NEWTON, Kan. - Canton-Galva head coach Shelby Hoppes admitted he didn't get the ball to his key players enough early in the Eight-Man, Division I state championship game.
The Eagles trailed 36-0 to St. Francis with 2 minutes, 57 seconds left in the first half. Then, Canton-Galva's top-two offensive threats, senior quarterback Landon Everett and sophomore wide receiver Tyson Struber, engineered an historic comeback. The Eagles tallied 66 unanswered points, and defeated St. Francis, 66-36, on Saturday at Newton's Fischer Field.
“We know who our playmakers are,” Hoppes said. “It's my fault. I wasn't doing a good job of getting the ball in their hands, so we made some adjustments like every team does, and they worked out for us.”
Canton-Galva, ranked No. 1 all year, finished 13-0 and captured the first state football title in school history. St. Francis finished 12-1 and moved to 0-2 all-time in state games.
“It's surreal,” Everett said.
SF junior running back Shadyron Blanka scored on a four-yard run to put the Indians up by 36 points. At that point, Struber had just two catches for 26 yards. Everett had recorded three rushes for minus-4 yards.
Then, Everett led a seven-play, 65-yard drive. He rushed four times on the possession for 27 yards, including a 1-yard scoring run. The big play was a 40-yard pass to Struber. He was matched up against St. Francis four-year starting defensive back Brady Dinkel
“We hit them early with a lot of short stuff, time and time again, and then after that, we get them to sit a little bit, and just run by,” Hoppes said. “..But most of that is just on Tyson. He's such a superior athlete, and makes plays when the ball's in his hands, and we are lucky to have him.”
Two plays later, Dinkel lost a fumble, and then Everett found Struber for a 26-yard touchdown pass that cut the deficit to 36-14 at intermission.
“That moment was so big at that certain time, but then we zoned in, and got things taken care of,” Hoppes said.
Everett had battled through a shoulder injury suffered in the semifinal win versus Madison. Everett had to drive to Hutchinson everyday after practice this week for treatment.
Overall, Everett completed 10 of 19 passes for 197 yards with three touchdowns against two interceptions. He rushed 17 times for 148 yards and four scores. This season, Everett threw for 1,533 yards, rushed for 1,310 and accounted for 59 offensive touchdowns.
“He is the leader of this team,” Struber said. “You will never see him complaining about his shoulder. He will get up, shake it off, and he's always making sure everybody's in the right state of mind. And he pushes everybody everyday, and I can't thank him enough for that. He is a great leader.”
Struber had missed several games with a hand injury and needed to wear a brace. He delivered eight catches for 188 yards and three scores. Struber, Everett and junior linebacker Brandon Huff all picked off passes for a game that had 10 turnovers – five for each squad. Junior running back Brayden Collins finished with 18 carries for 99 yards and the final two scores of the contest.
“We are not entitled to anything,” Huff said of Hoppes' halftime speech. “We made it this far, and so did they. We have got to keep fighting. It's whoever fights harder, and whichever one backs out first.”
Struber had receiving scores of 52 and 26 yards from Everett in the third quarter. C-G tallied 40 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Everett had the first three scores of the fourth on runs of 60, nine and 27 yards – and Struber converted the crucial two-point conversions each time.
“All the conditioning that we do during practice, it just gets us for these games where we are down 36-0,” Struber said. “Where we have got to come back – and make history.”
Dinkel led St. Francis with 33 carries for 161 yards and a score, and Blanka finished with 23 carries for 52 yards and three TDs. However, C-G held both in check in the second half. St. Francis also suffered key injuries to senior Jayce Nider (concussion) and junior Jesse Baxter (knee) after intermission.
“We knew they were going to base block up front, and just five on five, whoever is tougher,” Struber said. “So we preach this physicality, if can match their physicality and hit them low, we'd be good. We didn't match their physicality at the start, but we definitely got it going in the second half.”