We saw how the media ranked 11AA. Here’s how I voted in the preseason poll. For comments, and to see all the Media Rankings, go to my Twitter account. Tune in to Varsity Sports Live Friday nights at 10:30 starting next week for live high school football updates.
There’s a reason why everyone believes Pierre is the team to beat in this class. They’re the two-time defending champs with seven starters back on offense and seven more on defense.
Grey Zabel is one of the best linemen in the state. He’s 6-6, 260 and very agile and athletic. He leads a senior group of great players. Garrett Stout threw for 1,735 yards and 20 TDs last year and ran for 1,266 yards and 11 TDs. He’s one of the most dynamic dual threat quarterbacks around. Maguire Raske broke through as a sophomore last year at running back. Andrew Coverdale will be the main target in the passing game. Gunnar Gehring, Chase Sattgast, Cade Hinkle and River Iverson give their defense some teeth.
Pierre has a new schedule this year that includes some 11A teams, but other than that look for more of what they did last year. “If we can stay healthy and continue to improve, we should be tough again. We return a lot of experience up front and our QB/RB combination offensively, and plenty of pieces on defense. Getting a few players back who missed last year with injuries will help to cover holes left from graduation,” said Coach Steve Steele
Yankton had an up and down season last year that ended just one game short of the dome. This year they have three returning starters on offense and six on defense. Head Coach Brady Muth will have to find a replacement for Ethan Wishon at quarterback to have the same high-powered offense.
Corbin Sohler is a speedy junior running back who has grown and is ready to take command on offense. Look for Wil Pease to anchor a big line. Owen Warren is a very athletic sophomore who returns on defense.
After a 4-5 season last year it looks like the Scoopers are on their way up. Especially after their near upset in the quarterfinals against Yankton. Head Coach Chris Koletzky has rebuilt this team through the line, “Our line as the potential to play physical and that is something we look to hang our hat on as a team.”
Cy Eixenberger sets the tone up front for Sturgis. He’s an athletic 6’2”, 240 pounder who is strong. Trever Erlenbusch will be one of the main rushers on offense; he gained 416 yards last year as a fullback. Josh Fowler gives the team some speed on the outside at receiver and Justin Green plugs up the middle at defensive tackle.
Sturgis lost a lot of playmakers from last year, but with the return of some big seniors up front and a new crop of speedsters to get the ball, the Scoopers will be in the hunt toward the top of the class. This could be a big jump for Sturgis.
It’s not every year that Brookings is as pumped up about their team as they are this year. Head Coach Lee Schmidt is excited: “I like the balance of experienced players coming back and a group of young, hungry sophomores who want to find time at the varsity level.”
Carter Eidem will make this team go at running back. He will get increased carries this year and could be one of the best runners in the class. Gus Miller is a beast up front in his senior year. He’ll start on both sides of the line.
Brookings is using the fall camp to name his starting quarterback, but they’re in good shape with a dominant interior line and a running back that can break big plays.
The Tigers are coming off of one of their most successful season’s in school history. Head Coach Scott Spanton moves into town to take over the Tigers. He spent the last 30 years coaching in Texas, but is excited to get started in Huron: “I’m optimistic in regards to returning skill positions on offense. We will have new schemes to learn and fit some pieces to fill in some spots on the offensive line due to graduation.”
Cade McNeil and Blake Larsen are competing at quarterback this fall. They’ll have the luxury of throwing to a couple of talented targets in Cooper Fryberger and Derrick Siemonsma. Look for Walker Schiltz to assume most of the ball carrying duties. Blake Larsen, Fryberger, Sebastian Cordona and Hayden Hogg are all back on defense.
There are a couple of big time players that won’t be back from Huron’s amazing team last year. But if the team buys in and learns Coach Spanton’s system, they could be sneaky-good.
Others to Watch
The Kernels have put together some outstanding teams in recent years. This year they don’t have as much depth with their upperclassmen, but feel good about the athletes they do have. Austin Kerr should assume the quarterback spot, where he’ll run a run-first offense.
The Spartans are young once again. Look for big running back, Jacob Johnson, to set the tone on offense for Spearfish. There are a lot of starters back, but they may be a year away from moving north in the standings.
Top 11 Players in Class 11AA
1. Grey Zabel, Pierre
2. Garrett Stout, Pierre
3. Gus Miller, Brookings
4. Cooper Fryberger, Huron
5. Maguire Raske, Pierre
6. Cy Eixenberger, Sturgis
7. Austin Kerr, Mitchell
8. Will Pease, Yankton
9. Trevor Erlenbusch, Sturgis
10. Corbin Sohler, Yankton
11. Jacob Johnson, Spearfish
Others to Watch
Andrew Coverdale, Pierre
Carter Eidem, Brookings
Gunnar Gehring, Pierre
Carter Jacobsen, Mitchell
Blake Larsen, Huron
Joe Prusa, Brookings
Walker Schiltz, Huron
Derrick Siemonsma, Huron
Owen Warren, Yankton