Class 11AAA is always one of the craziest title chases of all the classes. Last year O’Gorman turned their season around and made a push to the championship, this year there are several contenders ready to be that team.
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Jandy's Preseason Top 5 for 11AA Football
1. Sioux Falls Roosevelt
The Riders never seem to be short on talent. That’s the case again this year. They may have the best receiving corps in the land of the Dakotas, but the question remains: will the new quarterback be able to deliver them the ball?
Four of their top five receivers from a year ago are back, starting with the all-time leader in receptions in Roosevelt school history, Tyler Feldkamp, leading the way. Mike Paulson led the team in yards and touchdowns last year, and Presley Johnson delivered in big moments as well. All three receivers are garnering college interest.
The candidates heading into this fall to take snaps are Taylen Ashley, Bennett Dannenbring and Javon Deauville. Ashley is a special playmaker with his feet but needs to work on consistency passing. Dannenbring can make plays passing but needs to develop his downfield passing, and Deauville brings a senior presence to the huddle but lacks varsity experience.
The running game looks very solid with Tyree Nave back at running back. He led the team with 612 yards and 8.5 yards per carry. Joe Turay is also returning. He put up 388 yards as well. But the credit for the running game can be traced directly to Sam Kohls, Nick Pruitt and the big boys up front. These guys have guided a young line the last couple of seasons and are leaders on what could be the best offensive line in the state.
Defensively, Brandon Dannenbring, Tucker Large, Joey Hughes and Lane Ferguson make up one of the most solid frames around. Dannenbring was in on 89 tackles last year, while Hughes and Large led the team in interceptions with Ferguson leading the way on the line.
2. Brandon Valley
Just four starters on offense and six on defense for the Lynx means that Chad Garrow and his staff have some coaching to do. But with the kids they have, plus the upside in place at Brandon Valley, they’ll be in the mix to contend.
The defense should be the key for BV this year. Parker Reed had an outstanding junior year with nine sacks, 74 tackles and 20 TFL. He, along with Joe Kolbeck and Jackson Hilton, are back for their third year starting on defense. That kind of leadership will set the tone for a top defensive unit. Aydin Lloyd, Daunte Miller and Dominic Taylor should give the Lynx a big push on the line with Joey Nemec and Mark Mutschelknaus back starting in the secondary.
On offense, the MidcoSN Class 11AAA player of the year, Tate Johnon, is back. He racked up 1,833 yards and 24 TDs. Austin Vigants, Luke Wickersham and Peyton Carroll are back to help support and block for Tate. They’ll need to gel on the O-Line to have the kind of success that they’re used to. The Lynx have a playmaker on the outside with Jackson Hilton, too, but they’ll have to find a way to get him the ball. Coach Garrow is waiting until practices are in full swing before he names his QB.
3. Sioux Falls Washington
The Warriors seemed to turn a corner last season when they defeated Lincoln in the playoffs. Their young group was no longer in rebuilding and ready to compete. This season, they should pick up where they left off with nine returning starters on offense and six more on defense.
Former assistant coach Ryan Evans replaces Chad Stadem at head coach with the cupboards full. “Our young men know how to work and what it takes to succeed. That has been built into them throughout the tradition of Washington football,” Evans said.
Max Thomson had an impressive sophomore campaign last year and is primed for a breakout year as a junior. He has two potential All-State targets in Tyus Hanson and Josh Piper, with Michael Johnson back at running back. Aiden Brink leads an improved line that has also gotten much bigger. The defense starts with the best linebacker tandem in the state with Randolph Kpai and Jaden Feterl, who are both headed to Division I next year.
4. Sioux Falls O'Gorman
The defending champs have a lot to look forward to this year despite the loss of several key ingredients to their title run.
Quarterback Teegan Schlimgen has grown up as a signal caller and is one of the few seniors playing QB in 11AAA. He played great down the stretch for the Knights and could take off in the O’Gorman pass-happy offense.
Look for Conor Pavelko to become one of the top playmakers in the class. He was very good in limited action last year and should see an increased workload this year. He’s also the state’s top placekicker.
