DEFENSE CARRIES PRIDE INTO SEMIFINALS
Canistota/Freeman head coach James Strang said earlier this week that, when his defense is firing on all cylinders, it can play with anybody.
The Pride proved on Thursday night just how good that defense can be.
Facing No. 3 Ipswich in the quarterfinal round of the Class 9AA playoffs on a crisp night in Ipswich, Canistota/Freeman took down the Tigers 14-0 to advance to next week’s semifinals, where it will face No. 2 Parkston in Parkston.
The Pride’s Oct. 28 win over Ipswich was the second week in a row they upset a one-loss team; Canistota/Freeman defeated Florence/Henry 22-20 in the opening round of the playoffs.
“We played as well defensively as we have all season,” Strang said of his team’s effort against Ipswich Thursday night — a team that averaged almost 43 points per game in its previous nine outings. “They’re a tremendous football team with good balance of run and pass, so you can’t focus on just one thing.
“Nothing makes me happier than when I see a defense that’s making points of contact and then you see the jerseys flying in to try and clean things up,” he continued. “That’s what team defense is all about; that’s responsibility-driven and it’s amazing.”
The Pride held the Tigers to 191 total yards and stopped them on every series in multiple ways, whether it was on downs, a turnover, or forcing them to punt.
Even when Ipswich was deep in Pride territory and threatening to score, “we held,” said Strang. “We did a tremendous job of dropping into zones, good coverage over the top, and then rallying. There are so many players that did so many big things.”
The only points of the game came on two touchdowns from the Pride in the second quarter — the first on a short run around the outside by quarter Tage Ortman and the second on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Ortman to Will Ortman.
Ortman threw for 190 yards on 10-of-16 passing while Isaiah Robertson ran for 66 yards on 22 carries; he also returned the opening kickoff deep into Ipswich territory before the Pride were stopped on downs, and converted a two-point conversion Canistota/Freeman’s second touchdown of the game.
The next test for the Pride will be Parkston, an 8-2 team after its 34-7 win over Garretson in Thursday’s quarterfinal round.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck,” said Strang. “That’s what playoff football is all about.”