As October hits, the road to the DakotaDome has begun to take on some potholes and winding paths. As every coach and player knows, the road to a championship is never smooth traveling, regardless if a team is unbeaten or just trying to get in. What is vital is that team's avoid flat tires (injuries) and keep moving forward.
Over the next couple of weeks, prep football teams will work to position themselves for favorable spots in the playoffs, which begin with first round games Oct. 23. The quarterfinal round is Oct. 29 and semifinals on Nov. 3. All of it culminates with championship games on Nov. 8-10 at the DakotaDome.
This week, area football features a series of top match ups. Our Focus on Five preview includes a pair of #1 vs. #2 battles. 9AA #1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan will host #2 Kimball/White Lake in Ethan on Friday afternoon and later #2 Dell Rapids heads to #1 Dakota Valley for a showdown. Other marquee games includes 11B #2 Tri-Valley and 11A #3 Tea Area as well as 11AA #5 Yankton hosting top-ranked Washington. In addition, 9A #2 Irene-Wakonda puts its unbeaten record against tough 9AA squad Parker.
How'd we do? In week six, a 5-0 record pushed our overall season mark to 22-8 (.733). A perfect week, although our projected scores were a bit off. Moving on. Over the past two years, we now stand 126-30 or 80.7 percent. In our Focus on Five games, we project Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, Irene-Wakonda, Washington, Dell Rapids and Tea Area as victors.
When the games end Friday night, don't forget to tune into KSFY with Sports Director Erik Thorstenson and Dylan Scott for Friday Night Lights. After the show ends, we will also offer extended highlights of the featured game of the week plus commentary on all the action from a panel from includes this writer along with Jason Andera of Midco and Thor and Dylan.
Now to the games. Here is a breakdown of five top area games in our "Focus on Five" preview.
9AA #2 Kimball (6-0) vs. 9AA #1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (4-1), Ethan, 7 p.m.
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan Notes: The top-ranked Seahawks moved to 4-1 with a nail-biting 28-26 win over #4 Howard a week ago. BEE has put together a 212-to-68 point differential against opponents, averaging 42.4 per game, allowing just 13.6 per game. Top-ranked all season, the Seahawks have gone through some growing pains due to a heavy toll last graduation. But, as the season hits week seven, Coach Jeff VanLeur believes his team is on the right track, even with another difficult schedule. "I think we have taken some big steps right up front that has made us better," he said. "We just need to continue getting better each week. We had concerns with our players maturing into varsity players and I believe the boys are meeting the challenge." The offense features a sound rushing attack, which has produced 1,225 yards on 164 carries for 277.8 yards per game. Anthony Huber has led the ground attack with 62 carries for 569 yards and nine TDs. Huber is approaching a significant milestone, needing 28 yards to hit 3,000 yards for his career. He has 368 carries for 2,972 yards and 43 combined TDs. The Seahawks will also look for running help from Kyelle Herrick, who has 54 carries for 290 yards and a 3 TDs while quarterback Jace Connor has 40 carries for 203 yards and a TD. Herrick had a 100-yard rushing game (105) against Howard. Connor has been stellar at quarterback, completing 25-of-34 passes for 378 yards and eight TDs with no interceptions. Those numbers combined to give him an unreal 244.6 efficiency ranking. His primary receiver is Clayton Dye, who has 10 catches for 92 yards and four TDs. One of the factors to BEE's success is its fast start to games. They own a 126-to-32 advantage in the first half, including 54-to-12 in the first quarter. They also dominate the fourth quarter, holding a 50-to-6 scoring margin. This season, BEE has compiled a 20-to-7 edge in rushing TDs and 8-to-3 advantage in passing TDs. They also own a 75.6 to 68.2 yardage advantage through the air. As usual, VanLeur's team makes things happen on special teams. Wade Miller has five kickoff returns for 202 yards or a 40.4 average. He has returned two kickoffs for TDs, including a long of 74 yards. On defense, the Seahawks are led by Franky Tusha with 42 tackles and a sack while Huber has 42 tackles, a sack and an interception. Austin Bunger has four sacks and 35 tackles. As the team readies for Kimball/White Lake, VanLeur knows his top-ranked Seahawks faces another tough test. "Kimball/White Lake has a lot of weapons that we need try to slow down," said VanLeur, who has 211 career victories, the second most 9-man wins all-time nationally. "We need to stay away from giving up the big plays, avoid penalties, limit turnovers, and put together a solid team effort."