The line is always a question at O’Gorman, but they should be solid.
The Tigers made strides in their first year of triple-A football last season. They started strong and finished with a 5-5 record. They should be able to build on that with some key players back in the mix.
Offensively, it starts with their quarterback, Jacob Knuth. He split time with Jack Teigen last year. Both are back, but I’d be surprised if Knuth doesn’t take charge of that role this year. Knuth is a strong-armed athlete in a 6’4” frame who has improved his vision, accuracy and athleticism since last year. He’ll have Ethyn Rollinger to air it out to this year. They are possibly the top QB to WR threat in the state.
Anders Clayton will carry the ball behind Ethan Headlee and Mason Jacobson to form a potent running game. Lincoln Boetel, Ayden Viox, Kamen Hudon and Gavin Gulbranson are heavy hitters and headline a deep group of potential playmakers on defense.
Sioux Falls Lincoln - While their great 2020 class leaves a lot of holes, they have two key offensive playmakers who will move the needle.
Tommy Thompson, in my opinion, is the most polished quarterback in the state, and Isaiah Robinson could become the top running back in the class. Luke Smith, Ty Schafer, Ethan Rogich and Logan Needles will give the offense some weapons. Andy Blazevich and Payton Hughes have star power on defense, with Yoseph Mekuria and Jack Hughes all back as well.
Head Coach Jared Fredenburg wants to keep the positive vibes going at Lincoln. "I'm looking to building on the success, work ethic and football culture we have been working so hard to establish at Lincoln," he said. "The school is excited. The kids are ready to prove that last year wasn't a fluke. We have plenty to work on. However, the kids are ready and willing to work.”
Watertown- Five starters are back for the Arrows, none more important than Dawson Schmidt, who blew up last year with 39 catches for 948 yards. They also have the bulk of their line returning and Kale Stevenson at running back. Look for Terrence First in Trouble to take over at quarterback this year, along with a strong junior class.
Aberdeen Central - A team’s improvement isn’t always reflected in wins and losses. The Golden Eagles hope to translate some of that improvement into W’s this year.
Sam Rohlfs will move to quarterback this year to replace Austin Huff. His job will be to get the ball to Hunter Paysen, Hunter Lemer, Alec Voegele and Reece Burckhard. The running game starts with Carter Hogg, who showed some promise before getting injured last year.
The line is improved but still young. Six solid starters return on defense and coach Mitch Kranz likes his team. “We are looking forward to getting rolling amid this whole epidemic thing, and I am just really happy that these seniors have the opportunity to play," he said.
Preseason 11AA Player of the Year - Tate Johnson, Brandon Valley
Last year, Tate ran 304 times and collected 1,833 yards and 22 touchdowns. That’s a load of work. Hopefully, he has another monster season in store. He’s also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.
10 More Top Prospects in 11AA
- Reece Burckhard, Aberdeen Central
- Tyler Feldkamp, Sioux Falls Roosevelt
- Jaden Feterl, Sioux Falls Washington
- Jackson Hilton, Brandon Valley
- Sam Kohls, Sioux Falls Roosevelt
- Randolph Kpai, Sioux Falls Washington
- Conor Pavelko, Bishop O’Gorman
- Parker Reed, Brandon Valley
- Dawson Schmidt, Watertown
- Tommy Thompson, Sioux Falls Lincoln
Honorable Mention Prospects
- Sioux Falls Roosevelt
- Michael Paulson
- Tucker Large
- Brandon Dannenbring
- Tyree Nave
- Nick Pruitt
- Jacob Knuth
- Anders Clayton
- Lincoln Boetel
- Ayden Viox
- Jack Teigen
- Brandon Valley
- Joe Kolbeck
- Sioux Falls Washington
- Tyus Hanson
- Josh Piper
- Sioux Falls Lincoln
- Isaiah Robinson
- Payton Hughes
- Andy Blazevich
- Sioux Falls O'Gorman
- Teegan Schlimgen
- Rapid City Stevens
- Joe Weber
- Uriah Glynn
- Rapid City Central
- Kohl Weisman
- Tyler Dean
- Aberdeen Central
- Carter Hogg