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Unbeaten Warner facing Deubrook Area for 9A title

Warner’s Jesiah Baum, center, runs in a gap as Castlewood’s Paul Everson (7) and Yader Munoz (3) move in on defense during the first half of their recent Class 9A quarterfinal game in Warner. Photo by John Davis taken 10/26/2023

A pair of teams with recent success will clash at the DakotaDome at 2 this afternoon.

Warner and Deubrook Area will play for the Class 9A state football championship in a matchup that features two teams with differing paths to the title game. The Monarchs have played in two of the last three championship contests, including last season.

Warner head coach Kerwin Hoellein said it is a great feeling to be back in Vermillion, although there were question marks before the season began.

“As a coach you thought you know we should be pretty good,” Hoellein said. “We’ve got some skill kids back, but every football coach is going to tell you the game is won or lost on the line. When we graduated as many kids as we did on our line last year, it kind of left a question mark.”

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Despite replacing every starter from last year’s line, the questions were answered early in the season as the Monarchs cruised through their schedule, winning eight regular season games and three playoff games by an average of 38.5 points per contest. In those 11 wins, just two were won by single digits, which included a win over Faulkton (27-20), which will play in the Class 9B title game, and Hamlin (22-13), which was a semifinalist in Class 9AA. Warner earned playoff wins over Colman-Egan, Castlewood, and Canistota to make a repeat trip to the DakotaDome.

Hoellein said the Monarchs fanbase has been supportive all season, which was evident in last Friday’s semifinal win over Canistota.

“It’s so huge to have that fan support, especially in a game when you get down early and things can go south in a hurry,” Hoellein said. “Our kids never hung their heads; our fans were very supportive all night. It’s kind of like Seattle having that 12th man factor. Our fans definitely helped the situation by being vocal and being very supportive.”

Deubrook Area has taken a different path to get to the DakotaDome this season. The Dolphins began the season 5-1, with the lone loss coming against Elkton-Lake Benton, before dropping its final two contests of the regular season to Canistota and Dell Rapids St. Mary.

Deubrook Area head coach Nathan Lamb said his team is honored to be one of the final teams left in Class 9A and added that several factors have led to the postseason success.

“A lot of these guys have been starting for a few years, so the experience has been big,” Lamb said. “Their dedication to the offseason, whether it be in the weight room or our summer activities, has been crucial.”

Lamb said the season has also been filled with learning curves and improvements, including learning from the team’s three losses, which were all by single digits.

“Learning from our mistakes and paying attention to details,” Lamb said. “The losses that we had were close losses against some pretty good teams, and throughout that process, just continuing to get better every week so that we were at our best going into the playoffs.”

Once the playoffs began, Deubrook Area was determined to make a run at a state title. The Dolphins earned a home win over Estelline-Hendricks in the opening round before going on the road to pull off upsets over undefeated squads Alcester-Hudson and Philip to earn a trip to the championship game.

Lamb said the school district, which consists of the towns of White, Toronto, and Astoria, has rallied around the team this week.

“The community is just buzzing,” Lamb said. “Anytime any of our teams are going to a state competition they’ll let the community know what time they’re leaving and people will just show up and kind of line the streets on the way out of town and usually there’s a police escort that will take us out to the interstate. The community really makes a big deal out of it. It’s incredible.”

Deubrook Area is led by a plethora of athletes, including running back Gavin Landmark, quarterback Jace Vomacka, and wide receiver Jacob Jorenby. Hoellein said he sees a Deubrook Area squad with good size and athleticism when watching the Dolphins on film.

“They’ve got some real decent size,” Hoellein said. “Those kids stick out to you right away when you start watching them on film. They’ve got some awful nice-sized linemen up front. We’re expecting to see a real good outfit on Thursday.”

Warner will look to lean on do-it-all player Hunter Cramer, as well as running back Charlie Dulany and wide receiver Jesiah Baum. Up front, the Monarchs will rely on Brodey Sauerwein and Preston Cavalier, among others, to wreak havoc against the Dolphins line. Lamb said he sees a complete team when looking at the Monarchs.

Warner’s Charlie Dulany (33) runs with the ball as Canistota’s Prayden Acheson (24) grabs at Dulany’s jersey during Friday night’s Class 9A semifinal game in Warner. Photo by John Davis taken 11/3/2023

“They’re a great team. No doubt about that,” Lamb said. “They’re pretty dangerous. We’ll have our work cut out for us, but we’re certainly doing everything we can.”

Lamb has been a part of state championships before. He was a player on Watertown’s 1996 11AA state championship team, while also taking the reins as the offensive coordinator on the Waverly-South Shore 9B championship in 2011. Now as the Dolphins head coach, Lamb will look to lead Deubrook Area to just its second state title. The Dolphins won the 9AA state title in 2012 over Howard in its lone title game appearance, and Lamb says it will take a full team effort to win the state championship today.

“We’re going to have to have the ball for a while. We can’t let them dominate the time of possession, for sure,” Lamb said. “We’re going to have to handle all three facets of the game. All of the cliché’s you can think of, they come into play here.”

Meanwhile, Warner is in its third state title game in four years, and fifth overall. However, the Monarchs have yet to take home the championship crown, and Hoellein said it comes down to winning the line of scrimmage.

“At this point, we’ve got to win the battle up front. We’ve got to block people,” Hoellein said. “We can’t turn the football over; taking care of the football at this point is huge. Our defense can’t give up big plays. If our line can get to their blocks and know who we’re blocking, and it’s all about defensive alignment and assignment; if we can do those things, I like our chances.”

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