Entering this class 9AA championship tilt, the Deurbook Dolphins had survived two close calls in the playoffs, and still managed to possess a perfect 11-0 record heading into Vermillion. A large part of that was their speedy running back Ryan Knutson, who in those 11 games racked up 2175 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Turns out he was only getting started.
The Dolphins' opposition was the Howard Tigers, who had been to the dome several times in the recent past, both as an 11-man and a 9-man team. Their only two losses on the season were by a total of six points to two very strong teams earlier in the season. The Tigers' defense was about to experience a very similar problem that 11 Dolphins' opponents had -- How to stop the ground attack of Knutson?
Their strategy was to try and keep the Dolphins' offense on the field by way of their normal offense, designed around a double wing ground attack and good blocking. It worked for a while, as Howard got the ball first and drove the ball down to the Deubrook 38-yard line, where the drive stalled. Howard then attempted a fake punt and passed to James Jungwith. The pass was incomplete and the Dolphins took over on downs.
It took Deubrook two plays to give the ball to Knutson, who promptly found space on the left side and outran the whole of the Howard defense for a 62 yard touchdown run. The extra point kick by Kay Glatzer was good, and Deubrook had a quick 7-0 lead 2:37 into the game.
Knutson was far from done, however. After a Howard first down took them to their own 49 on the ensuing possession, quarterback Landon Laible fired a pass down the middle of the field, but Knutson was there to intercept it at his own 30. The Dolphins gave the ball to Knutson for seven yards. On the next play, Knutson broke through the middle of the Howard defense for a 63 yard touchdown run. The extra point gave Deubrook a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Howard drove the ball to the Dolphins' 16 yard line, but the pass for Andrew Schwader was batted away by Dustin Trooien and Deubrook took over on their own 16. The Dolphins rolled the dice a few plays later, but crapped out on a long pass for Knutson, which was intercepted by Evan Donahue and returned to the Deubrook 18 yard line. A penalty during the return brought the ball back to the 28. Donahue gave Howard this drive, and he also finished it seven plays later with a 6-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers on the board with 8:22 in the 2nd quarter.
The Ryan Knutson Show returned on the next Deubrook drive. He broke a 43-yard run to get the ball to the Howard 5-yard line, and Riley Hanson got the 4-yard touchdown run a few plays later. Hanson then ran in the fake extra point to put Deubrook up 22-6 with 6:05 to play before halftime. Knutson finished the first half with 244 yards on 14 carries and 2 touchdowns. After a Howard punt, the Dolphins took 11 plays and moved the ball 80 yards before having Glatzer kick a 22-yard field goal to put the Dolphins up 25-6 at halftime.
Deubrook took the second half kickoff and drove to the Howard 26 with the help of quarterback Taylor Olsen's 31 yard keeper, but the Dolphins turned the ball over on a fumbled handoff to Knutson, which Howard recovered at their own 32 with 8:00 remaining in the third quarter. The possession didn't produce anything, and an offensive personal foul resulted in a punt back to the Dolphins.
The Tigers had made some adjustments on defense, and were able to shut down Knutson for most of the third quarter. The resulting punt went out of bounds two yards behind the line of scrimmage, giving Howard the ball at Deubrook's 15-yard line. Two plays later, Donahue got his second touchdown of the game from 10 yards out. The conversion was good, and Howard cut the Deubrook lead to 25-14 with 2:56 left in the 3rd quarter.
With the Howard defense shutting down Knutson, the Dolphins turned to the passing game, and promplty hit Hanson for a 36 yard pass to the Howard 36 yard line. Their fourth down pass to Hanson came up inches short, and Howard had new found momentum heading into the fourth quarter, but still down by 11.
Both teams tried to press their advantage, but neither side could move the ball against the other defense. With 8:04 to play, Deubrook took their third and final timeout of the second half. Even though Howard converted a 4th and 9 after two holding penalties, they came up short of a first down as Jordan Kuhle couldn't stretch the ball across the first down marker, giving the ball back to Deubrook at their own 29 with 5:04 to play. The Dolphins went three-and-out, and Howard took the ball back at their own 30 with 3:27 left.
Eight plays and 70 yards later, Laible hit Schwader in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Donahue tacked on the conversion, and Deubrook now only had a three-point lead with 2:00 left, and Howard down to one timeout.
The onside kickoff from Howard failed, but the Tigers forced a three-and-out again, taking their final timeout with 30 seconds left in the class 9AA season, with Howard still trailing 25-22. Howard was called for roughing the kicker on the punt, giving Deubrook an automatic first down and the class 9AA championship.
Knutson, despite being shut down in the second half, was named the Joe Robbie Most Outstanding Player, amassing 259 yards on 24 carries and getting two touchdowns, adding an interception defensively.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
1 2 3 4-FINAL
HOWARD 0 6 8 8-22
DEUBROOK 14 11 0 0-25
RUSHING: HOW-Loudenburg 26-134yds-0TD; Donahue 11-84-2TD; Potter 6-46; Kuhle 7-26-0; Laible 1-(-2)-0. DEU-Knutson 24-259-2TD; Olsen 4-26-0, Hanson 6-12-1.
PASSING: HOW-Laible 7-19-77yds-1TD-1INT; Schwader 0-1-0-0-0. DEU-Olsen 7-11-100-0-1.
RECEIVING: HOW-Kuhle 3-28-0; Schwader 1-20-0; Larsen 2-19-1TD; Loudenburg 1-10-0. DEU-Trooien 4-56-0; Hanson 3-44-0.