Enthusiasm will be bubbling when prep football kicks off on Friday night at locations throughout the region. High hopes abound for teams as they begin on the road to the DakotaDome and its new turf.
As the season opens, KSFY Sports will once again present "Focus on Five," a preview of five of the top prep games in the area. In week one, a number of marquee games dot the schedule on opening night, including in 11AA where #2 ranked Brandon Valley meets #3 O'Gorman at McEneaney Field. In that game, a variation of offensive styles will be featured. The Lynx will throw the ball around and O'Gorman will pound the rock. The two schools have met 12 times since 1990 with the Knights owning a 7-5 advantage. It should be interesting.
Across the border in Iowa, West Lyon plays host to arch rival Central Lyon/George/Little Rock in one of Iowa's top rivalries. West Lyon owns a 26-25 series lead over their friends from CL/G/LR. A wild west shootout will likely be the scenario when 11B #5 St. Thomas More travels to meet 11A #4 Spearfish. In 9A, #1 Canistota puts its 24-game winning streak on the line against 9AA Howard. In addition, defending 11B titlist and #1 Tri-Valley hosts #3 Canton.
As part of our "Focus on Five," we pick the winners of the five games previewed each week, as well as all the playoff games when that time rolls around. A year ago, we finished 104-22 with a 82.5 percent success rate. In the playoffs, we were 79-7 for a .91.9 percent rate.
Make sure to vote for KSFY Sports Game of the Week. The two choices are BV-O'Gorman and West Lyon-CL/G/LR. Regardless of the games profiled by KSFY sports, we urge everyone to get out and support your team. Football is back. We can't wait.
#2 Brandon Valley (0-0) at #3 Sioux Falls O'Gorman (0-0), 11AA, McEneaney Field
Brandon Valley Notes - The Lynx will be explosive offensively with the ability to shut down opponents. BV was 7-4 a year ago, overcame a rough start to become one of the 11AA hottest teams, nearly toppling top-ranked and eventual champion Sioux Falls Roosevelt in a state quarterfinal. Quarterback Chase Marso completed 190-of-340 passes for 2,578 yards, and 34 TDs while Matt VandeBerg had 67 receptions for 1,081 yards, and 16 TDs. VandeBerg, who has signed to play DI football at Iowa, is also a leader of their defense with 52 tackles and a school-record nine interceptions. All-state defender Tony Tripp will likely handle running back duties and is one of the state's top defensive backs after recording 57 tackles, two sacks and four interceptions. The Lynx also return standout defender Adam Guthmiller, who had 64 tackles and four sacks.
O'Gorman Notes: The Knights, which have won eight overall playoff championships with 14 title game appearances since the playoffs era began in 1981, was hit hard by graduation. That is not unusual for O'Gorman and head coach Steve Keuter, who will have his Knights ready for all comers. In 2012, O'Gorman returns 18 letter winners, including five starters on defense. Running back linebacker Nic Steffl (38 att., 286 yards, 3 TDs; 63 tackles), Ryan Erickson (45 tackles), Max Smith (31 tackles), Austin Pharis (28 tackles, int.) and Alex Williams (24T) will be the leaders for the Knights. While the defense will be strong, who will run the offense is key. Look for Blake Hilmoe or Tanner Schulte to handle the QB duties and lead the offense. Isaac Althoff, a transfer from Yankton, should help the O'G rushing attack, which will likely include Steffl and Erickson, among others. Upfront Max Smith is the leader. Williams could be a solid wide receiver performer for the Knights.
Inside slant: Brandon Valley will be a dynamic passing offense but will they find the answer at running back? How much will the loss of Trevor Crow hurt? Will Brandon Valley's defense shutdown the O'Gorman rushing attack? Can O'Gorman overcome heavy losses to graduation and put together another strong team, led by its rushing attack? Will O'Gorman find a replacement for Connor Schaefbauer at quarterback and Sam Steffl/Flynn Donelan in the backfield? How good will be O'Gorman defense be in 2012?
Coaches: Chad Garrow of Brandon Valley, 13 years, 55-23, .705; Steve Keuter of O'Gorman, 35 years (34th at O'G), 259-71-1, .779
Series Record: Since 1990, O'Gorman and Brandon Valley have met 12 times with the Knights owning a 7-5 record. O'Gorman defeated Brandon Valley, 42-14 a year ago, and have won five of the past six games. BV was victorious in the 2008 encounter, 24-21. From 1998 to 2007, O'Gorman won four straight (10-6, 2007; 41-18 in 2006; 20-6 in 1999; and 27-6 in 1998). BV was the victor in consecutive battles in 1996 (19-9) and 1997 (24-17, OT) as well as in 1990 (12-10) and 1990 (28-7). O'Gorman defeated BV in the 1994 (20-7) and 1995 (33-19) games.
