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Rivalry renewed for Blackhawks, Warbirds

WOONSOCKET--The Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central football team is determined to not let anything stand in its way of capturing a state championship.

WOONSOCKET-The Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central football team is determined to not let anything stand in its way of capturing a state championship.

That includes rival Wolsey-Wessington.

The two teams-which have played each other since 2011 as part of the 281 Conference-will face off for the Class 9AA state championship at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday in the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Heading into the matchup, the Warbirds hold a 3-2 series lead over the Blackhawks, with W/WS/SC winning a 20-6 contest earlier this season on Oct. 16 in Woonsocket.

"This definitely adds to the rivalry between the two schools," Blackhawks head coach Jason Kolousek said. "This game does add something to this rivalry. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but winning that state title is a major goal, and if we have to do it over our rival, then that's what has to happen."

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Both programs-who are about 30 miles away from each other-reached the DakotaDome last season, but had their title dreams end in heartbreak. The Warbirds-who were in Class 9A in 2014-fell to Howard 32-20, while the Blackhawks were defeated 31-8 by Gregory in the Class 9AA title game.

"With both teams making it to the state championship game last year, going into this year a lot of people thought these two teams were two of the better teams in 9AA," Kolousek said. "After everything played out, we're the two best teams in 9AA and we're squaring off. Our schools are only 30 minutes away from each other, the kids have competed against each other in all different sports, and both have seen a lot of success. This is probably the right way for this rivalry to go, with the two best teams in 9AA squaring off."

After the Blackhawks won the opening matchup against Wolsey-Wessington in 2011 42-34, the next two contests were blowouts by the Warbirds, 40-0 in 2012 and 42-22 in 2013. In what was perhaps the most competitive game in either team's season in 2014, the Warbirds narrowly edged the Blackhawks 44-42.

"This is a big game," Warbirds head coach Gordon Hooks said, adding he expected a large crowd to fill the DakotaDome. "It makes it fun that all the kids know each other. There's a lot of people in both communities that know each other, and there's some smack-talk going on. It's all in good fun though, I know both teams respect each other."

Meanwhile, Kolousek said he hopes the Blackhawks can even the all-time series against the Warbirds, but more importantly, he wants his senior-led team to walk away with a state championship over its rival.

"It would be tremendous," Kolousek said. "I really want these kids to win a championship, they just deserve it. The Wolsey-Wessington kids deserve it too, but I don't know them. I know our kids, and they deserve it. When they were freshmen, a lot of these seniors got thrown into games they maybe weren't ready for, and we weren't very good that year, we went 2-6. They learned from that, and kept working and working and gave themselves a great opportunity to end it with a championship. I know they would savor this forever, it would be very rewarding for me if these kids can earn it."

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