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Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm looks to finish title run

Losing in late September set up a stellar sprint to the finish for Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm, according to one of its best players. The Thunder will play for the Class A championship Friday morning at the Fargodome, but Clayton Grueneich believes it...

Losing in late September set up a stellar sprint to the finish for Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm, according to one of its best players.

The Thunder will play for the Class A championship Friday morning at the Fargodome, but Clayton Grueneich believes it all started with one of the team's two defeats.

"After losing to Northern Cass, we changed up some things up and everything started clicking," said Grueneich, who has run for a whopping 30 touchdowns this season. "We've been taking it one game at a time and it's been working pretty good."

Since losing 50-26 to Northern Cass on Sept. 30, the Thunder have outscored their next five opponents by 109 points. The five-game winning streak includes road playoff victories over the No. 1 (Larimore) and No. 2 teams (Langdon Area-Munich) in the final Class A poll.

"Our main goal was to get a home playoff game," Grueneich said. "Since then we've just kept it going."

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The Thunder (9-2) face Des Lacs-Burlington (9-2) at 9 a.m. in the first of four championship games at the Dakota Bowl. Unranked all season, the Thunder now appear to be the team to beat. Although, they're not ready to spike the ball just yet.

"This group of kids has done a really good job of just worrying about the next game," head coach Jon Schiele said. "After the last couple of games they've kept setting the bar higher and higher. I don't think we're surprised by the outcomes anymore. Now they're just focused on going out and finishing what they started."
Grueneich and Schiele had one common word to explain their final opponent-speed. Whether Des Lacs-Burlington can handle the Thunder's size and strength however, is another matter.

"Ideally, we'd be able to keep their offense off the field with our offense," Schiele said. "We're going to go right at them. They're a really good team, but what we've been able to do is just go right at teams and see if they can hold up physically."

But the Thunder are far more than just ground and pound.

Quarterback Jake Dewald has thrown for over 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. Luke Wertz has hauled in eight TD passes and Brennen Vance six.

"I expected to get quite a few carries this year, but we have really good receivers too," said Grueneich, who is a junior captain and has run for over 2,200 yards. "Our line deserves a lot of credit. It's fun to run behind those guys."

Offensive linemen Casey Strong, Westen Ellingson, Parker Rall, Dalton Schnable, Wyatt Nitschke and fullback Nathan Peterson have worn teams down with their punishing style.

"This really has been a situation where it's been a total team effort," Schiele said. "It's not just one guy doing everything. There's plenty of credit to go around."

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While work remains to be done, Schiele said he's made sure his team savors the success, and for good reason. Edgeley-Kulm last won a state championship in 9-man in 2004, while Friday's title tilt is the first time Ellendale has ever played for a state championship.

"When it's time to get down to business, our kids are really good at doing that, but we've told them to enjoy this ... it could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," the coach said.

Grueneich, one of the players from Ellendale on the roster, said it's been exciting to see the communities come together.

"It's cool when you're walking around town and people tell you congratulations and stuff like that," he said. "That's cool and it's been fun, but we still have one more game to go and we're focused on that."

Statistics

Rushing: Clayton Grueneich 244-2248 30 TDs; Cole Goehring 68-390 3 TDs; Nathan Peterson 42-141 3 TD; Taylen Walks 17-79 1 TD; Phillip Hagen 4-68 1 TD; Ryan Ost 10-45; Bryce Fischer 12-27 1 TD; Dilan Madcke 6-20; Jace Hanson 3-10; Luke Wertz 1-6; Jake Dewald 1-1 TD; Brennen Vance 1-1.

Passing: Dewald 77-138 1,274 yards 16 TD, 7 INT; Hagen 4-6 103 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Wertz 1-1 49 yards 1 TD; Grueneich 0-1.

Receiving: Wertz 31-479 8 TD; Vance 20-400 6 TD; Hunter White 13-255 1 TD; Lane Hanson 11-221 2 TD; Peterson 2-51 1 TD; Grueneich 2-36.

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Kicking: Goehring 38-46 PATs; 1-1 Field goal.

Tackles-for-loss: Hanson 13, Wertz 9, Grueneich 8, Walks 7, W.Ellingson 4, White 2, Madcke, Vance, Josh Fastnacht, Bridger Mathern, Wyatt Nitschke, Parker Rall.

Sacks: Hanson 7, Grueneich 7, W.Ellingson 2, Walks 2, Madcke, White, Wertz, Fastnacht, Nitschke.

Interceptions: Hagen 7, Vance 4, Wertz 2, Ost 2, White, Peterson.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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