Bottomline: Brandon Valley will score points in bunches this year led by Marso and his talented band of teammates. Don't sleep on Brandon's defense, they will be tough and will focus their attentions on the Knights rushing game. Keuter's team will pound the ball while playing employing one of the top defenses in the AA ranks. They had held other passing attacks in check. How well Brandon Valley can protect Marso will be crucial while O'Gorman has to answer questions right away about its offense.
Who Wins? O'Gorman is tough at home and will be again. Brandon Valley has their eyes on the big prize and getting out fast will be critical for Garrow's troops. We see a tight contest with BV prevailing, 25-22.
#3 Canton (0-0) at #1 Tri-Valley (0-0), 11B
Tri-Valley Notes: The Mustangs, which has three 11B championships and four title appearances since 2007, rank among the best programs in South Dakota. A year ago, they put together the school's best-ever season, finishing 12-0. As Tri-Valley looks ahead to 2012, the program is under new leadership with head coach Steve Bazata taking over for the highly successful Brad McDonald. They should be one of the best again with the return of 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.
Canton Notes: just 5-5 a year ago, owns a pair of 11A playoff championships (1986, 2006) and figure to be a much improved team in 2012. If they can negotiate a tough early schedule which includes facing 11B champion Tri Valley on Friday and then home games with 11A champion Dell Rapids and Dakota Valley, they could be a team to watch. Senior quarterback Gage Plueger (17-of-48 passes for 370 yards with five TDs) will direct the offense, which features the multi-talented junior Cody Majerus (3-of-12 passes for 49 yards, rushed 44 times for 286 yards with five TDs and eight receptions for 147 yards and two TDs) and hard-nosed Kase Jacobs, who rushed 80 times for 536 yards and 10 TDs. The offensive front will be led by senior honorable mention All State and two-time all-conference lineman Austin Gates (35 pancake blocks). The defense is led by one of 11B's best linebackers in Jacobs (107 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and a blocked kick). His running mates at linebacker will be junior standout Tanner Broughton (63 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, int.).
Inside slant: Can Canton get its rushing game going feature Jacobs and Majerus? Will Tri-Valley be able to replace significant losses due to graduation? Which quarterback Page or Pleuger find the right magic on Friday night? Will this game with a different verdict that a year ago when Tri-Valley rolled? A year ago Tri-Valley had a deep rushing attack and return only Koopman, is he enough?
Coaches: Steve Bazata, Tri-Valley, 1st year, 0-0; Rich Lundstrom, Canton, 11th year, 47-41, .534
Series Record: Since 2004, the teams have played eight times with the overall record tied at 4-4. A year ago, Tri-Valley rolled to a 43-7. The other games include 2010 - Canton, 13-12; 2009 - TV, 27-0; 2008 - TV, 43-21; 2007 - TV, 41-7; 2006 - Canton, 27-26; 2005 - Canton, 26-14; and 2004 - Canton, 20-8.
Bottomline: This sets up to be a defensive battle with both teams trying to establish their respective ground attacks. Both teams will likely have to throw at times. Look for Page to Burgraff or Koopman out of the backfield to find some success. Canton will be improved and have the talent to pull off an upset in this battle of ranked squads. Will the defending champ survive opening night?
Who Wins? We think this game will be determined in the fourth quarter. Since the game is in Colton, look for the Mustangs to defeat an improved Canton team, 18-14.
9A #1 Canistota at 9AA Howard
Canistota Notes: Led by coach Lenny Schroeder, Canistota is riding a 24-game winning streak, the state's longest current run regardless of class. The Hawks won the 9B title two years ago (66-0 over Hitchcock/Tulare) and 9A in 2011 (66-6 over Wall). Canistota, which outscored opponents, 620 to 61 and 216-to-6 in the playoffs last year, and 1,247-to-99 over the last two seasons, will be led by quarterback Cody Bunger, running back Alex Robertson, linebacker Eric Tieszen and lineman Jason Van Winkle. Due to a number of losses to graduation, Schroeder will need to fill a few spots. Still, Canistota returns some talented players beginning with Bunger (52-of-89 for 948 yards, 19 TDs, 1 int.; 82 att., 1,192 yards, 16 TDs), who had 37 total TDs a year ago and orchestrated an offense that averaged 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 defensive roles for the Hawks.
