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Culver Bulldogs football squad plays well, but loses away state playoff game to Knappa 38-22 Nov. 8.

STEELE HAUGEN - Culver football lost to Knappa 38-22 in the first round of the 2A state playoffs Nov. 8.The Culver football program lost in the 2A state playoffs 38-22 to Knappa in the first round Nov. 8.

The Culver Bulldogs put up a fight all the way through the end of the game their game in Astoria.

The Bulldogs went into halftime down 22-15 to the No. 8 ranked Knappa (7-2). Culver was able to move the ball against Knappa and was fired up for the second half.

"The kids stepped up, and the kids played tough the whole game," head coach Shea Little said. "They had some athletes on their side, but our kids have always played as a team. I think it was our best game of the season, which is a good game to finish on. In the second half, we needed to convert on a couple of fourth-down situations. We got behind on the chains a couple times and any mistake during that playoff game, especially a team with a little better athletes than us, is always tough to overcome.

"Man, we were impressed by our kids' toughness, and actually, we think it was our best game of the season as far as assignments and responsibilities," he said. "We were playing tough, hitting them hard. Even the other team's coaches and athletic directors said we were the toughest team they played, so that is a big compliment to the kids. We had to isolate a couple of their players and the kids did a good job of that. We were really impressed."

Culver stayed with their strong ground game throughout, relying on powerful running back Zachary Wisemen.

"We were still one dimensional," Little said. "We ran the football well. Justyce Loredo did a great job stepping up at quarterback. We threw a little bit, the play-action worked well for us. The biggest thing was, even in our previous game, we were one block away from big plays. The kids took care of it this week, even versus better players."

Knappa was able to outscore Culver 16-7 in the second half. They were also to establish a strong offense, scoring 38 points against a tough Bulldog defense.

"They ran exactly what we scouted for and offensively, they ran a spread offense," said Little. "They did a good job with that and were able to throw the ball really well. Knappa had a couple of kids that could run the ball really well and we had to isolate their quarterback. We ran three different fronts and the kids adjusted to that well. We switched from zone coverage to man coverage, switching it up on them. They obviously got a couple good plays against us, and we didn't defend it real well at times, but for the most part the kids played solid."

The Culver Bulldogs finished the season with a 5-4 overall record. They started off the season extremely well, having a 4-0 record. Culver played competitive league opponents toward the end of their season, but played strong enough to make the state playoffs.

"We started off the season and not very many people thought we were going to win a game," Little said. "We went into the season with that message to the kids and just talked about playing as a team, coming together and focusing on each game at a time, improving every time we step on the field. I think this was one of the best teams I have coached as far as playing as a team, bonding as a team and focusing on improving every time we step on the field. I think they did it, and our season reflected that."

"We played some weaker teams to start the season, and the kids really stepped up and took to them," he said. "Our season got stronger as we went, as far as opponents, and didn't shake the kids at all. The team knew going into the Kennedy, state champs, who have another chance to do it again this year, that if we do our assignments, play hard, and do our job, we have a chance to get a W. They went in there and played hard. It didn't go our way, but I think as the season went on, we did improve every game, and we just got stronger as a team. As a coaching staff we couldn't be more proud of what the kids did."

The Bulldogs will be losing elite seniors after this season, but the younger athletes were ready to keep practicing even after the season was over.

"Some kids after the game were texting me to have practice on Tuesday even though we didn't have any more games," Little said. ""They are excited about it, fired up. We are going to push them into three sports. I want to see three-sport athletes, and I want to see our kids get into the weight room. They are already jacked up and ready for next year. Our JV did well. I think they only lost two games all season. Those kids are a strong group, and if they get in the weight room and compete in other sports, we will only have positives to look forward to."

Little was extremely grateful for the great coaching staff and parents who were involved and committed to the athletes, helping out in any way. He understands the importance of the hard work coaches and others behind the scenes, including parents, do to help the program grow forward.

"I had a great coaching staff. They worked hard," said Little. "The parents helped with (the) team dinner, fundraiser and were at every game. The time the coaching staff put in was extraordinary. All those things help us find success."

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