Kimball/White Lake Notes: While Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan has been the top-ranked squad all season, Kimball/White Lake continues to make their own case as 9AA's top squad. The WiLdKats have outscored opponents by a 269-to-84 margin, and has scored at least 38 points in every game. They have 44 or more points in three victories, including 65 in an impressive road win over a tough Gregory squad (4-1). It is apparent that Kimball/White Lake is focused on a return trip to the DakotaDome, where they fell to BEE, 36-24, in the 2011 state title game. Veteran K/WL head coach Dale Taylor believes his team is progressing nicely as they meet their friends to the east. "Our veterans have been stepping up to another level," he said. "I feel that when something need to get done, our veterans have stepped up to meet that challenge. I feel the key to our success is that we need to keep improving defensively and have a little better start to our gave. We have been finishing strong in the second half. We just need to improve the play in the first half." As they head into Ethan, getting started fast may be crucial for K/WL. The WiLdKats are led by Taylor's son, Jesse, who has completed 37-of-56 passes for 632 yards and 10 TDs. He also has 10 carries for 126 yards and four TDs. His backfield mates are as good as any in 9-man football. Both Jacob Kirsch and Trevor Reinesch rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago and are again on the 1K pace. Reinesch has 78 carries for 723 yards and 13 TDs. Kirsch has 89 carries for 568 yards and eight TDs. In addition, Kyle Peters has emerged as a complement with 29 carries for 279 yards and two TDs while leading the team with 14 receptions for 294 yards and four TDs. Eathan Gaulke had nine catches for 152 yards and four TDs. On defense, Reinesch leads the way with 41 tackles and two interceptions with Kirsch providing 38 stops, a sack and an interception. Turner Blasius has 48 tackles and four sacks while Willie Norwood has 24 tackles and two sacks. Taylor has three interceptions and 27 stops. Taylor knows his team faces a tough-minded and explosive Seahawks squad. "The biggest challenge is to stop their potent offensive attack. They have not only run the ball well but they have throw it more than in the past. For us to be successful, we will have to adjust to the smaller field. This group of players has never played on a 40x80 yard field before. It will be an adjustment. We need to stay away from turnovers and stay on our blocks longer than we have been doing. We will have to keep the ball away from their offense, which means we will have to control the clock with a steady ground attack."
Inside Slant: This game features a lot of star power include BEE's Huber and Connor and K/WL's Taylor, Reinesch and Kirsch, which begs the question, who makes the crucial play in the second half? Will a special teams performer like Wade Miller have a big role in this game? Can either team shut down the other's potent rushing attack? Both QBs can throw as indicated by their numbers this season; so does either team air it out more than usual? What impact will a shorter field have on K/WL?
Coaches: Jeff VanLeur of Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, 33rd season, 211-102, .674. Dale Taylor of Kimball/White Lake, 24 seasons, 143-77, .647.
Season Results: Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan opened with a 60-6 win over Freeman and then lost to 9A #1 Canistota, 16-8, before rebounding with a 60-12 win over Mt. Vernon, a 56-8 decision against Hanson, and a 28-26 verdict over Howard. Kimball-White Lake has defeated Mt. Vernon, 38-14; Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central, 44-16; Miller, 39-6; Gregory, 65-28; Lyman, 45-6; and Corsica-Stickney, 38-14.
Series Records: A year ago, BEE won both games, winning at Kimball, 42-14 in the regular season and then capturing the state title game, 36-24. In the regular season encounter, K/WL trailed 22-14 at halftime before the Seahawks put the game away with a 20-point third quarter. Huber had 144 yards rushing and two TDs in that game. In the state title game, BEE built a 30-8 halftime lead before the WiLdKats closed the game in the second half. Reinesch had 71 yards and three TDs, including a pair of TD receptions. Connor won the Joe Robbie MVP Award after rushing for 127 yards and a TD (16 yards) and throwing for 62 yards.
Bottomline: At this point, it appears that these two teams are the best in 9AA, so far. Both teams have solid field generals and workhorse backs. This game may hinge on what team can control the front line on both sides of the ball. If it breaks even, flip a coin. Connor, Huber and Herrick for BEE and Taylor, Reinesch and Kirsch for K/WL are all talented and can make plays. It helps BEE to be at home for this high-profile match up. We think this game is decided late in the fourth quarter.
Who Wins? Our pick is Bridgewater-Emery Ethan in a close one, 22-18.