Howard Notes: Howard, 5-5 a year ago, will try and get off to a quick start against one of the best teams in 9-man football. The Tigers own two state titles, winning 9AA in 2008 (over Emery/Ethan, 40-16) and 11B in 2004 (over St. Thomas More, 29-8). Howard should be a good team in 2012 with the return of 16 letter winners, including 11 seniors. Eight starters return on both offense and defense. Howard, under the direction of head coach Pat Ruml, will lean on its sound running game led by the return of a pair of outstanding running backs in seniors Cole Potter and Evan Donahue. Also look for Luke Loudenberg to get some carries. At the controls will be senior quarterback Landon Laible. Howard's 4-4 defense will be experienced as they look to try and reduce opponents' production. The Tigers will be led by the stout linebacking corps of Donahue, Potter and Hunter Eggert.
Inside slant: Can Howard slow down Bunger and the explosive Hawks' offense? Will the Tigers be able to run the ball against the Hawks' defense, which allowed just 61 total points in 2011? Will Canistota's graduation losses weigh heavy in the matchup? Can Canistota handle Potter and Donahue?
Coaches: Pat Ruml of Howard, five seasons, 28-13, .742; Lenny Schroeder of Canistota, eight seasons, 107-69. .587.
Series Record: Canistota, 1-0. The Hawks defeated Howard, 48-0, in the season opener a year ago.
Bottomline: Canistota owns one of the longest winning streaks in South Dakota 9-man history and return the core of its offensive and defensive groups. The Hawks are strong and talented upfront which may provide the difference among two teams with a ton of talented skill position players
Who Wins? The pick here is Canistota. They are a program focused and on a run. We see Howard putting up a fight through the first half but then the Hawks creating separation in a 46-18 verdict.
#5 St. Thomas More (11B) at #4 Spearfish (11A)
Spearfish Notes : Spearfish is coming off a 7-5 season when they reached the 11A semifinals, falling to 11A runner-up West Central, 34-7. The Spartans, which will be directed by head coach Bruce Besee, could be among the contenders for the 11A title with a talented offense and solid defense. The school won AA titles in 2003 (21-7 over Aberdeen Central) and 1997 (20-14 over Brandon Valley) and is in Class 11A for the second straight year. The Spartans are led by quarterback Brandon Kemp, who completed 71-of-160 passes for 1,038 yards with 13 TDs a year ago. A dual threat, Kemp also had 48 carries for 228 yards and three TDs. The Spartans feature a talented backfield led by seniors Luke Marcoe, who had 88 carries for 856 yards and 13 TDs as well as 13 receptions for 195 yards, and Nate Rotert, who had 119 carries for 1,027 yards and 12 TDs. The pair could both crack 1,000 yards in the coming year. Marcoe (40 tackles, two interceptions) and Rotert (140 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions and FR) are standouts on defense. Luke McFarland is the Spartans' anchor on both the offensive and defensive lines. A year ago, he had 67 tackles and 12 sacks.
St. Thomas More Notes: The Cavaliers, 9-2 a year ago, reached the 11B semifinals in 2011, falling to champion Tri-Valley, 38-19. Wayne Sullivan's squad, which is 44-12 over the last five years, is seeking its first state title after making it to five 11-man title games in two classes during the playoff era. STM should be a strong offensive unit, led by senior quarterback Jake Sullivan, the son of the coach. A year ago, Sullivan completed 78-of-131 passes for 1,539 yards and 19 TDs with just two interceptions. He is also a dual threat after accumulating 627 yards rushing on 95 carries with six TDs. The Cavaliers will also feature fullback Newt Johnson who had 313 yards rushing and four TDs a year ago. Johnson is also a piece of a strong STM defense. A year ago he had 25 tackles and an interception. The line play will be anchored by Witt Dobesh, who had 57 tackles and a sack last season. Sophomore Lincoln Feist (48T) will also be a force defensively.
Inside slant: Can St. Thomas More slow down Spearfish's running attack? On the other side, will the Spartans have an answer for STM's Sullivan and the Cavaliers' explosive passing attack? The two teams fought to the wire a year ago so we is this déjà vu? The game was in Rapid City in 2011. Will Spearfish take advantage of home field in 2012?
Coaches: Wayne Sullivan of St. Thomas More. Bruce Besee of Spearfish.
