Wall Eagles Soar to the Dome for State Championship
Wed, 11/09/2022 - 2:04pm admin
Cedar Amiotte doesn’t care that Hamlin scored on the last play of the game. His dream, the one shared by teammates, coaches, his school and the entire town of Wall, had come true.
For more than a decade, a state championship game remained elusive for the Wall football team, which had experienced heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss in semifinals and quarterfinals, never quite getting over the hump.
On Friday night, they reversed that trend.
The Eagles squad of prolific athletes, hell-bent on finally reaching the DakotaDome this year, did just that, shutting down the Chargers run game and emerging with a 26-13 victory in the Class 9AA semifinals to reach their first state title game since 2011.
“I’ve been dreaming of this since third grade,” said Amiotte, Wall’s star running back. “I realized how good we were that third grade year, ever since then that’s all we’ve talked about, is we should try and get there our junior year, but we said 100% we’re going our senior year.”
Top-seeded Wall (11-0) will face a Cinderella team in No. 6 Parkston (10-1) next Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion with a chance to bring home its first state championship since 1994.
“I don’t know, man. I’m at a loss for words,” Eagles head coach Lex Heathershaw said. “We talked to our guys before this week and we said, ‘Start thinking about how it’s going to feel when we get this win.’ It’s unimaginable.”
Amiotte had a stellar performance in what could’ve been his last game in a Wall jersey. The senior ran for 128 yards on 18 carries and scored two touchdowns on offense, while catching a team-high four passes for 83 receiving yards. He also tallied two interceptions on defense.
“I was watching film a couple hours before the game, and I almost psyched myself out,” he said. “I was so intense and so ready to play the game, I was almost crying. Then I just calmed myself down, reminded myself that I can trust anyone on my team, so as long as I trust everyone and everybody trusts the coaches and everything, we’re fine.”
Quarterback Burk Blasius finished 13 of 23 for 167 yards with no passing touchdowns or interceptions, but the junior did carry in a touchdown and collected 25 rushing yards on eight carries. Blair Blasius also went 2 for 2 on field-goal attempts, hitting from 23 and 30 yards.
“It’s a moment to remember,” Blasius said. “The last three years we were in the same boat Hamlin was, we know what it feels like, and to finally break that door down feels tremendous. Words can’t explain it, it’s just the feeling inside that we got the job done.”
The Eagles defense showed out again, proving once more their unit is just as good as their offense, limiting one of the best running backs in the state in Luke Fraser to 60 yards on 17 carries and no touchdowns. Tyson Stevenson completed 13 of 29 passes for Hamlin (9-2), finishing with 275 yards, two touchdown throws and two picks.
“Our d-linemen really dug their heels in tonight,” Heathershaw said. “We had a good scheme drawn up by coach (David) Ermish and the rest of our coaching staff. We had a great week of preparation, and our guys were just ready to roll.”
After trading punts to open the contest, Wall struck first on a long 12-play, 95-yard drive that was capped off when Burk Blasius kept the ball on second-and-goal and dodged defenders for a 6-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Hamlin tried answering with an extended drive of its own, getting into the end zone on a 9-yard keeper from Stevenson, but the play was called back for a hold. Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the 26-yard line, Amiotte snagged a Stevenson pass for the interception to end a 14-play drive.
The Eagles added points before halftime on another lengthy drive, this time executing a 13-play, 78-drive. They were 6 yards shy of the end zone, however, prompting a 23-yard field goal from Blair Blasius with 18.9 seconds left to go up 10-0 at halftime.
“Earlier in the season we had a lot of big plays, so it’s really a new experience just getting 5-6 yards a play or even 2-3, but those little yards make a big difference,” Burk Blasius said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight up front and we weren’t going to get 10-15 yards a play, so we knew if we just kept cracking at them and cracking at them, and work our way down the field, we’d score eventually.”
The Chargers got on the board on their first possession of the second half, scoring on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Stevenson to Evan Stormo, who finished with 175 yards on five receptions, to get back with a field goal of the Eagles, trailing 10-7.
Wall stretched its lead back out to nine when Amiotte broke a tackle and barreled his way over the goal line for his first score of the night from 6 yards out (the PAT was blocked), then the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder started to wear down the Hamlin defense when he sprinted up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown on the Eagles’ next drive to build a 23-7 lead with 2:18 to play in the third quarter.
The Chargers looked to get back within a score of their opponents early in the fourth, moving the ball down to the 18, but a pass from Stevenson was hauled in by Amiotte for the pick. The Eagles then salted away the clock with a 20-play, 78-yard drive that took more than 7 minutes before Blair Blasius drilled a 30-yard field goal to make it a three-possession ballgame with 1:16 remaining.
Hamlin hustled down the field and scored on a 32-yard hail mary pass from Stevenson as the clock expired, but it didn’t matter.
“It’s unbelievable. We’ve been waiting a long time,” Heathershaw said. “Just to get that monkey off our back, this one’s for all the community. Every player who’s played for me has put in so much work, so this is for everyone who’s put in all that blood, sweat and tears on this field.”
Reprinted with permission of the Rapid City Journal