VERMILLION – They were ranked number one for much of the season, and the Wolsey-Wessington Warbirds finished off the job, winning the Class 9B championship over the Dell Rapids St. Mary Cardinals Thursday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion by a score of 32-14.
The Warbirds took the first drive and methodically worked the way down the field before Eric Klanchnik punched the ball into the end zone.
Dell Rapids St. Mary had a strong drive deep into Warbird territory, but the Warbirds defense was able to force a turnover on downs. This would become a theme of the first half for the Wolsey-Wessington defense.
The Warbirds took over in their own territory and combined multiple looks and multiple players touching the ball to drive the ball down the field, with Klanchnik again finishing the drive with a touchdown.
The Warbirds forced two turnovers on downs on defense, with a punt of their own sandwiched in between before they were able to use timely runs from Corbin Haarmeyer and a big catch from Tristan Abbott to work to the goal line where Haarmeyer ran the ball in on the option to make the score at halftime 18-0.
The Cardinals took the first drive of the second half and used senior Connor Libis heavily, though his final punch was in a trick play, as Libis threw the halfback pass to Nic Gasper to score. Dell Rapids St. Mary got the extra point pass to make the score 18-8.
The Warbirds were able to drive inside the Cardinals 10-yard line, but they ended up turning the ball over on downs deep in Cardinal territory.
After getting a turnover on downs on defense, the Warbirds were in danger of doing the same on offense before Haarmeyer found Carson Zomer in the end zone for a long touchdown. A pass from Haarmeyer to Tristan Abbott for the 2-point conversion put the Warbirds on top 26-8.
The Cardinals went to a spread offense to attempt to overcome the three-score deficit, and they were able to complete a touchdown from Connor Libis to Sam Palmer. The Warbirds intercepted the 2-point conversion, making the score 26-14.
Wolsey-Wessington handed off the ball, looking to work off clock, and Klanchnik ran for some tough yards before Haarmeyer picked up the first down. Marty Gohn picked up a pair of first downs to get the ball inside the Cardinals red zone.
Haarmeyer picked up another first down inside the Cardinals 5-yard line. The Warbirds kept the offense on the ground to work off the clock. Gohn took the snap and rushed into the end zone. The 2-point run failed, but the Warbirds went up 32-14.
The Cardinals spread the offense and got inside the Warbirds 20-yard line, but the clock worked against them, with senior Libis doing everything he could to will the Cardinals down the field before the team turned the ball over on downs. The Warbirds kneeled on the ball to work off the clock and secure the championship.
The Warbirds finish the season with a 10-1 record. Corbin Haarmeyer was selected as the Most Valuable Player and the top back in the championship game while Sterlin Bonin was selected the top lineman in the championship game for the Warbirds.
Haarmeyer led the Warbirds offense with 173 yards on 14 of 16 passing with a touchdown along with a rushing touchdown.
Klanchnik led the Warbirds with 61 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown runs. Abbott led the team with six catches, while Carson Zomer led the Warbirds in receiving yardage with 86 yards through the air.
Dell Rapids St. Mary finished with a 7-3 record. Connor Libis led the Cardinals with 123 yards passing and 133 yards rushing as he tried to will the Cardinals all the way to the end but came up short.