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Pride pulls away late to repeat, claim Class 9A state title

Canistota/Freeman runs up 467 yards of offense, blanks Britton-Hecla in the second half

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Canistota/Freeman's Tyce Ortman (2) leaps over the pile while carrying the ball as Britton-Hecla's Joel James (24) closes in for the tackle during the Class 9A state football championships on Thursday at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)

BROOKINGS -- Canistota/Freeman’s perch on top of Class 9A isn’t moving.

A shootout-turned-defensive-battle favored the Pride. And for the second straight year, they claimed the Class 9A state championship. This time, it took handing Britton-Hecla its only loss of the season, 46-34, on Thursday at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

“This is what you dream of, trying to get state championships. So it feels great,” said two-time MVP winner Trey Ortman, who delivered the final blow.

He snuck into the end zone on second-and-goal from a yard out with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining for his third total touchdown, putting the game out of reach and punctuating an 11-1 season.

“It’s an amazing experience,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “These boys worked so hard in the preseason. Everything that goes on in the course of a year, it’s amazing to repeat. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially with the way 9A was this year.”

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Trey Ortman finished with 80 rushing yards, as he hit the mark with Tyce Ortman (114) and Bailey Sage (81) during the Pride’s 278-yard day on the ground.

Tyce Ortman ran for touchdowns of 5 and 25 yards, while Sage opened Canistota/Freeman’s scoring with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. But it was Britton-Hecla (10-1) who controlled the ground game in the early going.

The Braves took 7:14 off the clock on its 14-play, 73-yard opening drive. By halftime, Cole Fosness had 151 of his game-high 188 yards and two touchdowns.

“They were the best line we’ve seen,” said Sage, who had a team-best 12 tackles. “... (Fosness) is a shifty guy. If you over-pursue, he’s going to cut back and turn on the burners.”
Sage answered with a touchdown, followed by an offensive explosion in the second quarter. They combined for seven touchdowns, with each drive lasting under 2:10.

It started with Trey connecting with Tyce Ortman for a 64-yard score, and ended with the senior quarterback tossing a 96-yard pick-six to Stanley Haskins Jr., giving the Braves a four-point lead 16 seconds before halftime.

Trey audibled out of a run to a pass intended to Tyce. Haskins, who started the play on the defensive line, dropped back in coverage and read the route perfectly.

“We had a run called and should’ve stuck with the run, especially in that situation,” Trey said. “I gave a call to Tyce and he just read it and made a good play.”

It was one of three turnovers by Canistota/Freeman, which forced two of its own. Giveaways prevented both teams from taking multi-score leads, including when Haskins -- who was questionable heading into the game and playing at 75-80 percent -- fumbled to set up the Pride’s go-ahead touchdown drive midway through the third.

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Tyce Ortman capped the eight-play, 73-yard scoring drive with a 25-yard run, as he finished with 202 total offensive yards and three scores.

It was the highlight of Canistota/Freeman’s defensive turnaround. After allowing 243 yards of total offense and 34 first-half points, the Braves were shutout and held to 79 total yards after the break. Tyce Ortman and Logan Katzer each had 10 tackles. Trey Ortman, who was named the back of the game, had five tackles.

“I think both teams made good adjustments,” Britton-Hecla coach and Woonsocket native Patrick Renner said. “I have no other explanation for it. We were able to shut down some of their stuff, and they made better adjustments and shut us down better.”

Britton-Hecla opened the game in an empty-man formation in tribute to injured quarterback Trevor Zuehlke. It took a delay of game penalty, which Canistota/Freeman declined.

“We did it just for the state game,” Renner said. “We called an empty-man formation, just a tribute to Trevor Zuehlke. We talked to the other team and they bought in. … It was a way to bring awareness to Trevor’s situation.”

For Canistota/Freeman, Collin Helma intercepted a pass. Haskins finished with 64 rushing yards for the Braves. Fosness added a team-high 10 tackles and forced a fumble, while Joel James added eight tackles and a sack. Wyatt Bray recorded eight tackles.

Notes: Canistota/Freeman’s Micah Swensen was named the lineman of the game. … Instant replay was used for the first time during the game to check the spot of the ball, and the call was confirmed.

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Canistota/Freeman's Tyce Ortman (2) stumbles his way into the end zone for a score in front of Britton-Hecla's Joel James (24) during the Class 9A state football championships on Thursday at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. (Matt Gade / Republic)

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