Despite his team's 4-5 record last season, Sutton football coach Steve Ramer remained optimistic heading into 2012.
“I knew we had a good group of kids who were very coachable,” he said. “They were ready to work hard to try and make this a special season.”
Ramer's Mustangs have done just that, rattling off 12 straight victories to earn a berth in Tuesday's 10:15 a.m. Class C-2 final at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. Standing in the way is David City Aquinas, the defending state champion that is riding a 25-game win streak.
“We feel like all of the pressure is on them,” Ramer said. “We're going to go out and play our game and see what happens.”
The Mustangs, playing for their first state title since 1988, haven't slowed down since a 60-14 season-opening win against Tri County. Sutton finished the regular season 8-0 and then posted playoff wins against Cambridge (56-0), Hastings St. Cecilia (30-14), Hershey (48-7) and Doniphan-Trumbull (36-18).
In that semifinal win over the Cardinals, quarterback Cole Wiseman had a hand in all five touchdowns and ran in three conversions. Sutton led just 22-18 in the fourth quarter but scored a pair of late touchdowns to earn its trip to the final.
“We run the option so the ball is in Cole's hands all the time,” Ramer said. “The defense is usually stacked to stop him, but he still makes things happen.”
Wiseman has rushed 183 times for 1,710 yards and 26 touchdowns. He also has thrown for nine touchdowns, though passing is a rarity for the Mustangs — Wiseman has completed 25 of 39 passes for 691 yards.
“We don't hide what we like to do,” Ramer said. “We're kind of a meat-and-potatoes team that lines up and runs right at people.”
Another major weapon for the Mustangs is the coach's son, running back Trae Ramer. He has carried 173 times for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Noah Johnson (70 carries for 646 yards and six touchdowns) and Mitch Carlson (58 carries for 342 yards and two touchdowns) also present challenges for the opposition.
The Sutton defense is led by inside linebackers Max Olson (184 tackles) and Carlson (129 tackles). They anchor a unit that has yielded an average of just 11 points while the Mustangs' offense averages 42.
“We're pretty strong up front on defense,” Steve Ramer said. “And we're pretty diverse, so I think that's made us pretty tough.”
Despite those numbers, Ramer knows his squad will be considered the underdog. Aquinas, which hasn't missed the playoffs since 2000, will be seeking its sixth state title.
Sutton won its lone title in 1988 over Battle Creek in the Class C-1 final and has played in only one other state final — a 29-20 loss to Bennington in the 1989 C-1 championship.
“It's been awhile since we've been there,” said Ramer, in his third year as head coach. “But the community is really excited about this opportunity and we're going to give it our best shot.”
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