8/24 7:00 H
2A State Finals vs. Aledo (12-2)
Defense, Turnovers Help Dakota
Champaign (Memorial Stadium) - Defense was the name of the game as fans were treated to some big hitting defenses normally reserved for the bigger classes.
Dakota benefited from 4 Aledo turnover as the Dragons held the Indians to 243 total offensive yards. Dakota returned the favor by holding Aledo to 237, 219 of which came from QB Adam Hines.
Matt Wenger (5'11" 185 sr.) of the Dakota was the hero of the day for the Indians, scoring all 3 of the Dakota touchdowns while rushing for 163 of the teams 243 total yards. On top of that, Wenger lead the team in tackles and of course swatted away an Aledo pass with no time left in the game. Had that pass been completed it could have changed the final score from 20-15 Dakota, to 21-20 in favor of Aledo.
To open the 2nd half of the game, they scored at the end of an almost 9 minute long drive on a 1 yard run by Wenger to go up 14-8. They intercepted Hines for the first time on Aledo's next possession, scoring 6 plays later on a 1 yard run by Wenger again, putting them up 20-8, with 2 minutes left the 3rd.
The lead would carry over to the 4th quarter and leave Dakota sitting pretty. Add to the fact that they had held the Aledo passing game to just 59 yards of 73 yards total and the smiles on the Dakota sideline were starting to blossom.
Aledo started began the 4th quarter with the ball, but on 1 & 10 at the Dakota 26, Jared Benedetto picked off an Aledo pass at the 2 yard line with 10:26 left to play. The in suing Dakota drive would stall out, but not after chewing up 6 minutes of the clock. With Luke Winterhalter's punt downed at the the Aledo 3 yard line with 4 minutes left to play Dakota could almost rest easily.
But the Dragons wouldn't go down that easy. Hines found Davis Bysinger open and Bysinger took the ball 97 yards to pay dirt. A Tyler Catey PAT meant that if the Dragons could score again within the next 4 minutes, they wouldn't tie the game up, but put themselves ahead.
Dakota took the ball at their own 33, after Tyler Olsen had an 11 yard kick return. Wenger got the call, as the Indians would look for a nail in the coffin drive.
Aledo gave up 2 first downs, but used a 3 of their timeouts to get the ball back after Dakota's drive stalled after 7 plays & 23 yards.
The Dragons would start their comeback drive at their own 22 yard line. Hines hit Blaser on 3 of his 5 completions in the final drive, but on 3 & 2 from the Dakota 38, Hines' last pass to Blaser would get deflected by Wenger as time expired. Giving Dakota their first football championship and the second championship of the day for the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference, asFreeport (Aquin)had won the 1A Championship a game earlier.
by Vincent Johnson
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