Much like the last two years, the Canistota Hawks set foot in the Dakota Dome with an undefeated record, to play for a state championship against an undefeated opponent. In those two games, the Hawks had rolled over Hitchcock-Tulare (2010, 66-0 final) and Wall (2011, 66-6 final), so would the fate be any different for the Warner Monarchs this time around, who also sported a perfect 11-0 record heading into the Dakota Dome, but also had a pair of 6-4 linebackers to contain the ground game?
Though the Monarchs fared better than either of their preceding challengers to the Canistota Football Supremacy, the Hawks won their 36th straight football game and third straight state championship with a 52-8 victory in the first of six South Dakota title games.
Things got started on the third play from scrimmage. Warner took the ball on their own 35 after the opening kickoff rolled out of bounds, and a long pass attempt from Monarchs' quarterback Clay Rozell sailed over the intended receiver and Canistota's Cody Bunger intercepted the pass, returning it to the Warner 31 yard line. Six plays later, Eric Tieszen rammed the ball in the end zone for the game's opening score. The conversion failed, and the Hawks had a 6-0 lead with 8:35 left in the opening quarter.
Warner went three-and-out on their next possession, and Canistota made the Warner defense pay for their 22-yard punt, as well as over-pursuing ballcarriers and missing tackles, by getting a 26 yard run from Nick Hofer on the first play of the next possession, and two plays later a 28 yard touchdown run from Alex Robertson. Warner again successfully defensed the two-point conversion attempt, and the first quarter ended 12-0 in the defending champions' favor.
Warner seemed to figure out how to defend the Hawks' rushing game, so coach Lenny Schroeder unleashed Bunger and the passing game in the second quarter. It worked to the tune of 10-for-11 passing in the first half for 247 yards (Which set a class 9A title game passing record in the first half) and three passing touchdowns. The first of these happened five seconds into the second quarter, on a 17-yard swing pass to Hofer, who made the first Warner tackler miss, and then had a clear path to the end zone.
Warner then mishandled the ensuing kickoff, allowing Canistota to recover the ball at their own 39 yard line. The Hawks re-visited the end zone on the next play, a 39-yard bomb from Bunger to Hofer. Tieszen ran in the conversion to give Canistota a 28-0 lead with 11:46 left in the 2nd quarter.
Warner then put together a nice drive but it stalled at the Canistota 31 yard line, and the Monarchs turned the ball over on downs. Bunger then capped a 7-play scoring drive with a 29-yard pass to Boone DeKramer to put Canistota up 34-0 with 3:58 before halftime.
The Monarchs did gain some momentum just before halftime, and Rozell completed a 60-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Boesl. Rozell tacked on the conversion to send the game to halftime with Canistota leading 34-8.
Warner kept their momentum by recovering the opening kickoff at the Hawks' 40-yard line. They were unable to convert 4th and 1, and turned the ball over to Canistota, who held the ball for 15 plays and 6:18 before Tieszen punched the ball in from a yard out. The conversion failed, and Canistota held a 40-8 lead with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
Warner wouldn't let the game get out of hand though, they drove the ball back down the field to the Canistota 5-yard line, but couldn't punch the ball in the end zone. Canistota would take the ball 90 yards in six plays to score another touchdown, which cemented the final result, as well as the Hawks' third straight state football championship and 36th consecutive victory.
Bunger was named the Joe Robbie MVP, going 12-for-13 passing for 294 yards and three passing touchdowns, tacking on three interceptions on defense as well.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4-FINAL
WARNER 0 8 0 0- 8
CANISTOTA 12 22 6 12-52
GAME STATS: RUSHING: WAR-Rozell 17-43yds-0TD; Peck 4-25-0; Boesl 9-20-0; Young 2-3-0; Braun 2-2-0; Ja. Tuszka 1-1-0; Heilman 1-(-1)-0; CAN-Robertson 18-129-2TD; Tieszen 7-44-2; Nielsen 1-43-1; Hofer 2-33-0; Bunger 11-24-0; DeKramer 1-7-0; Jolley 1-6-0; C. Hofer 1-3-0.
PASSING: WAR-Rozell 14-23-157yds-1TD-3INT. CAN-Bunger 12-13-294-3-0; Jolley 1-1-33-0-0.
RECEIVING: WAR-Boesl 5-120yds-1TD; D. Tuszka 2-21-0; J. Tuszka 4-12-0; Easton 1-2-0; Ochsner 2-2-0. CAN-N. Hofer 7-195-2; DeKramer 2-57-1; D. Seubert 2-34-0; J. Nielsen 1-33-0; Robertson 1-8-0.