Cavalier takes to the air to beat Beach in state 9-man semifinals

Cavalier players (from left) Coby Morden, Trevor Hinkle, Levi Hinkle and Jacob Steele celebrate their victory over Beach Saturday to advance to the 9-Man state championship Friday in Fargo. hoto by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

CAVALIER, N.D. -- A week before, in the North Dakota state 9-man quarterfinals, a wind of 30 miles per hour grounded Cavalier and the Tornadoes threw three times for 8 yards in a comfortable victory.

The winds calmed down Saturday afternoon in the state semifinals and Cavalier proved its passing attack can be potent, too.

Cavalier quarterback Brannin Cleem threw for 169 yards and two touchdowns as the Tornadoes pulled away from Beach 30-20 to land a spot in the state championship game for the second year in a row.

Cavalier will play Linton-HMB, a 46-38 semifinal winner over LaMoure-Litchville/Marion, in the state championship at 11:30 a.m. Friday in the Fargodome.

"It means a lot to me (to advance to the state title game)," Cavalier senior lineman Daniel Hinkle said. "But I want to finish better than last year. I want to get that state championship."


Cavalier, which improved to 12-0, lost 54-32 to Kidder County in the 2019 state title game.

Beach, which drove more than 400 miles to Cavalier, went blow-for-blow with the Tornadoes in the first half.

Cavalier scored two first-half touchdowns, both Brysen Cleem catches from brother Brannin Cleem. The first was a 44-yard pass in the first quarter and the second was a 26-yard catch in the second quarter.

"The wind died down from last week," Brysen Cleem said. "We always have it in our playbook, but we decided to throw it more today. We have threats everywhere -- passing and running."

But the Buccaneers kept pace, with a Chance Manhart 23-yard touchdown catch from Tevin Dietz in the first quarter and a Tyson Mattern 35-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Cavalier led 16-14 at halftime.

Beach started with the ball in the second half but Mattern, who finished with 135 rushing yards, was injured on the first play of the half. He played through the injury, but a few plays later, he had to scramble on his own fumble, which set up a third-and-16 situation.

On third down, Dietz was intercepted by Cavalier's Jacob Steele near midfield.


Cavalier countered with a quick score, punctuated by a Brannin Cleem 1-yard run for a 22-14 advantage.

On Beach's next possession, Mattern fumbled again and Cavalier's Ty Holmquist recovered. Four plays later, Brannin Cleem ran in from 12 yards out to push the lead to 30-14 with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Beach would score one more time. On third-and-15, Dietz hit Ray Steiner for a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the Cavalier lead to 30-20. But the Buccaneers failed to gain the 2-point conversion to pull within one score and didn't recover the onside kick, allowing the Tornadoes to run out the remaining clock.

"I think we came out and laid it on the line but we made too many mistakes, especially against a team like Cavalier," Beach coach Mike Zier said. "I was really happy with the effort of our guys."

Brannin Cleem led the way for Cavalier with 82 rushing yards and 169 passing yards.

Zier wasn't surprised the Tornadoes took the air as much as they did.

"I would pass more on our defense, too," Zier said. "We're more of an in-the-trenches type team. Cavalier did a nice job, but I was proud of how we could establish the run, too."

Mattern ended with 135 yards rushing on 18 carries, while Dietz had 93 yards on 4-for-12 passing.


"Beach is a real physical team," Cavalier coach Sandy Laxdal said. "Their big kids are tough to move. We struggled off tackles a little against them.

"We saw some things on film that we could maybe get over the top on them. We're pretty balanced in being able to throw the ball. (Brannin Cleem) scrambles and makes plays, which creates mismatches down the field. That's key for us -- not just being a running team."

Cavalier 30, Beach 20

First quarter

C -- Brysen Cleem 44 pass from Brannin Cleem (Brannin Cleem run)

B -- Chance Manhart 23 pass from Tevin Dietz (run failed)

Second quarter


C -- Brysen Cleem 26 pass from Brannin Cleem (Brannin Cleem run)

B -- Tyson Mattern 35 interception return (Dietz run)

Third quarter

C -- Brannin Cleem 1 run (run failed)

C -- Brannin Cleem 12 run (Trevor Hinkle pass from Brannin Cleem)

Fourth quarter

B -- Ray Steiner 49 pass from Dietz (run failed)

Individual leaders


RUSHING -- C: Brannin Cleem 14-82, Jacob Steele 16-53, Trevor Hinkle 7-39; B: Tyson Mattern 18-135, Kaden Volk 8-30, Tevin Dietz 2-23

PASSING -- C: Brannin Cleem 11-15-1, 169 yards; B: Dietz 4-12-2, 93 yards

RECEIVING -- C: Brysen Cleem 2-70, Landon Carter 3-51, Jacob Steele 3-32, Trevor Hinkle 3-16; B: Ray Steiner 1-49, Chance Manhart 1-23, Mattern 1-12, Blake Van Horn 1-9

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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