By William for www.mcpherson-county-ks.com

CANTON – Ever since the untimely loss to Solomon in the state playoffs a year ago, the Canton/Galva football team has had but one goal to play for – a shot at the state 8-Man Division I Championship!

That time has arrived as the Eagles prep for a road trip to Newton on Saturday where at 11:00 p.m. they will take the field to battle perennial powerhouse St. Francis for the opportunity to be declared the winner and the 8-Man Division I State Champion.

Both teams will come into the game with records of 12-0 and not having had many games that provided very stiff competition.

The Eagles latest game proved they should up to the task as they took a previously unbeaten Madison team and dismantled the Bulldogs 46-6.

What will Canton/Galva have to do to slow down the power running attack of St. Francis?

“We will have to work at matching their physicality as they do one thing very well and that is being a power run team,” was the answered given by Eagle Head Coach Shelby Hoppes. “This means we will need to tackle well and make sure we get all the little things done properly to get the win.”

Indians Head Coach Nick Fawcett has done well in his two years at the helm of St. Francis, which includes 23 wins and just one loss.

Fawcett has built his offense to put up a hair under 50 points per game, mostly powered by a running attack led by Brady Dinkel and Shadryn Blanka.

Dinkel and Blanka also play defensive back and linebacker on an Indian defense that hits hard. Others to tangle with when St. Francis will be trying to stop the Eagle offense include linebacker Jayce Nider and defensive linemen Jesse Baxter and Adam Krier.

When the Eagles are working to stop the Indian power offense it will come down to the play of the teams leading tacklers of linebacker Brandon Huff (77.5 tackles with 56 solo stops and 17.5 tackles for a loss of yardage), defensive lineman Conner Koehn (56.5 tackles with 2.4 sacks and 13 tackles for loss of yardage), defensive back Tyson Struber (50.5 tackles with 42 being solo and six interceptions), Kinser Colgin (45 tackles with 35 being solo stops) as well as Mason Reedy and Nick Pearson who have both recorded over 35 tackles on the season with over 20 solo stops each and 12.5 stops for a loss of yardage.

The big question of the game will come on the availability of the Eagles leader, Landon Everett. As the quarterback leading the powerful Eagle offense that runs up right at 60 points per game, he is questionable due to an injury in the third quarter of the semifinal game to his throwing shoulder.

According to Coach Hoppes, “Landon will be a game time decision. We have been patiently working with him this week to heal the shoulder, but most likely will not know if he can go until just before the game.”

Everett has thrown the ball for 1,336 yards and 28 touchdowns while being the Eagles second leader runner as well in covering another 1,162 yards and another 24 scores on the season to this point.

If Everett is unable to go, then the quarterback spot will be run by freshman Garrett Maltbie who on the season has only appeared in three games and completed just five of seven passes for 125 yards and one touchdown.

“If Landon (Everett) can’t go, then we go with freshman Garrett Maltbie who played well in the fourth quarter last week,” noted Coach Hoppes. “Maltbie came in during the semifinal game and did a very solid job as he completed two-of-three passes for 77 yards while running the ball six times for another 34 yards and two touchdowns. If Maltbie goes at quarterback, then we will be asking the upperclassmen to raise their level of play a notch to help him stay comfortable and successful.”

Among those who already are leading the Eagle offensive attack beyond Everett will be running back Brayden Collins who leads the team in rushing with 1,239 yards through 12 games with 17 touchdowns. Looking to the air attack, Tyson Struber is the go-to Eagle with 27 receptions for a whopping 676 yards and 14 scores. Collins is also a key cog of the Eagle defense with 35 of his 45 tackles being solo stops.

As we finished our pre-game reflections with Coach Hoppes, he wanted to make sure we pointed out the importance of finishing the season strong for the outstanding group of seniors who suffered through some real struggles in their freshman and sophomore seasons. Among the Eagles who will be putting on the helmet for the final time will be Landon Everett, Nick Pearson, Mason Reedy, Jay Nightingale and Kinser Colgin.

We look forward with anticipation to see the Eagles finish out an outstanding season and bring a state championship home to Canton/Galva – what better way to end a Thanksgiving weekend!!

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(Post is SPONSORED by CrossDove Writers)