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Southland’s season is over

Triton too much

for Rebels in section semifinal

By Scott A. Kolb

skolb@postbulletin.com

DODGE CENTER — Nothing went right for the Southland Rebels in Saturday afternoon’s semifinals of the Class AA, Section Two football playoffs.

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This was supposed to be a great matchup between the defending state champion Triton Cobras and the Rebels, the previously unbeaten champions of the Three Rivers Conference, South Division. But it was one-sided from the start as the Cobras scored on their first play from scrimmage and cruised to a 35-0 win.

While the offense ran wild, the Cobras defense completely shut down the top rushing offense in the Three Rivers. The Rebels never got anything going offensively and mustered only 80 yards of total offense. The vaunted ground attack had just 36 yards and the Rebels were limited to a meager total of three first downs on the day.

The Cobras defense forced the Rebels to throw and that only resulted in turnovers. The Cobras recorded three interceptions and made life miserable for Rebels quarterback Kody Retterath. Yet, the tone was the set by the offense on their very first play.

After the Rebels went three-and-out on the opening possession of the game, the Cobras took over at their own 35-yard line. It didn’t take long for the snakes to strike. Triton running back Caleb Rissman got loose down the sidelines and raced 65 yards for a touchdown. Less than two minutes into the game, the home team had a lead it would never relinquish.

"It was intense to break a long run like that on our first play," Rissman said. "The line opened up the hole and then it was a race down the sidelines. They’re a great defensive team and we wanted to show them we were ready to play."

Throughout the first half, the Rebels had their chances to make this a game but they couldn’t convert. Tyler Hanson had a nice kickoff return and the Rebels got the ball at their own 35 on the next possession. Once again the Cobras defense forced a punt, but the Rebels defense quickly returned the favor.

For the third time in the first quarter, the Rebels went three-and-out. The Cobras got the ball near midfield and went on a methodical march to the end zone. Junior quarterback Coleton Thiemann, making just his second start of the season, looked cool in the pocket as he completed a key fourth down pass to Rissman. This kept the drive alive and Thiemann scored on the next play.

The defense then got the ball back with an interception and the Cobras scored again early in the second quarter. Chace Sackett capped off a short drive and it was 21-0 in the opening minute of the second quarter.

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It would stay that way into halftime as the Rebels gained only one first down the entire first half. Statistics told the story of a completely dominant half of football by the Cobras. The home team had 197 yards rushing to only 19 for the visitors. The defense never let up its grip and the competitive phase of the game was essentially over by halftime.

"I’ve been coaching a long time and this is the best team I’ve ever gone up against," Southland coach Shawn Kennedy said. "We talked before the game about not giving up the big play, and then we lost contain on Rissman’s run. They’re just a fundamentally sound team, and it was tough to run any plays against their defense."

Despite the lopsided nature of the final score, the Rebels did have their chances to get on the scoreboard. The defense recovered a fumble just four minutes into the second half, the only turnover of the day for Triton, and got the ball at the 31-yard line. The Rebels then ran three straight times and recorded their initial first down of the second half.

With a first down at the Triton 20-yard line, it looked like Southland might finally score and get back in the game. After two short running plays, the Rebels were faced with third-and-6 from the 16. Disaster then struck when Retterath was picked off by Damon Andrews of the Cobras.

Another scoring chance had slipped through their fingers and the Rebels were about out of opportunities against the stingy Cobras defense. The offense never got out of the hole and the nine-game winning streak for the Rebels came crashing to an end.

Late in the third quarter, the Cobras ground out their fourth touchdown of the game. Rissman then added another touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Cobras above the 30-point plateau for the ninth time this season.

"We have nothing to hang our heads about, it was still a great season," Kennedy said. "It hurts to lose like this because the kids worked so hard to get to this game. We just ran up against a great team. We had some scoring opportunities, but didn’t capitalize on them.

"In the end, I have nothing bad to say about our team. Things didn’t go our way in this game, but they still battled to the end. They rewrote the record books this season and won a conference title. I’m so proud of the way they played and it was a fun ride."

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Southland finished the season with a 9-1 record.

Triton (9-1) now plays host to the Section 2AA championship game on Friday night against United South Central (3-7).

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