VERMILLION — The Webster Bearcats didn’t have the ending to the season they were looking for in the Class 9AA state championship game at the DakotaDome on Thursday.
Rather than finishing 12-0 and and state champions, they watched as the Gregory Gorilla wrote that ending to their story by handing the Bearcats a 48-20 loss.
Early on, it appeared as though it would a shootout as each team scored on its first two possessions. However, Webster was forced to punt on its third possession and the streak was broken. With it, some of the Bearcats’ momentum was taken. Even worse than the punt on the series that came in the second quarter, was the loss of starting running back Hunter Gaikowski, who suffered a dislocated shoulder after carrying the ball for a short gain.
Gaikowski accounted for Webster’s first touchdown of the game on a 6-yard run. He finished the final game of his high school career with 48 yards on nine carries. Gaikowski said it wasn’t the end to the season he was hoping for. Rather than hoisting a trophy, he was left with his arm in a sling and tears on the faces of many of his teammates.
“It is a blessing to get here,” Gaidkowski said. “We worked really hard in the off-season and I think we deserve to be here after all the hard work. It was really emotional that I couldn’t be out there with the guys. I knew I worked really hard, but we came up short.”
In Gaikowski’s absence, Riley Reetz took over ball-carrying duties. He finished the game with 23 carries for 111 yards, but couldn’t find the end zone.
Webster, which was the first to put points on the board with Gaikowski’s run, saw its offense stall in the second quarter. The Bearcats were held scoreless in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Webster defense couldn’t find an answer for Gregory and the big plays by the Gorillas. Quarterback Andy McCance, who would be named the Most Valuable Player of the game, threw touchdown passes of 57, 35, 19, 17, and 22 yards in the game. In addition to that, Jayd VanDerWerff broke free for a 49-yard run.
Entering the game, Webster coach Tanner Christensen said stopping big plays would be key.
“We knew going in, we needed to stop be plays,” he said. “Unfortunately, they didn’t work out. We gave up a couple big scores and then obviously gave them momentum. That was tough.”
Gregory finished with 452 yards on offense. The Bearcats were stopped just once on fourth down and never punted the ball. McCance was 13-for-16 passing for 258 yards and six touchdowns.
“Watch them live, they were good,” Christensen said. “(McCance) is a heck of a quarterback and a dangerous, dangerous kid.”
Christensen said the toughest part of the day is saying goodbye to 17 seniors, who will no longer be in the program.
“Eleven-and-one is nothing to hang our heads about,” Christensen said. “We have 17 seniors. We are saying goodbye to 17 great, great boys.”
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Webster Area 8 12 0 0 — 20
Gregory 6 30 6 6 — 48
WEB — Hunter Gaikowski 6 run (Day pass from Kelby Hawkins good), 6:31
GREG — Joseph Veskrna 57 pass from Andy McCance (pass failed), 4:37
WEB — Colton Koslowski 22 pass from Hawkins (kick failed), 11:45
GREG — Jady VanDerWerff 49 run (McCance run good), 11:00
GREG — JJ Beck 9 pass from McCance (pass failed), 7:48
WEB — Riley Reetz 18 pass from Hawkins (pass failed), 4:21
GREG — Veskrna 35 pass from McCance (Robert Vomacka pass from McCance), 1:04
GREG — Vomacka 19 pass from McCance (Vomacka pass from McCance), 0:00
GREG — VanDerWerff 17 pass from McCance (run failed), 3:13
GREG — VanDerWerff 22 pass from McCance (pass failed), 8:54
First downs 17 17
Rush att-yards 46-195 28-194
Comp-att-int 6-19-2 13-16-0
Passing yards 125 258
Total offense 320 452
Fumbles-lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-50 4-25
Punts-avg. 3-30.7 0-0
RUSHING — Webster: Reetz 23-111, Gaikowski 14-48, Hawkins 9-36; Gregory: McCance 12-95, VanDerWerff 10-86, Vomacka 3-12, Beck 2-0, Team 1-(-1).
PASSING — Webster: Hawkins 5-18-2 97, Devin Koslowski 1-1-0 28; Gregory: McCance 13-16-0 258.
RECEIVING — Webster: Reetz 2-42, Mason Roerig 1-28, Colton Koslowski 1-22, Tanner Valsvig 1-20, Chandler Day 1-13; Gregory: VanDerWerff 5-92, Vomacka 4-60, Veskrna 2-92, Beck 1-9, Jon Bakke 1-5.