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Passing game the difference for Canistota defense, offense

VERMILLION--The Canistota Hawks' defense threw Sully Buttes into a no-fly zone on Thursday at the DakotaDome. In the Hawks' 56-8 Class 9A state championship win, Canistota held the Chargers to 73 total passing yards, including only nine in the fi...

Canistota's Jerad Nielsen (27) tackles Sully Buttes' Clay Feller (10) during the class 9A state championships at the DakotaDome on Thursday in Vermillion. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Canistota's Drew Seubert tackles Sully Buttes' Clay Feller (10) during the class 9A state championships at the DakotaDome on Thursday in Vermillion. (Matt Gade/Republic)

VERMILLION-The Canistota Hawks' defense threw Sully Buttes into a no-fly zone on Thursday at the DakotaDome.

In the Hawks' 56-8 Class 9A state championship win, Canistota held the Chargers to 73 total passing yards, including only nine in the first half and 22 after the third quarter.

"We just wanted to take them out of a rhythm early," Canistota head coach James Strang said. "We pressed them a little bit and played over the top and neutralized the passing game. The quarterback was still delivering the ball early, but we were in position to make plays happen right away."

Chargers standout quarterback Scott Senftner was never able to get into a rhythm, as he completed 8-of-26 passes for 73 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns.

It was obvious from the start the Hawks wanted to take away Sully Buttes wideout Cody Nelson from the passing game. On the Chargers' first series, Senftner tried to find his favorite target three straight times, but couldn't connect on any of the passes, setting the tone for the rest of the contest.

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"They're not going to give you your number one option on the outside, and they double-teamed (Cody) from the start," Chargers head coach Mark Senftner said. "Our inability to catch the ball hurt us. We had receivers open, but we didn't make plays to sustain drives. I think we had four or five drops, and you can't do that against a team like this. You have to be almost perfect."

Senior linebacker Drew Seubert recorded the first interception return for a touchdown right before halftime, as he read Senftner's eyes trying to throw a curl route to his receiver. Seubert jumped the route to make the catch, and gave the Hawks a 42-0 lead at the half.

"He looked out over the middle, and I was able to jump the underneath route," Seubert said. "When I caught it, I knew I had one guy to beat, and I beat him to get in."

His teammate, and the game's MVP, Jerad Nielsen, followed suit in the second half with a pick-six of his own.

"I wasn't thinking I wanted to get one for myself (after I saw Drew's), but we knew they were going to throw it a lot," Nielsen said. "I followed my assignment, and I was able to undercut the quarterback and get a score."

Meanwhile, Canistota ran into little opposition when it wanted to put the ball in the air. Quarterback Shay Jolley threw a pair of touchdown passes in addition to throwing for 134 passing yards on 10 attempts, and completed a 66-yard bomb to wideout Scott Jolley on a deep pass which Shay had two available open options. It was Scott Jolley's only catch of the day.

"My wide receivers run their routes so crisp, I can throw it to anyone because they're usually open," Shay Jolley said. "When I saw Scott get open, I just put it on him. We figured they'd be keying on Jerad right away, so we thought we could run the power pass right away. After we spread them out and hit them with a few deep balls, Jerad just went off."

Nielsen had two catches for 34 yards, Seubert had a catch for 16 yards and Peyton Fairchild snagged a pass for 10 yards.

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Canistota's Scott Jolley (12) makes his way to the endzone for a score during the class 9A state championships at the DakotaDome on Thursday in Vermillion. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Canistota's Scott Jolley (12) makes his way to the endzone for a score during the class 9A state championships at the DakotaDome on Thursday in Vermillion. (Matt Gade/Republic)

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