Behind the intelligent running of senior Hayze Hufstedler, No. 1-ranked Canadian knocked out rival Childress 45-14 Friday night and advanced to the state semifinals.
As sure as Christmas comes each year, the Wildcats playing in a state semifinal is almost as guaranteed. This will be Canadian’s seventh straight trip to the semis—a record that dates back to 2014.
“It’s unbelievable,” Canadian Head Coach Chris Koetting said of his team’s accomplishment. “It goes back to the hard work from all of these coaches, all of our kids, and this community that rallies together and buys in. It’s been really special, and it’s something that doesn’t happen very often.”
Friday’s Class 3A Division II state quarterfinal game, played at Happy State Bank Stadium in Canyon, was much closer than the 63-13 district win Canadian handed out to Childress a month ago.
Canadian led the Bobcats 17-7 with more than seven minutes to play in the first half, when Childress junior quarterback/punter Collin Bishop pinned Canadian at its own 2-yard line on a punt. The Cats were promptly called for a penalty, moving the ball back to the 1-yard line. However, within seconds, Canadian had ended any chance of a Childress upset.
Hufstedler took a handoff, made a strong move inside and another move getting to the sideline, then turned on the burners for a 99-yard touchdown run with 7:07 to play in the first half, putting Canadian up 24-7.
“That was crazy,” said Hufstedler, who continued to stack up mileage, finishing with 216 yards on 19 carries and scoring four rushing touchdowns. “It was just great blocking. I waited for a hole to appear and then bounced it outside. I had a great block on the outside by Gary (Anderson), and then it was just off to the races from there.”
Koetting echoed Hufstedler’s comment.
“His run is definitely a record,” Koetting said. “We may never see anything like that again from a Wildcat football player. I can’t say enough about him. He just makes plays when we need them. He’s just done a lot for our program, and I’m very proud of him.”
By halftime, the Cats had built a 31-7 lead, courtesy of a Josh Culwell to Jake Krehbiel pass and a 15-yard touchdown. They followed in the second half by outscoring the Bobcats 14-7. The icing—and Canadian’s final points—came on a Luke Flowers 50-yard interception return with 10:15 remaining.
Canadian (13-1) rolled up 487 yards of offense with quarterback Culwell joining Hufstedler as the main thorns in Childress’ side. Culwell ran for 33 yards and completed 14-of-18 passes for 165 yards.
“I think Childress came out wanting some revenge, and we didn’t really come out firing like we usually do,” Hufstedler said. “But hats off to Childress for a good fight.”
Childress, which ended its season 10-3, certainly didn’t give up. The Bobcats churned out 21 first downs and produced 325 yards of offense with Lamont Nickelberry (six catches, 59 yards) and Devron Sims (four catches, 67 yards) joining Bishop to test Canadian. Childress kept the ball for a nearly seven-minute drive to open the second half, but failed to score as the drive ended in a fumble at the Canadian 5-yard line.
Now, Canadian prepares to meet Gunter (13-1) in one of the most unique matchups in Texas high school football history. This will mark the fifth consecutive year these two teams have met in the state semifinals. The showdown is set for 4 pm, Friday, Dec. 11, on Anthony Field at Wildcat Stadium, which is located on the Abilene Christian University campus.
Superintendent Lynn Pulliam announced last week that classes at Canadian ISD will be suspended this Friday to allow Wildcat fans travel time to the afternoon game.
SEMIFINAL TICKET INFORMATION:
Tickets will be sold at the gate, but those wishing to attend are encouraged to purchase online. “With a 6,000 combined capacity,” said Superintendent Lynn Pulliam, “we should be OK, but I would hate for any of our people to drive all the way to Abilene and not get in because they have reached capacity.”
Dr. Pulliam also warned that ACU personnel have mentioned multiple times that the mask policy will be enforced.
ONLINE TICKET SALES:
Tickets are GENERAL ADMISSION—no assigned seating; no specific tickets per team.
Tickets are $8 adult /$5 student.
Canadian is the VISITING team.
District passes will be accepted at the gate.
Parking is $5 on-site for close-up parking. Free parking is also available but located further from stadium.
Stadium seats will be allowed.
Major Stadium Policies:
•No outside food/drinks.
•No animals (besides true service animals).
•Masks and social distancing is required.
•Small purse or medium clear bag only (no backpacks or large bags).
**Full Stadium Rules HERE: https://acusports.com/.../2017/9/12//Prohibited_Items.pdf...
DIRECTIONS TO ANTHONY FIELD AT WILDCAT STADIUM:
Friday’s temperatures in Abilene are expected to range from a daytime high of 63-degrees to a low of 38-degrees overnight, under partly cloudy skies, with winds out of the west at 10-20 mph.
PHOTOS BY ALAN HALE