The Gregory Gorillas (12-0) defeated the Woonsocket-Wessington Springs-Sanborn Central Blackhawks (10-2) with a final score of 31-8 to win the 9AA State Football Championship.
With 5:58 left to play in the first quarter, Gregory’s first offensive drive stalled. However, they capitalized on a 36-yard field goal (which is a big deal in 9-man football) by Lukas Kirkely to give the Gorilla’s a 3-0 lead over the Blackhawks.
Late in the first quarter, Gregory running back Jonah Beck ran it in for a 5-yard touchdown. The Gorillas came up empty on the two-point conversion, but they still led the Blackhawks 9-0 as the first quarter came to an end.
Gregory continued their tough defense when Robert Vomacka picked off Blackhawk quarterback Tucker Kingsbury, and took it for six. The Gorillas then capitalized on the two-point conversion giving them a 17-0 lead over the Blackhawks with 10:15 remaining in the half.
The Blackhawks finally got their offense going when Austin Messmer broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run with 8:56 remaining in the half. The two-point conversion was good, but Gregory still led 17-8.
With 20 seconds remaining in the half, Vomacka ran in a 9-yard touchdown. Gregory expanded on their lead against the Blackhawks 23-8, and that’s where the score remained going into halftime.
Both defenses increased their intensity in the second half. Late in the third quarter, Jayd VanDerWerff ran it in from 2-yards out for the Gorillas with 1:36 remaining in the quarter making it 31-8 Gregory. The score would stand going into the final quarter of play.
The Blackhawks made a few downfield throw attempts in the early portion of the fourth quarter, but Gregory’s defense found ways to intervene. Gregory and the Blackhawks kept trading possessions throughout the quarter until the Blackhawks finally ran out of time, final score being Gregory over the Blackhawks, 31-8.
Watch the Full Game Here
Gorillas Head Coach Brian Allmendinger said this state title is an example of hard work paying off. He gave a lot of credit to his defense.
“The way our defense played all year, shutting people down,” said Allmendinger. “Our offense did enough to win, but our defense pulled us through this year. They allowed us to be in this position.”
The Gregory defensive workhorse Gavin Thomas said he’s lost for words.
“We were really determined this year, we always did one more,” said Thomas. “Doing one more at sprints, runs and such in practice.”
This is Gregory's second state football title, but their first in the 9-man league. They won the 11B class title in 1998.