Canadian Wildcats (14-0) vs. Gunter Tigers (13-1),
Class 3A Division II state semifinals.
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: Leo Brittain Field at Lions Stadium, Vernon
On the air: Fans can listen at canadiansportsnet.com
The coaches: Chris Koetting, 10th year at Canadian 128-16; Jake Fiezsel, 13th year at Gunter, 149-26.
Players to watch
QB Grant McCook, 179 of 270, 2,519 yards, 26 touchdowns, 1,010 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns.
RB-LB Hayze Hufstedler 161 carries, 1,404 rushing, 27 touchdowns. 124 tackles.
RB Clayton Reed, 113 carries, 894 yards, seven touchdowns.
RB Peyton Lowe, 86 carries, 635 yards, 12 touchdowns.
It might as well be a district game when Canadian battles Gunter for a trip to the UIL Class 3A Division II state championship game at 7 p.m. Friday night in Vernon.
The two teams are far from strangers, meeting for a fourth straight time in a state semifinal.
“There’s no secrets between us,” Canadian head coach Chris Koetting said. “They know us and we know them. We’re very familiar with what one another does. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes that’s bad. But we’re looking forward to it.”
This rivalry showcases more than just two teams that know everything about one another.
Over the four years of this clash, the two teams have solidified themselves as two of the perennial program’s in all of Class 3A.
Since 2016, the Tigers are 59-3, playing in two state championships, winning the 2016 state title.
During that same span, Canadian is 54-6, and was the state runner up last season.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, the two head coaches W-L records are staggering. Gunter coach Jake Fieszel is 149-26 in 13 years, while Koetting is 128-16 in 10 years.
That’s a combined record of 277-42 in 23 seasons.
“We have a ton of respect for coach Koetting and his program,” Fieszel said. “Canadian does things the right way and it shows. For us, you have to give a lot of credit to the guys who’ve played. They’ve been coached hard, and played at a high level to make this all happen.”
Gunter won the first two games in this series. The Tigers downed the Wildcats 44-34 on the way to the 2016 state championship. The following year, the Tigers roared past the Wildcats, 56-21.
However, Canadian was able to fight back with a hard earned 17-7 victory last year before falling to Newton in the state championship.
Both teams have aggressive defenses. Canadian’s defensive line is rock solid.
Offensively is where they differ. Canadian spreads it out with quarterback Grant McCook. McCook, a 1,000-yard rusher and 2,000 yard passer, is prolific in his position. The Wildcats can also run the ball behind a powerful line with Hayze Hufstedler (1,404 yards) and Jake Krehbiel (388 yards).
“Canadian can do it all on offense,” Fieszel said. “McCook is as good a quarterback as we’ll see. But their defense is pretty dang good. That defensive line is stout. They get off blocks, and run well. Coach (Andy) Cavalier has done an amazing job.“
Gunter loves to run the football and play physical. They run the Flexbone out of a pistol formation with a plethora of running backs that include running back Clayton Reed. On the year, Reed has 113 carries for 894 yards and seven touchdowns.
“Gunter is a hard team to simulate in practice,” Koetting said. “They have a lot of personnel they use. Luckily we’ve seen it. I think both teams will have great plans put together, and it comes down to who plays the best.”
How Canadian got here
Bidistrict:Canadian 66, Bangs 20
Area: Canadian 48, Coahoma 14
Regional: Canadian 55, Cisco 28
State quarterfinal: Canadian 35, Abernathy 31
How Gunter got here
Bidistrict: Gunter 53, Tolar 7
Area: Gunter 27, Clifton 14
Regional: Gunter 47, Rogers 14
State quarterfinal: Gunter 27, Holliday 9
The Canadian-Gunter winner gets the Omaha Pewitt-East Bernard winner in the Class 3A Division II state championship.