Series Record: A year ago, St. Thomas More took a 25-20 decision over Spearfish. It was the first meeting between the schools. In that game, St. Thomas More received a five-yard TD pass from Sullivan to Cory Weidmann in the fourth quarter to erase 20-19 deficit. Sullivan, who stopped a late Spearfish drive with an interception, completed 11-of-18 passes for 195 yards and three TDs while Johnson had 21 carries for 63 yards and a TD. Spearfish was led by Nate Rotert who rushed for 107 yards while Jay Darling had five receptions for 114 yards. Kemp completed 8-of-18 passes for 95 yards and a TD.
Bottomline: Both teams should field strong teams in 2012. Sullivan will be one of the state's top quarterbacks while Kemp is a solid field general for Spearfish. Rotert is a tough back, who could prove to be the difference.
Who Wins? We believe that Spearfish and its powerful rushing attack will take this game, which will be decided in the fourth quarter. Last year, Sullivan's late pick stopped a potential game-winning drive by the Spartans. Not this time, Rotert and Marcoe will be tough to stop as Spearfish wins, 31-24.
Central Lyon/George Little Rock at West Lyon
Central Lyon/George-Little Rock Notes: After back-to-back seasons (3-5 in 2009 and 4-5 in 2010) of sub-.500 football, the Lions put together a 7-4 campaign a year ago. It was their fifth winning season since 2004, during which they have three 12-win seasons or better, including winning the title in 2006 and finishing second in 2007 and 2008. Operating out of a Pro-Style set on offense, the Lions need to find an answer at quarterback. CL-GL-R returns one of the area's top backs in senior Josh Hunt, who was named all-district after accumulating 1,393 yards on the ground with 14 TDs. He will work well with fullback Luke Grooters. Seniors Alex Postma and Ben Starr will be the leaders upfront. Anchoring the defense will be Grooters, who had 98 tackles a year ago in earning all-district honors. The defensive front will be led by senior defensive tackle Trenton Enger, who had 66 tackles and three fumble recoveries.
West Lyon Notes: One of the proudest football programs in northwest Iowa, West Lyon's hopes for back-to-back titles ended in a semifinal loss to Emmetsburg a year ago. The Wildcats have an experienced bunch back, including 21 letter winners as well as nine starters on offense and eight on defense. West Lyon, which has made 22 playoff appearances in 24 seasons and a 325-139-7 all-time record, features the Power I which will be directed by junior quarterback Brandon Snyder. (53 att., 386 yards, TD; 27-of-63, 443 yards, 8 TDs). Juniors Bennett Feuchtenberger (164 att., 803 yards, 17 TDs), Kyle Groeneweg (105 att., 497 yards, 3 TDs) and Kaleb Heyer (83 att., 524 yards, 2 TDs.) form a talented and experienced running back group. West Lyon's 4-3 defense, which allowed just 13.25 points per game last year, will be led by senior defensive end Jordan Schemmel (47T, FR, TD). and Heyer (110T, 6 TFLs, sack, 2 int., 2FR, TD).
Inside slant: The game between West Lyon and Central Lyon/George-Little Rock is one of the biggest rivalries in Iowa. Throw out the records when these two teams put on the pads. Look for the game to go down to the wire. Will the Lions slow down what appears to be a strong Wildcats' rushing attack? On the flip side, will West Lyon have an answer for Josh Hunt? Who handles the offensive reins for the Lions?
Coaches: Toby Lorensen, Central George/George-Little Rock, 17 years, 136-50, .731; Jay Rozenboom, West Lyon, 20th season, 194-36, .843.
Series Record: A year ago, Central Lyon/George-Little Rock upset West Lyon, 16-14, scored at the end to pull off an upset. Overall, West Lyon owns a 26-25 series advantage. Since 2004, the two schools have split the eight matchups. Two years ago, West Lyon won 40-7 and also had victories over CLGLR in 2009 (28-0), 2006 (14-0) and 2005 (21-10). The Lions won last year and in 2008 (20-14), 2007 (26-14) and 2004 (15-14).
Bottomline: West Lyon should be stout on offense with a deep running attack. Snyder is a solid quarterback. We think Josh Hunt will shine for the Lions but wonder if they can put slow down a potentially explosive West Lyon offensive attack.
Who Wins? Central Lyon/George-Little Rock was hit hard by graduation and face a talented and deep West Lyon squad. A second straight upset is a big chore for CL/G/LR - not out of the question, but unlikely. With their deep running attack and Snyder directing the offense, look for the Wildcats to pick up a 26-16 season-opening verdict of CL/G/LR.