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SD High School Football Championship Preview

Thursday - November 12

9AA - Platte-Geddes vs Hamlin - 11 am CT

This one promises to be the most competitive of the day. Both come in undefeated and in a sense as underdogs. I had these two at 5 and 6 in my preseason rankings and both have overachieved those expectations.

Platte-Geddes

As for Platte-Geddes, their defense is just as good. They’ve given up just 8 points per game and are +28 in turnover margin. Grayson Hanson has a team-leading 116 tackles including 14 TFL, 4 picks and 3 forced fumbles. Myles Kott, Caden Foxley and Chase Varilek are a few of other big-time defensive stoppers.

On offense, Jackson Neuman and Grayson Hanson are a potent one-two combo. Last week Neuman topped the 1000-yard mark for the season with 11 TDs and Hanson has added 12 TDs and has 700 yards. Their big quarterback Kelby Vanderwerff has big play potential, he’s thrown for 1250 yards and 16 scores this year.

Hamlin

Hamlin is a run-first team, they’ve run the ball on 84% of their offensive plays. Jackson Noem is their bell cow and continues to get stronger as the year goes on. He’s run for at least 100 yards in every game, but over the last three weeks he’s been torrid with 844 yards and 11 TDs in the playoffs. Last week Cameron Thue helped the cause with some big plays too. When they pass Xander Sheehan has been efficient. He has a 14:3 TD to INT ratio and his passer rating is over 100.

The Defense has been just as good or better. They’ve given up just six points in the playoffs and yielded just 9 points per game. Seniors Jake Sprang, Cameron Thue, Ryan MacDonell and Jackson Noem are the leading tacklers and junior Michael Stevenson has a team high 16.5 Tackles for loss and 9 sacks.

Keys:  

PG coach, Bruce Hanson, thinks the battle up front is key. They’ll need to stop the hard charging running game from Hamlin.

Hamlin coach, Jeff Sheehan, thinks they need to control the clock and keep converting on third downs to win the time of possession battle.

MY PICK:

I think Hamlin wins a close one. The senior defensive leaders for the Chargers will do enough to stop Platte in the second half to pull out the win.

9B - Dell Rapids St. Mary vs Wolsey-Wessington - 3 pm CT

These two teams could be the poster for overcoming obstacles in the pandemic. These were my preseason #3 and #1 teams in Class 9B and they’ve worked their way back to the top.

Dell Rapids St. Mary

There are many notable differences between the Cardinals that began 1-2 and the team that finished 6-0.  Ashaun Roach -Valandra is a big part of that impact. He has 9 sacks on the year and led the team in tackles. John Pica and Ty Brown are other players who have stepped up. Connor Libis has made three picks on defense and Max Herber has three fumble recoveries too.

Offensive changes helped too. They started using Libis differently and getting Nic Gaspar and Noah Olund more involved and the yards started rolling in. Libis leads the team with 1224 yards rushing and 20 rushing TDs. Quarterback, CJ Smith doesn’t throw a lot, but the Cards have made several big plays passing. Most recently last week Ashaun Valandra came up with some clutch catches to complete the comeback win over Kadoka.

Wolsey-Wessington

The Warbirds have been playing better and better throughout the season. Their defense has a lot to do with that. They’ve pitched a shutout in three of their last four games. Jake Williams has been on an absolute tear averaging over 10 tackles per game. Tristan Abbott has 7 interceptions and is the second leading tackler.

Offensively the road has been rocky, but they’ve found a nice groove lately. They started out the year with Corbin Haarmeyer stepping in at quarterback. His progress has been steady and much more consistent. He has found Tristan Abbott for several big plays in the passing game. But the Warbirds are known for their dominant running game. Marty Gohn and Eric Klanchnik have supplied 8 100-yard rushing games this year. They are very explosive and have two electric options for the championship game.  

Keys:

Get out to a good start for the Cardinals. It will be a much tougher grind trying to dig out of a deficit against these Warbirds.

For WW, they must be consistent up front. They’ve improved their line play throughout the season but must avoid drive-killing mistakes that will let the Cardinals swing the momentum.

