KSFY'S TOP SIX SCHOOLS TO WATCH IN 2012
Sioux Falls Washington, a squad that returns 39 letter winners including 14 starters (six on offense and eight on defense), is the clear favorite to take home a championship in 11AA. Brian Hermanson's team will be led by Nebraska signee Nate Gerry, a two-way standout (34 rec., 623 yards, 10 total TDs, 73 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, two sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery), who may be the state's top football player. Gerry led the Warriors to a state track title last spring and is bigger and faster and undoubtedly will be a force on both sides of the ball. SFW's offensive attack will be led by quarterback Jon Hander (113-of-188 for 1,671 yards and 14 TDs, 10 rushing TDs), who has signed to play baseball at Kansas but with a big year could get DI looks for football. Washington, which was the AA runner-up in a 9-3 campaign in 2011, will try for an unprecedented AA sixth straight title game appearance while searching for a third playoff championship. In the past five seasons, Washington is 57-8, rolling up an impressive 2,449-to-690 point differential. It is possible that SFW could run the table, matching SFW's 2009 and 2010 teams that each finished 13-0 to put together a 26-game winning streak.
After winning three of the past four Class 11A football championships, Dell Rapids has put together the greatest run of success in school history. After going 11-1 and winning a second straight title, head coach Steve Hansen has the task of reloading with a talented group of returnees and a deep roster. Standouts Cole Langer and Bryce Koch will be the team leaders. Langer (39 att., 388 yards 5 TDs), is a three-year starter at running back. Last year Langer missed most of the season with an injury but ran for 1,236 yards on 133 carries with 24 TDs as a sophomore. On defense, Langer (102T as a sophomore) will be back to anchor a 4-3 defense that permitted just 12 points a game, including 246 yards in total offense. Koch (10.5 TFLs, 2 FR, 2 FF,) will be the leader on the defense front.
Tri-Valley, which has three 11B championships and four title appearances since 2007, ranks among the best programs in South Dakota. A year ago, they put together the school's best-ever season, finishing 12-0. As the Panthers look ahead to 2012, the program is under new leadership with Steve Bazata. They should be one of the best again. They return 18 letter winners, including five starters on offense and three on defense. Quarterback Brett Page, (31-of-51, 651 yards, 14 TDs, 156 yards rushing, six TDs) will lead the offense. While graduation claimed a good share of the Panthers' backfield, senior halfback Logan Koopman returns after rushing 86 times for 754 yards and six TDs. Senior tight end Dominic Burgraff, who had 117 yards receiving and a pair of TDs, is a returning starter and will be a leader in the receiving group. On defense, The Mustangs will again operate in a 44 defense, which held opponent to 176 yards in total offense per game in 2011. Three starters return, including Burgraff (34T, 10 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries) at defensive end; Koopman (28T, int.) at linebacker and Page (17T, int.) in the secondary.
Bridgewater/Emery/Ethan will seek a third straight title, led by head coach Jeff Van Leur. BEE returns 36 letter winners and four starters, led by fullback Anthony Huber. A senior three-year starter at linebacker and fullback, Huber had 168 carries for 1,308 yards and 17 TDs (long of 89 yards) or 109 yards per game and 7.8 yards per carry. Joe Robbie Award winner Jace Connor, a junior quarterback who completed 41-of-61 passes for 410 yards with 10 TDs and two interceptions, will be back to lead the offense. A dual threat quarterback, Connor, who is also the team's punter (36.12 average), also rushed 62 times for 369 yards and four TDs. Leading the offensive line will be senior lineman Franky Tusha, a two-year starter. Huber (142T, 46 solos, int., 3 FR), is one of four starters back on BEE's 4-3 defense, which allowed only 220 yards in total offense and 13.1 points per game.
Canistota, led by coach Lenny Schroeder, is the heavy favorite to win a third straight title. The Hawks are riding a 24-game winning streak, the state's longest regardless of class. Cody Bunger and Alex Robertson along with Eric Tieszen and Jason Van Winkle make Lenny Schroeder's team a threat to extend the winning streak to 36 games, if they survive a week three (Sept. 7) date with Bridgewater/Emery/Ethan, the 9AA defending champ. Bunger (52-of-89 for 948 yards, 19 TDs, 1 int.; 82 att., 1,192 yards, 16 TDs) had 37 total TDs a year ago and will lead the Hawks offense, which averaged 294.9 yards rushing and 79 yards passing along with 51.7 points per game. He will joined in the backfield by Alex Robertson (144 att., 1,022 yards, 12 TDs; 8 rec., 135 yards, 4 TDs). The vaunted Canistota 3-5-1 defense will feature Tieszen, a standout linebacker who had 124 tackles (55 solos), two fumble recoveries and forced fumble in 2011. Isaac Fuhrman (50T, FR, 2 FF), Van Winkle (98T, FR), DeKramer (76T, int.), Bunger (26T, 7 int.), Robertson (46T, 4 int.), and Troy Hofer (19T, int.) will also play key roles for the Hawks.
Viborg/Hurley, which is 18-5 over the past two seasons, appears to be one of the favorites for the 9B title. Despite a difficult schedule and a major change in leadership, the Cougars will be a tough crew to handle. Former assistant Eric Sommervold takes over as head coach for the Coyotes, replacing John Nyhaug, who finished a distinguished football career with an 190-116 record. This team returns 12 letter winners with five starters on both offense and defense. Leading the pro style offense, which generated 328 yards in total offense a year ago, will be either junior Jack Huether (20-of-38-437 yards, 5 TDs, 61 att., 196 yards, 6 TDs; 4 rec., 23 yards) or senior Trevor Jacobsen (45-of-63-810 yards, 11 TDs; 33 att., 170 yards, 4 TDs). Running back Tyler Gerdes is one of the top skill players returning in 9B. A year ago, he had 81 carries for 798 yards and 18 combined TDs. Viborg/Hurley's 4-2 or 33 defense, which limited opponents to 198 yards in total offense and 18 points a game, will be anchored by Tyler Novak (106 tackles, five sacks, two int., FR) at linebacker. Gerdes (68T, 13 sacks, two fumble recoveries, interception, TD return) is another key returning starter who constantly creates disruption upfront.