DAWSON - Even with six turnovers and injuries piling up in Saturday's game against Canby, the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks refused to be denied what's becoming an annual meeting with Minneota/Lincoln HI in the Section 5A championship.
The Blackjacks owned the line of scrimmage in Saturday's 5A semifinal in Dawson, limiting Canby's Wyatt Kraus, one of the state's top rushers, to just 51 yards on their way to a 23-7 victory. Kraus hadn't been held under 135 yards in any of the Lancers' previous nine games.
Dawson-Boyd's running backs had their own issues, like holding onto the ball and staying on the field. The team's top rusher, Justin Lee, went out in the first quarter with a hamstring injury, and backup running back Dalton Palmer suffered a back injury in the second quarter and didn't return. Already without senior Garth Ochsendorf, who sustained a season-ending knee injury near Oct. 11, Dawson-Boyd's only option out of the backfield for the second half was junior Michael Anyasike.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Dawson-Boyd quarterback Joey Lee, center, evades a pair of Canby defenders during the first half of Saturday’s Section 5A semifinal game in Dawson.
Anyasike finished with 19 carries for 109 yards, and junior quarterback Joey Lee had a pair of touchdown passes to provide enough offense to help Dawson-Boyd (9-1 overall) escape with a victory against an upset-minded Canby squad (6-4).
"Yeah, we were men down, but our kids up front stepped up," Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson said. "Especially defensively, I mean, we shut down Kraus and forced them into throwing the ball a little bit more. That certainly was our game plan was to take away their strength and force them to do something else."
The defending Class A champion Blackjacks will face Minneota/Lincoln HI in the section championship for fourth straight season. The game will be played at 5 p.m. Friday at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Dawson-Boyd got off to a great start to Saturday's game against Canby, forcing a three-and-out on the Lancers' first possession and then going on an eight-play scoring drive, getting into the end zone on a 21-yard pass from Joey Lee to Jamie Arvold over the middle of the field.
After that, though, the Canby defense stepped up its play and forced four fumbles and picked off two passes. It was a much better showing than when the two teams met on Oct. 16 when Dawson-Boyd had six scoring plays of 30 yards or more in a 56-22 victory.
"We switched some things up from the first game, kept everything in front of our deep guys so we didn't give up any big plays," Canby head coach Nick Kockelman said. "We covered well and we tackled even better. We were hitting them pretty dang hard, and for being outsized and not as strong as them, we were certainly just as physical and a little bit more violent of a football team yesterday, which helped force turnovers."
Dawson-Boyd added its only other score in the first half when Canby quarterback Michael Sisk was called for intentional grounding throwing out of his own end zone for a safety.
Canby's only score of the game came via its defense, as senior safety Cole Brusven picked off an overthrown pass by Joey Lee along the Canby sideline and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with 2 minutes, 33 seconds left in the half. Brusven had missed basically the entire regular season after breaking a bone in his right hand in the Lancers' first game, but stepped up big for Canby Saturday with two interceptions and five receptions for 99 yards, all with a brace on his right wrist.
With the Blackjacks' defense up front, passes to Brusven were just about the only way Canby was able to move the football. The team had just 62 yards rushing and 117 yards passing, as Sisk completed only six of his 21 pass attempts.
Sophomore lineman Ryc McKesson had a strong presence for the Blackjacks, who along with shutting down Kraus by stacking the box, were also able to put constant pressure on Sisk.
"He gets off the ball well and we were able to pressure their quarterback," Larson said of McKesson, "and any time a quarterback has someone in his face or getting knocked down when he throws, you're certainly not going to be as accurate."
Added Kockelman about Dawson-Boyd's defense, "It was a struggle all day for our offense, which as an offensive coordinator makes you feel just about hopeless because you throw just about every play in the playbook at them and can't get anything to work."
Up 9-7, Dawson-Boyd gave itself a little breathing room to start the second half by going on an 11-play, 70-yard scoring drive to take a 16-7 lead. Six-foot-4 tight end Michael Lee caught a 27-yard pass on a jump ball on third-and-11 to get the Blackjacks down to the Canby 2-yard line, and Joey Lee punched it in for the touchdown on a quarterback keeper three plays later.
The final score came with 47 seconds left in the game when Joey Lee found Michael Lee for a 9-yard touchdown pass to close out the game. Michael Lee had five catches for 53 yards, and Joey Lee finished 8-for-21 passing for 122 yards.
Though the Canby offense couldn't do much on Saturday, Kockelman said it was a valiant effort by his squad against one of the elite teams in the state and he expressed his gratitude for a senior class that helped lift Canby into the state rankings for the first time in years.
"When we voted for captains there were six guys who got more than 10 votes, so we had a great group of leaders that all took their turns doing things that they should do and making sure players were acting like they were supposed to be acting on and off the field," Kockelman said. "The best thing about the group of seniors is that they made a decision to give it everything they had. The goal as a coach is to get everything you can out of your players, and that group of seniors certainly did that and brought it out of the players that they played with. That's what I'll miss the most out of those guys."
And back in the section final, the Blackjacks are hoping to get healthy for what's sure to be a physical battle in Friday's game against Minneota/Lincoln HI. The Vikings took the regular-season meeting between the two teams 18-14 on Sept. 21, which is the only loss the Blackjacks have suffered over the past two seasons.
"It wouldn't feel like a section championship game if it wasn't us two meeting," Larson said. "In my mind, that's the team that we want to face, so hopefully we have some kids who can heal pretty quick."
Canby0 7 0 0-7
Dawson-Boyd9 0 7 7-23
DB-Jamie Arvold 19 pass from Joey Lee (Easton Popma kick), 7:22
C-Cole Brusven 30 interception return (Brett Hanson kick), 2:33
DB-Joey Lee 1 run (Popma kick), 6:44
DB-Michael Lee 9 pass from Joey Lee (Popma kick), 0:47
Total Yards: Canby 179; D-B 290. Rushing Yards: Canby 62; D-B 168. Passing Yards: Canby 117; D-B 122. Turnovers: Canby 0; D-B 6. Penalties (Number-Yards) Canby 9-75; D-B 7-80.
Rushing: C-Wyatt Kraus 18-51, Michael Sisk 8-11; DB-Michael Anyasike 19-109, Joey Lee 8-15, Noah Stelter 5-16, Justin Lee 5-8, Dalton Palmer 3-24.
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): C-Michael Sisk 6-21-117-0, Michael Slaba 0-1-0-0; DB-Joey Lee 8-21-122-2.
Receiving: C-Cole Brusven 5-99, Matt Gallegos 1-18; DB-Michael Lee 5-53. DB-Nathaniel Huot 2-49, Jamie Arvold 1-20.