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Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The joys of victory and pains of heartbreak

Chieftains playoff run ends just short of championship
During the game against Oakland-Craig, senior Haley Kube kicks the football while holder senior Braxton Wentworth sets it on the tee. Kube was the first ever female football player to receive All-State recognition. (Ginger Eikmeier)

Heartbreak is something many athletes experience in their high school career. For the past three years, the Yutan Chieftains have come to know this feeling all too well, finishing just short of their ultimate goal each year.

“One of the most defining moments in my football career was when we played Bergan in the semi-finals my freshman year,” senior kicker Haley Kube said. “I didn’t even play, and I still felt the biggest heartbreak after that loss just knowing we were so close.”
Just like Kube, twelve other senior teammates felt that same feeling their freshman year as well as the following two and made a goal to put an end to their trail of heartbreaks. They believed their experience, skills and relationships would help them make it to the final round in their last season together.

“Playing this senior year, I felt like we had really good team chemistry with our team having so many seniors,” senior lineman Zach Kennedy said. “Having played together since we were young, it was nice when we ran plays because we were always on the same page.”

In the beginning of the season, however, the team suffered two early losses, causing them to battle for a spot in the playoffs for the rest of the regular season. Luckily, the Chieftains ended the season on a four-game winning streak, granting them the tenth overall seed in Class C-2 playoffs.

“Going into playoffs…I was confident because I knew what we were capable of and had big goals for ourselves,” senior offensive lineman Nathan Rupp said. “We wanted to bring home a state title.”

Leading up to their fifth consecutive year of playoffs, the Chieftains prepared to take on the ninth-seed Hastings St. Cecilia on Oct. 28. However, as the lower seed, the Chieftains were not picked to win.

“Most of the season, we were never predicted to win. Time after time we were predicted to lose and almost always, we proved everyone wrong,” Kube said. “When we saw that we were predicted to lose against Hastings…it just gave us another opportunity to prove them wrong.”

Senior Max Peterson and Coach Joe Dolezal celebrate with a side bump after a defensive stop at Oakland-Craig. The senior lineman referred to themselves as Joe’s Tribe in honor of their coach. (Ginger Eikmeier)

Defying the odds, the Chieftains were able to pull out an upset against the Bluehawks with a win of 35-6, earning them the right to play another game. Contributing to the run game against Hastings was senior team captain and wide receiver Joey Benjamin, who rushed for over 100 total yards.

“We came into the game knowing we were better than them, and I think our confidence going into it contributed to a lot of our success that game…especially running the ball,” Benjamin said.

With another win added to their streak, the team was then paired up with the Knights of Oakland-Craig, who were ranked second in Class C-2.

“When we looked at film, we felt we matched up well with Oakland, and we were excited to have the opportunity to play the number two team,” Rupp said.

The two teams met on Nov. 4 and were neck-and-neck until halftime with the Chieftains leading by one with a score of 7-6. Then to start the second half, senior running-back Cole Smith came out with a 90-yard kickoff return, putting the Chieftains ahead by another score, extending their lead 14-6.

“The energy after that drive took everything to a whole new level,” Smith said. “It was just amazing.”

With that boost of energy, the Chieftains continued their run game once again, finishing the game with a 28-6 win. Just like before, the underdogs had come out on top.

“Oakland was one of the most hard-fought games we played against one of the toughest lines we faced all season. The game was full of adversity that we managed to overcome,” Kennedy said.

Senior Joey Benjamin tries to break away from the defender during a kickoff return. Benjamin was one of three players for the Chieftains to get over 1,000 all-purpose yards this season. (Anna Rupp)

Although the Chieftains came away with the win, they had not come out completely unscathed, with some key players facing injuries. Despite the newfound adversity, the players and coaches carried on preparing for their next opponent, the Ord Chanticleers, on Nov. 11 in hopes of punching their ticket to Lincoln.

“I felt like we were well prepared and playing well, but I knew it would be tough given our injury situation,” head coach Dan Krajicek said. “We had a lot of other guys dinged up with injuries, and I knew Ord was really good, so it was going to take some luck.”

Unfortunately, the odds were not in the Chieftains’ favor as their previous injuries showed through the game, cutting their playoff run short.

“Our top three contributors were injured, one of us being totally out, which took a lot of our offense out of the game, and the overall morale was down,” Benjamin said.

The team had finished just shy of their state championship goal with a 7-35 loss in the semi-final game.

“We played hard, but the ball didn’t bounce our way that night. Had we been fully healthy, I think the game would have been a totally different experience. A football season is a war of attrition, and it caught up to us there at the end. With how we were playing before that when we were healthy, I have no doubt we could have beaten anyone. With that said, Ord played very well and put together a great plan and their kids executed it well,” Krajicek said.

Senior Cole Smith attempts to rush outside the Knights’ defense. Smith averaged 23.3 yards on kickoff and punt returns. (Anna Rupp)

The loss was especially heartbreaking for the seniors as it was not only their last high school football game but their last game playing together.

“I was very emotional after the Ord game because it just caught up to me that that was my last ever high school football game, and I would never play with the same kids again,” Smith said.

Although they may have not accomplished their team goal, the Chieftain seniors ended their season with a little less of a heartbreak knowing the success they were able to achieve throughout their time in the program.

“The season was a success because we were one of four teams in our class to qualify for the semis, and not many people can say they do that twice in their high school career,” senior linebacker Derek Wacker said.

Coach Krajicek agreed, “Making the semi-finals in football is a great accomplishment. It was only the sixth time in school history that we have done it, and these seniors were there for two of them. They are one of the best football teams to ever go through this school.”

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About the Contributors
Haley Kube
Haley Kube, Senior writer
Haley Kube is a senior and in her fourth year of journalism. She enjoys writing sports news, feature stories and making infographics.  Outside journalism, Haley is involved in student council, FBLA, basketball, track, football, NHS, and speech.
Anna Rupp
Anna Rupp, Sophomore writer
Anna Rupp is a sophomore and in her second year of journalism.  She enjoys photography. Outside journalism, Anna is involved in wrestling and band.
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