BRIDGEWATER -- Continuing a long Seahawk tradition, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan will be playing into November on their home field and deep into the Class 11B postseason once again.
The No. 2 seeded Seahawks (10-0) bludgeoned Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central on the ground on Thursday night and made life difficult for the Blackhawks’ offense in a 42-6 win in the state quarterfinals at Sparky Anderson Field.
Since moving to Class 11B from the nine-man ranks in 2015, the Seahawks will make their fifth consecutive appearance in the state semifinals when Mobridge-Pollock (9-0) visits Bridgewater on Nov. 6. The Seahawks — the reigning state champions — are looking for their fourth-straight state title game appearance.
Thursday’s performance was emblematic of the Seahawks’ winning formula this year. BEE rushed for 288 yards on 50 carries, right on their pace of 283 yards of rushing per game, while averaging 44.5 points per game. The Seahawks’ defense, which hasn’t allowed more than 12 points in a game all season, was stout once again limiting much movement from the visiting Blackhawks. The victory is BEE’s 22nd in a row, dating back to the start of the 2019 championship season.
“We had a few mistakes and put the ball on the ground a few too many times for my liking but up front, we did a nice job on both sides of the ball,” BEE coach Jeff VanLeur said. “We had to come out and meet that physicality and I think we controlled it.”
After the Seahawks fumbled the ball on the opening possession at the goal line, BEE struck first anyway with Kaden Klumb’s 11-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. After the Blackhawks returned the kickoff across their own 40 yard line, WWSSC fumbled the next snap and BEE recovered, with Koby Kayser scoring three plays later from 27 yards out.
Kayser had three touchdown runs in the victory, rushing for 154 yards on 17 carries. Backfield partner Bodie Burnham rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns. Burnham and Kayser each scored in the second quarter, putting BEE up 28-0 late in the first half.
“They have a veteran line and the experience and it showed,” said WWSSC coach Corey Flatten. “They just knock you in the mouth right away. Our guys worked their tails off and did everything they could but it comes down to the physicality.”
A late BEE blemish before halftime allowed WWSSC to get on the scoreboard and take some energy into the halftime huddle. A Seahawks punt attempt was thwarted by a high snap and WWSSC took over at the BEE 27-yard line. Quarterback Tryce Slykhuis connected Clay Olinger on a pass to get inside the 10-yard line and Slykhuis scrambled for a touchdown on the next play, trimming the lead to 28-6 with 4 seconds on the first-half clock.
Out of halftime, BEE held the Blackhawks to a three-and-out series and promptly responded with Kayser breaking off a 33-yard touchdown run to put BEE up 35-6. Both Kayser and Burnham had rushing touchdowns in the quarter, as running time went into action in the fourth quarter to finish out the contest. Rylee Schultz had 10 tackles, while Brooks Jansen had nine stops for the BEE defense.
“We knew it was going to be a battle of the lines and that whoever won the lines was going to win the game,” Burnham said. “That’s where we started. We came out with a lot of energy and started clicking right away.
The season ends at 7-3 for WWSSC, a stark turnaround for a team with three wins a year ago, as the Blackhawks look to build their way back to prominence. Flatten said it's a realization of how much work it will take to be a top program in Class 11B.
For the Seahawks, VanLeur said they’re looking forward to being on their home field for another big game.
“Mobridge-Pollock has a really good team, but they’ve got a long trip and we’re happy to have the chance to be at home next week. We get to stay in our routine and be ready to play a good football game,” VanLeur said.