The Bulldogs made it to the 2017 football playoffs for their fifth consecutive year since coach Mike Warne took the helm in 2012.
They traveled to Canistota Oct. 19 to play in the first round in Class 9A, qualifying as the third team in Region 3 and drawing as their opponent, fellow contender from Region 3, Canistota-Freeman (6-3 in the regular season).
Canistota advanced with a 36-22 victory, earning themselves a sixth-place seed in the quarterfinals and sending the Bulldogs home for the season.
“For the most part, the kids played well — played hard — gave themselves a chance,” Warne said.
The Bulldogs were down 16-8 at half after scoring on an 88-yard kickoff return by Zach Wolkow (Cade Birkel with conversion run) in the first quarter. By the end of the third quarter, they had added another score on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Birkel to Gage Gruenhagen (Wolkow with the conversion reception) but were down 30-16.
They were able to utilize some onside kick shenanigans late in the game to recover possession and score on a four-yard run by Gage Gruenhagen (conversion failed) and move themselves one touchdown away from a comeback. However, their next drive stalled and Canistota-Freeman put the game away with another touchdown.
Birkel had a huge game, going 10 for 14 for 107 yards passing and rushing 18 times for 106 yards. In addition to the big kick return, Wolkow rushed six times for 30 yards and also pulled in five receptions for 52 yards. Gruenhagen caught two passes for 23 yards.
Gruenhagen also led the defensive effort with 14 tackles. Tate Perry had nine and Jayden Woodcock and Koby Spader tied with 8.5 stops. Birkel pulled in one interception off of Canistota quarterback Trey Ortman.
Ortman finished the game with 8 completions on 11 attempts for 111 yards. However, Canistota was able to compile 322 rushing yards behind a 244-yard, three-touchdown performance by running back Scott Jolley.
Looking ahead to next season, the Bulldogs lose six seniors, but have six juniors lined up to replace them. Overall, Warne had some positive things to say about the 2017 season.
“The kids all adjusted to what we were doing very well. We had good leadership from our seniors,” he said. “We had some young kids who stepped up to fill roles in all aspects of the game.”
Posted on 10-25-2017
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