MY PICK:

Wolsey-Wessington has gone through quarantines, injuries, and other setbacks this year, but they’ll rise to the occasion at the DakotaDome where they will get big plays from Tristan Abbott, Eric Klanchnik and Corbin Haarmeyer to win this game.

9A - Canistota/Freeman vs Warner - 7 pm CT

The defending champions come into this one ready for another big test. They passed three playoff tests against Chester Area, Philip and Howard on the road to the dome. Warner’s road included a scare in the quarters against Ipswich but they prevailed and went on the road to shutout Wall. It’s a matchup of the defending champs against the undefeated.

Canistota/Freeman

The methodical Pride offense is powered by a great offensive line.  The blocking has been solid and allowed Tyce Ortman and Isaiah Robertson to have a big year running the ball. Ortman can pass as well. They average about 70 yards per game through the air and Logan Katzer and Collin Helma are the top targets. This offense has produced 53 plays of 20 yards or more this year and they will have a few more on Thursday night.

They’ve given up just 6 points per game with an air-tight defense. Tyce Ortman is the team’s leader in tackles but it’s a true team effort. Clayton Smith leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and Isaiah Robertson is the team leader in interceptions.

Warner

The Monarchs have been solid across the board. Ty Cramer and Jackson McNeil give them a lot of different ways to attack in the running game. Freshman quarterback Hunter Cramer continues to evolve and improve. He’s an accurate passer and a tough runner to tackle. Landon Leidholt can literally do it all, he’s been a mainstay at receiver.

On defense Warner has given up just two scores in the last month. Landon Leidholt, Alex Braun, Dawson Hanson, Ty Cramer and Jackson McNeil are some of the top playmakers on defense.  Warner is in good shape, just like everyone else, when they create takeaways. That will be a focus for this defense.

KEYS

For Canistota/Freeman, they need to be on the lookout for Hunter Cramer. He balances the offense for Warner and can make plays with his feet or arm. If the Pride can keep him contained they will be in good shape.

For Warner, they must find a way to win the turnover battle. This team hasn’t created a lot of big plays on defense this year, so capitalizing in the turnover department will give them a huge lift.

My PICK:

I think this game may be closer than some think, but Canistota/Freeman will find a way. Look for Tyce Ortman to do what he did last year and have one of his best games of the season in the championship.

Friday - November 13

11B - Winner vs Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan - 2 pm CT

This is what championship football is all about. The top two teams in the class all season long clash for a rematch of last season’s title game. This one has the makings of another classic.

Winner

The Warriors came into the season as my preseason number one because of their stout defense and solid running game. They’ve proven to live up to those expectations. They’ve run for 323 yards per game with five different backs averaging at least 25 yards per game. Sam Kruger has been the workhorse with 95 carries for 762 yards and 11 TDs. Riley Orel has been used almost as much and carries a 9.0 yards per carry average into the title game. Their quarterback Brady Fritz is probably their most athletic player. He nets 46 yards per game on the ground and 44 yards per game passing. Although Fritz only passes an average of three times per game, he makes big plays. He has a crazy 13.5 yards per attempt this year. So watch out for those 3 or 4 big plays through the air.

On defense the Warriors give up just 6 points per game and they’re +13 in takeaways. Landon Thieman has been big this year as the team leader in tackles. Sam Kruger, Preston Norrid, Charlie Pravacek and Riley Orel have all been big on defense as well.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan

The Seahawks are shooting for back to back titles with a revamped but more than capable offense. Last year Brady Hawkins made big play after big play to lead the Seahawks to a title. This season it’s been Koby Kayser and Bodie Burnham dominating on the ground. They combine for 219 yards per game rushing. Kaden Klumb has been solid at quarterback too. Klumb is completing passes at a 60% clip and has thrown 12 TDs.

The traditional dominance on defense is still there for BEE. They’ve given up just 52 points all season long and just one game they’ve given up multiple scores. Their run defense gives up just 2.4 yards per carry. Let that sink in. That’s crazy. Rylee Schultz flies to the ball whether it’s a run or a pass. He has 82 tackles, 5 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. Koby Kayser, Brandon Jansen, Eric Gustafson, Josh Bartscher and Brooks Jansen combined for 40 tackles for loss. That’s how they ended up with such devastating stats.

