Little River football moves on to title game

William Snesrud
McPherson Sentinel
When Little River and Canton-Galva met in the playoffs Nov. 19, the two teams combined for 146 points and 1,192 yards of offense. Little River kept its perfect record and will move on to the state finals.

LITTLE RIVER – For the second time in the 2021 season, Little River managed to outslug Canton/Galva at home on Friday and score a 76-68 victory in the 8-Man Division I state semi-final game. The win secures the Redskins a second straight trip to the state championship game, a game they won a year ago. 

With the win, the Redskins remain unblemished at 12-0 on the season as they look to repeat as state champions when they battle with Meade on Saturday, November 27 in Newton. Meade also brings a 12-0 mark into the game as they defeated Hill City on Friday, 48-34, in their semifinal game. 

With the loss, the Eagles finish the 2021 season with a 10-2 record, both losses being too Little River. 

In Friday’s game the two area teams combined for 124 points on the scoreboard, 1,191 yards in total offense on 124 offensive plays. 

The Eagles took an early 16-6 lead at the end of the first quarter after Garrett Maltbie rambled into the end zone from sixty-five yards out before throwing a 46-yard scoring pass play to Tyson Struber. In between their two scores, Little River found the end zone on a 20-yard run by Rylan Konen. 

Five touchdowns hit the scorebook in the second quarter with the Redskins Braxton Lafferty throwing one to Rylan Konen, catching a scoring pass from Konen and then diving in from two yards out. Canton/Galva scored twice on Maltbie passes to Cason Mastre and Struber, helping the Eagles hang on to a slim 32-26 advantage heading into the halftime break. 

It was almost as if the two teams took a break in the third quarter as the Eagles only put two scores on the board on a Struber 63-yard pass from Maltbie followed by a 12-yard run and the Redskins only finding paydirt once on an eight-yard run by Lafferty, giving the Eagles a 12-point lead at 46-34 heading into the final 12 minutes of play. 

What a fourth quarter it was as Canton/Galva put three scores on the board including a two more pass scores from Maltbie to TJ Koehn covering forty-eight yards and Cason Mastre on a sixteen yarder while Maltbie ran in for the other. Unfortunately for the Eagles, the Redskins put a whopping six touchdowns on the board in the final 12 minutes, including 17-yard Lafferty pass to Andrew Smith, to go with a 55-yard run by Braden Young, two scoring runs of 53 and 40 yards by Lafferty and a fumble recovery picked up by Grant Stephens that he ran into the end zone with. 

Offensively the Redskins totaled 572 yards on sixty-three plays with 173 coming through the air and 399 being on the ground on fifty-two run plays. 

Little River finished out the fourth quarter without starting quarterback Rylan Konen who left late in the third quarter with an injury. Lucky for them, Lafferty stepped up and between the two they combined to go eight-for-eleven in passing for 173 yards while throwing for three touchdowns. Lafferty did most of his damage on the ground as he rambled for 206 yards on twenty-seven carries and five scores. Braden Young covered seventy-six yards on five totes while Konen had sixty-eight on eleven carries. Grant Stephens had forty-nine yards rushing and eighty yards receiving on his two pass receptions. 

Defensively, Lafferty led the Redskins as he totaled 9.5 tackles while Braden Young recorded eight and Toby Jesseph had 6.5. 

For Canton/Galva, they out yarded the home team with 619 yards in total offense on sixty-one plays with Garrett Maltbie leading the way with 547 of those yards as he ran for 128 yards on thirteen carries while completing 23-of-37 passes for 419 yards. Future K-State Wildcat, Tyson Struber caught fourteen of those passes for 263 total yards while Cason Mastre covered ninety-three yards on seven receptions. 

On defense, Struber topped the Eagles with a whopping fifteen tackles, including eleven solo stops. Ryder Norstrom chipped in with 8.5 stops while both Lane McMannis and TJ Koehn each recorded eight stops.