South Dakota Gridiron Report: Winner has three straight shutout wins heading into 11B semis
If defense wins championships, then Winner is in a good position.
Through a 9-0 start, the Warriors have allowed 5.3 points per game (48 total points) and pitched three straight shutouts. In fact, Chamberlain is the only team to reach double-digits against them during a 52-14 Winner victory on Oct. 2.
Winner followed that performance by completing an undefeated regular season with a 50-0 win over Miller/Highmore-Harrold, and then haven’t allowed a point in the Class 11B postseason against Garretson (40-0) and McCook Central/Montrose (30-0).
“I’d say the biggest thing is we haven’t given up big plays. That’s how teams have scored on us this season -- big plays,” Winner coach Trent Olson said. “... Not giving those up is the whole key.”
Olson praised his defense for last week’s performance, one that saw Winner hold MCM to 137 yards and standout running back Jacobi Krouse to 64 yards on 21 carries. It’s the third straight week Winner hasn’t allowed 200 yards, as it gives up 132.3 yards per game during its shutout streak.
Kaden Keiser intercepted a pair of passes to go with eight tackles and Landon Thieman had a team-high 13 tackles. Winner also had three tackles for loss in the win.
“Our defense has played really well. Never better than they did last week,” Olson said. “That was a huge game defensively against a very good offense, an explosive offense. We were able to hold them in check.”
As Winner eyes a return trip to the Class 11B state championship game, another explosive offense stands in its way at 7 p.m. Friday. Sioux Valley has put up 100 points in its first two postseason games, averaging 33.8 points per game.
The Cossacks have been held under 15 points three times this season, but also topped 40 points five times.
Olson recognizes Sioux Valley’s bevy of playmakers, so a return trip to the title game could rely on another strong defensive performance.
“That’s where you always start,” Olson said. “You always start with defense. If the other team can’t score, they can’t beat you.”
-- Mitchell Republic sports reporter Jeremy Karll
Howard and Canistota/Freeman to clash in Class 9A semifinals
HOWARD -- The stage is set for the sequel.
On Sept. 11, Howard outlasted Canistota/Freeman in a triple-overtime classic between the Cornbelt Conference rivals. On Friday, the Tigers (9-0) and Pride (9-1) will lock horns again in the Class 9A semifinals, with the winner facing Wall or Warner in the state championship on Nov. 12 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Howard and Canisota/Freeman play at 7 p.m. Friday in Howard.
“We figured both of us -- Howard and Canistota/Freeman -- would both be in this situation at some point, in the semifinals or the state championship game,” Canistota/Freeman coach James Strang said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to try and get a win off of these guys, especially when it’s going to go to play in the big game.”
The matchup is definitely oozing with anticipation, and in large part because of the regular-season matchup. The defensive slugfest was capped off in the third overtime, with a fake PAT pass attempt from Tisyn Spader to Sam Aslesen lifting Howard to the 16-14 victory.
“This game will probably be a lot like the last one,” Howard coach Pat Ruml said. “I know people are thinking this is the state championship game and all that. I don’t like all that either because I don’t think it’s fair to the other teams on the other side.”
The Tigers and Pride certainly know what to expect from each other. The conference and region foes meet each other during the regular season, while Canistota/Freeman topped Howard in the 2018 Class 9A state championship. Canistota/Freeman has won each of the last two Class 9A state championships.
After the Sept. 11 matchup, the teams continued to roll through the regular season and postseason. They both have hung their hats on playing sound defense, too.
The Tigers have four shutouts this season, while they defeated De Smet (20-0) and Castlewood (56-13) through the first two rounds. Canistota/Freeman has also pitched four shutouts and knocked off Chester Area (48-14) and Philip (50-0) in the postseason.
“It’s going to have to be a grind-it-out game I think both ways,” Ruml said. “It’s just going to have to be which offense provides enough of a little wrinkle or gets a drive going. … Whoever wins this game has to do the little things right. That’s probably the most important when it comes down to it and defense is going to be the name of the game again I am sure.”
-- Mitchell Republic sports reporter Ryan Deal