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Freeman, Canistota find perfect football fit

FREEMAN -- Freeman has varsity football back again. And through the school's co-op with Canistota, it has made this fall a lot more fun. The schools in both towns are playing football together this year as part of a co-op and it's been so far, so...

FREEMAN - Freeman has varsity football back again.

And through the school's co-op with Canistota, it has made this fall a lot more fun.

The schools in both towns are playing football together this year as part of a co-op and it's been so far, so good for the Hawks.

After Canistota won the Class 9A championship a year ago, the co-op team moved up to Class 9AA and has gotten off to a strong 3-0 start, the Hawks are ranked No. 2 in the Class 9AA poll. The Hawks will host Hanson at 7 p.m. today in Canistota in a Cornbelt Conference contest.

With the co-op, both towns-each with their own proud history of football-are enjoying Friday nights.

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"Both communities have really responded well," said Hawks coach James Strang, who is at his fourth year of leading Canistota's team. "We both have strong football traditions. Freeman was the team known across the state for nine-man football for a long time. I'm very happy that this program has come together to bring football to that hometown and we've embraced these two towns in the cooperative."

For this year, the team will still be known as Canistota, wearing black and orange. Long-term, the two schools will build a new identity: colors, name, nickname and uniforms.

"I think we're looking forward putting something together, long-term and something that will only strengthen our relationship together," said Freeman High School Superintendent and Athletic Director Don Hotchkiss.

Prior to this season, the Canistota and Freeman agreed to co-op for football, including having one home game in Freeman. On Sept. 9, the Hawks played in front of a large crowd in Freeman for the school's homecoming, which included a junior-high game, an elementary fun run, a pre-game barbecue and then the varsity contest, in which the home team did its part in a 32-8 win over Howard.

"It was a great turnout," Hotchkiss said. "We had a big crowd for all of our events and then we had a lot of people who stuck around for the game and cheered the team on."

And it helps the the Hawks have been a winner, so far this season.

"Winning cures a lot of ills," Hotchkiss said.

The co-op comes at a good time for the two schools. Freeman has just nine players on the varsity this season and two of those players have gotten hurt this year, with a eight more on the junior high teams. Strang said Canistota would have likely faced participation hurdles down the line.

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"In Canistota, we were looking at a future of lower numbers, especially at the junior high and youth football levels," Strang said. "I think it's going to be a long-term benefit and it's going to be assure we have those kids on the field."

Strang said that he hopes the early foundation of winning and the two town's proud tradition of football can carry over into the co-op's future, with success breeding success. And as for the 2016 season, there's more work to be done.

"It's been a learning process," he said. "The three wins are great. We have a lot of things we have to do in the preparation for the future. We can't rest on the fact we've won a few games and we've played pretty well but want to go further."

Related Topics: FOOTBALLFREEMAN
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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