Pride outlast Howard for 9A title shot

Ortman’s third-quarter score lifts Canistota/Freeman over rival Tigers

Canistota/Freeman's Tyce Ortman fights for yards while carrying the ball as Howard's Riley Genzlinger fights to bring him down during a Class 9A semifinal football game on Friday in Howard. (Matt Gade / Republic)

HOWARD -- The sequel was as good as the original, but with a different ending.

For the second time this season, Canistota/Freeman and Howard treated fans to a nine-man football thriller, but it was the Pride coming out on top this time.

Canistota/Freeman’s Tyce Ortman scored a 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and it proved to be the difference in a 12-7 heart-pounding Pride victory on Friday in the Class 9A semifinals.

“That Tyce’s ability and we talked about that a little bit, too, him playing out of position all year to lead this team at the quarterback position,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “Once we got a little bit depleted depth wise, there was no doubt we were climbing on his back and going for a ride.”


Canistota/Freeman (10-1) is now riding to the DakotaDome in Vermillion for a shot at a three-peat. The Pride will play Warner on Thursday, Nov. 12 in the Class 9A state championship.

On Friday, the Tigers (9-1) and Pride traded blows all night in the defensive battle. It felt like a carbon copy from the Sept. 11 meeting, which the Tigers won 16-14 in triple overtime.

“I can say enough about coach (Pat) Ruml, his staff and his players,” Strang said. “That is heavy, hard-hitting, aggressive football. It's Cornbelt football. It’s power football and I don’t think there's a person that's upset about a 12-7 game like tonight.”

Howard's Tisyn Spader scrambles downfield as Canistota/Freeman's Riley Heiberger gives chase during a Class 9A semifinal football game on Friday in Howard. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Ortman’s 36-yard scamper in the third quarter proved to be the crucial score in the evenly played, defensive battle. Two plays after Canistota/Freeman forced a turnover on downs at Howard’s 43-yard line, Ortman broke loose and scored the decisive touchdown.

“They made one play,” Ruml said. “Ortman made one more play than we had and obviously, we bottled him up all night pretty much and he made the one play.”


After Ortman saw daylight, it was a race to the end zone and he stretched the ball across the pylon for the score.

“The offensive line did great,” said Ortman about the play. “They pushed and I just found a hole and saw it and got the job done.”

But the teams continued to trade possessions, with Howard having one last shot for the win. The Tigers were forced to punt on their first possession of the fourth quarter. The Pride took over at its own 20-yard line and drained seven minutes off the clock, but punted it right back to the Tigers.

“I had all the confidence in the world that we were going to come down and score on that last drive,” Ruml said.

Howard took over at its own 39-yard line with 2-minutes and 12 seconds left. The Tigers moved the ball into Canistota/Freeman’s territory, but faced a fourth and seven with 1 minute left.

However, Tisyn Spader’s pass attempt to Riley Genzlinger fell incomplete on fourth down, allowing Canistota/Freeman to secure the thriller against its Cornbelt Conference rival.

Canistota/Freeman's Isiah Robertson makes a cut while following his blocker Collin Helma on Howard's Lane Miller during a Class 9A semifinal football game on Friday in Howard. (Matt Gade / Republic)


“Howard, they are one heck of a team,” said Canistota/Freeman senior lineman Cole Papendick, who had 5.5 tackles and one sack. “I am just glad we got it done.”

Howard’s Riley Genzlinger scored the game’s first touchdown on a five-yard run in the first quarter. Canistota/Freeman’s Isiah Robertson scored a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but the missed two-point conversion kept it at 7-6.

The Pride could have scored another touchdown in the second quarter, but the Tigers stuffed it on the final play of the first half. The game remained knotted at 7-6 until Ortman’s score in the third quarter.

“Everybody knew it was going to be a defensive battle coming into this game and we got the job done,” said Ortman, who finished with 111 rushing yards and 5.5 tackles.

Robertson finished with 66 rushing yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. Logan Katzer had a team-high nine tackles.

Genzlinger recorded 77 rushing yards and Howard’s lone score. Ty Beyer posted 9.5 tackles on defense.

Canistota/Freeman will now turn its attention to Warner, which defeated Wall (26-0) on Friday in the other Class 9A semifinal. Canistota/Freeman needs one more win to complete a championship three-peat.

“It's a great opportunity and I know they are going to try to give everything they've got to make that happen,” Strang said.


Howard's Riley Genzlinger dives into the end zone for a score during a Class 9A semifinal football game against Canistota/Freeman on Friday in Howard. (Matt Gade / Republic)

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