KEYS

Winner needs to break out big plays on both sides of the ball. They have the athletes to do it but they’ll need 20+ yard plays from Kruger, Fritz and company to tip the scales.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan needs to win the line of scrimmage first on both sides of the ball. They’ve done so all season, but Winner is a different animal.

MY PICK:

I think the BEE defense is a titch better than Winner’s (I have about 50% confidence in that). I think it will come down to another goal line stand or two, but the Seahawks will grab back to back titles in the end.

11AA - Brookings vs Pierre - 7 pm CT

Rematch Friday continues with Brookings at Pierre for the nightcap. These two played a close one on October 9th when Brookings pulled a late touchdown out to win 21-14. This one will be another tightly contested contest.

Brookings

The Bobcats have exceeded everyone’s expectations this year. They  have run the football for an average of 290 yards per game on their way to an undefeated season. Josh Buri dominates the headlines with a ridiculous 11.4 yards per carry and 27 touchdowns. He rightfully gives credit to his offensive line which has won the battle up front all year. But this isn’t a one-man team. Keegan Fields has rushed for 500 yards and three scores and is also their leading receiver with 319 yards and six scores. Jaxon Bowes is a steady hand at quarterback. He’s thrown for 14 TDs and has just five interceptions on the year.

The defense is predicated on big plays. Parker Theobald is the leader of the pack with 19 tackles for loss, 5 tackles per game and 19 quarterback hurries this year. Brock Longville has chipped in an astounding 10 sacks and Wes Koenig leads the team in tackles. But the Bobcats are at their best when hauling in interceptions. Gavin Fixen, Jackson Krogman, Hunter Gray, Keegan Fields, Max Stuck, Sam Hardin, Eric Dang, Nick Bayer, John Noordsy and Jaxon Eck all have multiple picks this year. They are +22 in takeaways on defense.

Pierre

The three-time defending champs finally get to play the underdog card in this one. The Govs had a lot to replace from their dynasty of the last three seasons, but one player they got to keep was Maguire Raske. He has been as good as advertised. Raske has a season low of 129 yards rushing this year and averaged 156 yards per game. That’s consistency. In their previous game against Brookings Raske ran for 151 yards and two TDs, he’ll need a similar effort on Friday. Sophomore quarterback Lincoln Kienholz started the year with 12 interceptions in his first five games. Since he’s been much more accurate and continues to make bigger and bigger plays with his arm and his feet. He’s run for 100 yards or more in three of his last four games which frees up a lot of big plays on offense for the other playmakers.

The defense has had their issues but the Govs are working their way back in recent weeks. Their second attempt to beat Yankton was highlighted by their defensive effort. Seniors Regan Bollweg, Gunnar Gehring, Preston Taylor, Collin Brueggeman, Jayce Beastrom and Josh Rowse lead a talented defense.

KEYS

Brookings must win the turnover battle. They will need to pressure Lincoln Kienholz and keep him from making big plays.

Pierre must be consistent. They benefitted from that consistency on offense and defense against Yankton. They have to compete up front to set the tone in this game.

My PICK:

I think this will be an absolute battle again. Last time they played it came down to a few plays that Brookings won. Both Raske and Buri will be a treat to watch, but in the end I think Lincoln Kienholz could be the key if he can make a couple plays in the passing game. Pierre wins a thriller.

Saturday - November 14

11A - Canton vs Tea Area - 2 pm CT

In a rematch of last season’s semifinal and this season’s opener, Canton takes on Tea Area in what promises to be a physical defensive battle.

Canton

They have a stable of backs that get it done. Zander Elling is the workhorse but Luke Richardson, Avery Herting and Beau Williams can all tote the ball too. Seth Peterson is a calm leader for the C-Hawks at quarterback. He’s thrown for 986 yards and 11 TDs this year versus only 3 interceptions. The Canton offense hasn’t been explosive this year, but they have some weapons to get it done.

Defense has been the key to Canton’s success this year. The defensive line is very talented with Marshall Baldwin at the nose, and Beau Williams and Avery Herting at defensive end. Herting missed a few games but has been clutch to the overall defense since returning. He is the school record holder for career tackles for loss and sacks and he’s just a sophomore. Zach Richardson is the team leader in tackles and is the reason this defense is so good.