11A #2 Dell Rapids (4-1) at 11A #1 Dakota Valley (5-0), Friday, 7 p.m
Dakota Valley Notes: Dakota Valley has opened the season in impressive fashion under the direction of head coach Jason Jund. This team features the "brute" power of Tanner Lambert at running back and the dominant line play of his twin brother, Taylor. The Panthers also feature weapons on the perimeter and a solid running back corps with Colton Mahler and Collins Challup. Quarterback Aaron Likness has stepped in nicely with 25 carries for 48 yards and a TD rushing as well as completing 36-of-78 passes for 439 yards with five TDs through the air. He has throw for a high of 192 yards this season. Jund is pleased with the team's effort to this point but now their schedule gets very difficult. After Dell Rapids, they have a road game at 11B #2 Tri-Valley before hosting 11A #3 Tea Area at home. "We've been fortunate to start so well, and have had a lot of success and balance in our first five games. We know the road ahead will get very tough," said Jund. "Staying healthy has been really important, we don't have a lot of depth. We've been to run the ball effectively and that helps set up our passing game," added Jund. Overall the Panthers own a 188-to-43 overall scoring edge vs. opponents. In the last two weeks, their advantage is 92-to-18. Lambert has accumulated 906 yards rushing on 104 carries with 12 TDs. Mahler has 17 carries for 212 yards and three TDs with Challup adding 27 carries for 133 yards and two TDs. Defensively, the Panthers have been stout, allowed just 31 yards this season and 697 through the air. They have 19 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions. Taylor Lambert has 39 tackles and three sacks while his brother has 25 tackles, a fumble recovery and four sacks. In addition, Nick Buckley has 23 tackles, a team-high five sacks and two fumble recoveries. Andrew Reiff has four interceptions and Isaac Faldmo, three. As for the Lambert brothers, their career totals are pretty impressive. With 39 tackles, Taylor now has 247 in his career while Tanner has 199 tackles and a school record 24 sacks. Jund knows that Dell Rapids will be the sternest test for his squad. "They are really good in all 3 phases of the game. Consistent on offense, very physical on defense, and they don't make mistakes. We need good special teams play, while keeping turnovers to a minimum and forcing some turnovers on defense. We have to continually move the line of scrimmage on offense."
Dell Rapids Notes: Dell Rapids, the two-time defending champions, rebounded from a loss two weeks ago to 11B #2 Tri-Valley, 28-21, with a 49-34 win over 11A #3 Tea Area. Overall, the Quarriers have been dominate, rolling up a 170-to-96 points advantage against its opponents. Dell Rapids, which fell to out of the top spot in the 11A rankings for the first time in nearly a year two weeks ago, is 26-2 over the past three seasons and have not lost to a Class 11A team. The Quarriers are a quick-start team as evident by their 94-to-48 scoring advantage in the first half, including 48-to-20 in the second quarter. They have accumulated 1,770 yards in total offense. Head Coach Steve Hansen believes his team has had success due to keeping their eye on the ball and taking things a week at a time. "I feel that our kids have kept their focus pretty well through this point of the season. We have had a lot of big games already and they have showed up and competed each week," he said. "I think some of the keys to our success so far is that the kids have kept a level head and have not gotten rattled. We have been behind early in some big games and have kept our composure and battled back. I would also say that our work ethic has been key, even when things aren't going so well we are still working hard and making things happen. Going forward, we need to use those same qualities and keep getting better and settling into our positions and fine tune the little things." Senior running back Cole Langer has been outstanding through six weeks. He has 78 carries for 585 yards with 10 TDs. He is averaging 7.5 yards per carry and 117 per game. Anyone that watched this SDSU signee run against Tea Area knows how hard he runs and how tough he is to corral. Two weeks ago Langer passed the 2,000 career rushing yards and has 244 carries for 2,109 yards and 39 TDs in his stellar career. Senior Lane Lebrun has added 55 carries for 350 yards and three TDs. Riley Schmidt, who has breakaway speed, has 35 carries for 165 yards and two TDs. Senior quarterback Matt Kolbeck has shined as the team's signal caller. Kolbeck has 21 carries for 54 yards and has completed 19-of-40 passes for 411 yards and five TDs with just two picks. His main target in the passing game is senior Bryce Koch, who has 10 catches for 240 yards and five TDs. Schmidt has four receptions for 63 yards while Jacob Morris has two catches for 40 yards. The Quarriers also have ability to make big plays on special teams with Schmidt already owning a 92-yard kickoff return for a TD (West Central) and averaging 38.0 yards on nine returns. He also has a 16.3 punt return average. Dell Rapid's defense is led by Langer with 44 tackles, three forced fumbles and 2.5 TFLs. Koch has 21 tackles and 4.0 TFLs while Jackson Entringer has 18 tackles and 4.5 TFLs. Hansen knows that his team faces another challenge this week against a physical and tough-minded Dakota Valley team. "I feel that Dakota Valley has a very good defense that is big and athletic. We are going to need to find a way to move the football and take some time off the clock," said Hansen, whose team owns a 146:34 to 93:26 edge in time of possession. They also have a 1,342-to-687 edge in rushing yards. "Defensively, we have got to try and get control of Tanner Lambert, but they have so many weapons that you can't commit a bunch of people to him. We will need to get our offense going and sustain drives and try and wear them out a little," said Hansen. "We also need to get our defense off the field and keep Lambert under control and not let him run all over us."
