap an efficient opening possession for Canistota/Freeman, which racked up 383 total yards. Hanson failed to answer and Ortman later connected with Logan Katzer for a highlight-reel touchdown on Canistota/Freeman’s next drive.
Facing fourth down inside Hanson’s 20-yard line, Ortman lofted up a pass to Katzer, who hauled in the catch over Hanson’s Brock Tuttle. Katzer snagged the ball with Tuttle face-guarding him.
“Logan does a great job of picking up the football and they were playing tight-man press all night and they were on us like a new shirt,” Strang said. “We got a little space and we were able to make something happen there. Katzer, you give him a shot and he’s going to go get it.”
Ortman then intercepted Waldera on the next possession and later scored from 15 yards out for a 22-0 advantage. Canistota/Freeman’s defense then came through again late in the first half.
After Ortman muffed a punt return, Hanson recovered and drove the ball inside Canistota/Freeman’s 10-yard line. The Beavers, however, couldn’t capitalize and failed to punch it in. The fourth-down pass from Waldera to 6-foot-7 Hayden Bahmuller in the end zone was batted away by Isiah Robertson, preserving the 22-0 shutout.
“I messed up on the punt return and my teammates had my back the whole time,” Ortman said. “They kept me up the whole time and we got through it together. It was a team effort.”
Robertson and Anderson each scored third-quarter touchdowns to make it 34-0. Canistota/Freeman’s Noah Kleinsasser scored the game’s final score on a 45-yard run.
Ortman finished with 165 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Robertson added 13 carries for 133 yards. Katzer led the defense with six tackles.
Wallace had 39 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards. Waldera had 42 passing yards. Tuttle led the defense with nine tackles, while Thailan Hallman added eight tackles. Riley Ferry posted six tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.
The teams will now shift their attention to the playoffs. The first-round matchups were not set when this edition went to press, but both teams will likely host games on Thursday.
“You have to put this in the back of your mind and get ready for next week,” Haskamp said. “Next week is the playoffs and a new season. Let’s get focused on that and that’s what we have to do.”
The Pride, which has won the last two Class 9A titles, has its sights set on another postseason run.
“We are hoping to go back to the Dome and four more is what it takes,” Ortman said.