Tea Area

The Tea Area offense is better than you think. They’ve put up 306 yards rushing per game and 114 passing. Kaden Johnson, Austin Lake, Conner Mulder and Garrett Kolbeck all average over 6 yards per carry and get at least 48 yards per game rushing. Quarterback Austin Lake has been huge this year, he’s thrown for 985 yards and run for 686. All this offensive success can be traced to an outstanding offensive line. I think they are the best in the class.

On the defensive side of the ball Tea Area has taken care of business. They allow 11 points per game and Luke Rettedal has been one of the biggest reasons. Luke has 45 tackles, 10 TFL, 3.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Isaac Johnson and TJ Krietlow are their top two tacklers. The team gives up a paltry 1.9 yards per carry.

KEYS

Canton must find a way to win the time of possession. Tea makes a name on time of possession, Canton has to get off the field on third down and sustain drives.

Tea Area must control the line of scrimmage as well.  Defensively, they need to be ready for anything that Canton shows them.

MY PICK:

Tea Area has a better shot because of their offense. Both teams have great defense, but Tea can make one or two more plays because of Kaden Johnson and Austin Lake running behind that big Tea line. Give me Tea Area to cap off an undefeated season in a close game.

11AAA - Harrisburg vs Brandon Valley - 7 pm CT

Harrisburg has taken some giant steps this season. They won at Howard Wood Field, they won, not one but two playoff games in the state’s largest class and now they’ll try to win their first state title since 1999 when they were an 11B team. Brandon Valley is on a sustained run of excellence which has landed them in the championship game in four of the last five years. They’ll be shooting for their second state title in the last three seasons.

Harrisburg

The Tigers offense has the most weapons in the state. They don’t rely on a single playmaker to get it done. It’s junior quarterback, Jacob Knuth’s job to take advantage of what’s given to them and he’s done just that. Knuth has thrown for over 2,000 yards and is completing 62% of his passes. He gets the ball to Andrew Walter, Anders Clayton, Gavin Ross, Jack Teigen, Lincoln Carlson and Carter Bahrenfuss fairly evenly. But it’s Ethyn Rollinger who has been the biggest threat. He has 46 catches for 782 yards and 12 touchdowns. In the running game Anders Clayton and Gavin Ross have both had big games but aren’t consistent threats to take a game over.

The linebackers have been strong for the Tigers, but this game will test them even more. Cade Larsen, Tyman Long and Gavin Gulbrandson will be responsible for holding Tate Johnson in check. Ayden Viox leads the team with 10 sacks and five tackles for loss. He’ll need to break down the edge at defensive line in order to disrupt what Brandon Valley likes to do. Lincoln Boetel, Carter Bahrenfuss and Kamen Hudson lead a good-tackling secondary and will be on high alert to stop big plays.

Brandon Valley

Jaxen Mullet, Andrew Bunkers, Brady Koupal, Nate Meyers and Navarro Schunke have stepped up in a big way this year. The Lynx offensive line had a major remodel and those five have stepped into starting positions and won the battles. Tate Johnson has turned those holes and slices of daylight into big plays. Tate has run for 27 touchdowns and netted another one receiving. Joe Kolbeck has stepped in at quarterback and played beautifully. He’s 29-53 for 482 yards and six TDs; plus, he’s run for 716 yards and 10 TDs. Jackson Hilton and Peyton Carroll are the teams leading receivers and pose a hidden threat in the passing game. Austin Vigants is another key blocker and receiver at tight end.

On Defense Parker Reed may be the biggest play-wrecker in the game. Reed recorded 6.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss this year. Owen Warren, Josh Pickthorn, Damion Schunke are the other big playmakers on defense.

KEYS

Harrisburg must find a way to compete from the start. They can’t dig a hole and let BV run the ball on every play.

Brandon Valley must get off the field on third downs. Jacob Knuth has made a lot of his living off big third down pickups both throwing and running the ball. The Lynx are focused on stopping that.

MY PICK:

I think these two will trade blows early, but Brandon Valley will outlast Harrisburg with their power run game. Tate Johnson pulls away late for big game.

 

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