PREP FOOTBALL: Cavalier prepares to play in the N.D. 9-man football title game

CAVALIER, N.D. -- He was a youngster in elementary school, but Chase Walton has memories of Cavalier's run of three straight state football championships and four straight championship-game berths a decade ago.

Cavalier football helmet

CAVALIER, N.D. -- He was a youngster in elementary school, but Chase Walton has memories of Cavalier's run of three straight state football championships and four straight championship-game berths a decade ago.

Sort of.

"I went to all four of those state championship games," Walton said. "They're sort of a blur as to what happened in them. But I've always looked up to what they achieved."

What that group achieved was three straight Class AA high school championships (2002-04) and 47 straight wins, a run that ended when Velva beat Cavalier in the 2005 Class A state final. Now, for the first time since 2005, Cavalier is back in a state championship football game.

The undefeated Tornadoes (10-0) meet Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn at 9:10 a.m. today in the 9-man high school football championship game at the Fargodome.


The 2002-04 state championship banners hang in the Cavalier gymnasium. The players see them on a daily basis.

"We talk about (the banners) all the time -- during football season, even during basketball season," senior Ryan Chrest said. "We've strived to be champions, too. We want to be like them.

"It's the pride of the school. Their legacy still carries on. We want to be the same type of team."

Perennial contenders

Cavalier has had plenty of football success. Over the past four seasons, the Tornadoes twice have reached the state quarterfinals and twice, including last season, they've reached the state semifinals before being eliminated.

"We've had good teams the last few years," Cavalier coach Sandy Laxdal said. "Some of them probably could have scored more points than this team. But I think this is the best team I've had here. It's definitely the best defensive team I've had.

"I think we build off those 2002-05 teams. The kids walk in the gym and they see those championship banners. They want to leave their legacy. We've told them if they want to build on that tradition, they have to strive for it. And these kids have worked hard. They leave a huddle and, as a group, they say, 'Champions.' That's been their goal."

Cavalier has dominated the competition all season.


The Tornadoes finished the regular season not only undefeated at 7-0, but with seven straight shutouts. Hatton-Northwood came within 26-0 of the Tornadoes; every other regular-season win was by 46 or more points.

Cavalier gave up its first points of the season in the first round of the state quarterfinals, a 50-24 win against LaMoure-L-M. The Tornadoes trailed for the first time in a game this season last Saturday, falling behind 8-6 to Napoleon-G-S in the first quarter. Cavalier went on to a 62-8 semifinal win. The Tornadoes have outscored three playoff opponents 164-38.

'We just . . . hit people'

After giving up the first points of the season, "we didn't think about it much," Walton said. "We knew somebody would probably score on just.

"And I didn't even notice (being behind for the first time) until after the game when somebody pointed it out. We don't pay attention to stuff like that. We just want to get out and hit people."

It is a team that relies on a swarming defense and a running game led by Brock Robbins (973 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10.1 yards-per-carry average) and Chrest (1,137 yards, 20 touchdowns, 13.8 yards-per-carry average). It's a young team -- Walton, Chrest and Justin Gibson are the lone seniors.

It is a team that has flourished in a community that is a football hotbed.

"Football is the sport that gets the big numbers out," Laxdal said. "Football is what the kids are most passionate about. It's what they work on in the offseason. It has always been a football-first community. There's a pride in football, and through the years they've had a lot of success."


Today is one more page in that tradition.

"This time, for sure, I'll have more memories," Walton said, "probably memories for the rest of my life."

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