Inside Slant: So, who gains the upper hand on the ground, Dakota Valley with Lambert or Dell Rapids with Langer? Both teams feature first-year quarterbacks which begs the question of which player Likness or Kolbeck can make a play in the aerial game or avoid mistakes? How much a factor will homefield advantage play in the match up?
Coaches: Steve Hansen of Dell Rapids, 18 years, 118-62, .656; Jason Jund, Dakota Valley, nine years, 57-34, .626.
Season Results: Dell Rapids has defeated Canton, 39-7; West Central, 28-14; and Madison, 33-7; lost to Tri-Valley, 28-21, and defeated Tea Area, 49-34. Dakota Valley has wins over Elk Point-Jefferson, 40-12; Beresford, 35-0; Canton, 21-13; Lennox, 47-12; and Vermillion, 45-6.
Series Records: Since 2004, the two teams have met six times with Dell Rapids winning all the matchups. A year ago, the Quarriers won, 20-7. The Quarriers picked up a 39-34 victory in 2010; and also have a 40-14 win in 2009; 21-7 victory in 2006 and 12-3 and 26-0 wins in 2005 and 2004, respectively.
Bottomline: Class 11A's two most physical runners - Lambert and Langer - go head to head on Friday night. It should be quite a sight with these two football bulls locking horns. This game will likely be determined by the team that avoids turnovers, or at least makes the fewest mistakes. I expect both teams to find a way to get into the end zone because they feature powerhouse offenses that will be tough to slow down. I can't help but think that Dell Rapids' Riley Schmidt will make a big play on special teams. This game should not only be a physical match up but one that goes down to the end.
Who Wins: We like Dell Rapids to reclaim the top spot in 11A with a 20-16 decision over Dakota Valley.
11B #2 Tri-Valley (4-1) at 11A #3 Tea Area (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m
Tea Area Notes: A week ago, Tea Area was tied 21-21 with Dell Rapids when the Titans started turning the ball over in the second half. Three fumbles caused major problems for Coach Craig Clayberg's crew. Still, this team didn't back down to Dell Rapids on the Quarriers home field. They stayed after it and showed some offensive firepower. While they need to find a way to stop power rushing attacks, they have athletes that make plays on both sides of the ball. In every game this season, the Titans have scored at least 34 points and own a 199-to-55 overall scoring advantage. They have generated 1,289 yards rushing on 193 carries for 6.7 per carry and 257.8 per game. They also feature a strong passing offense that has generated 172.6 yards per game. Through it all, third-year coach Craig Clayberg is pleased with his team's progress through six weeks. "Our team has progressed ahead of schedule because of our senior leadership. We are quite a ways ahead of where we were last year and just hope to keep getting better each week of the season," said Clayberg, noting that his team had been protecting the ball but faltered a bit against the Quarriers. Moving forward, valuing possessions becomes important for a team that still has game at home vs. Harrisburg on Oct. 12 and at Dakota Valley on Oct. 18. "Protecting the football has been a key for us, except for last week. We also need to create some turnovers on defense. We have played pretty well on both sides of the ball in the first five games and I contribute a lot of that to our experience in all positions." The offense is directed by dual threat quarterback Taylor Roeman, who has 197.1 efficiency ranking as he has hit on 39-of-65 passes for 818 yards and eight TDs. He also has 34 carries for 244 yards rushing. The Titans ground game is led by Gunnar Ensz, who has 49 carries for 429 yards and eight TDs. Ensz, who had a career-best 94-yard scoring jaunt two weeks ago vs. Canton, is averaging 8.8 yards a carry and 85.8 yards per game. The backfield also includes Chase Deckert with 45 carries for 293 yards and three TDs. Riley Knutson has added 42 carries for 203 yards and a TD. Knutson also makes it happen in the receiving game with 10 catches for 219 yards and four TDs. Roeman's main target is Mitchell Nissen, who has 17 catches for 371 yards and three TDs. He is averaging 21.8 yards per catch. On defense, leading tackler Jacob Dancler has 44 stops with 3.5 tackles for loss and two blocked kicks. Ryan Farwell has added 42 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. Nate Schroder has anchored the front with 35 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. With Tri-Valley coming to Tea, Clayberg knows the #2 ranked 11B Mustangs will be tough. "Tri Valley is a great football team.. They are well coached and have a number of athletes with speed and size," said Clayberg. "We need to limit the number of mistakes on both sides of the ball and play up to our potential."
Tri Valley Notes: After suffering a 24-22 road loss to 11B #1 Flandreau on Sept. 14, Tri-Valley rallied and defeated Dell Rapids, 28-21, in Colton. It was the second straight win for Tri-Valley against the Quarriers. Now after an off week. the Mustangs travel to face the third-ranked 11A Tea Area Titans. Head Coach Steve Bazata takes stock in the progress that his team has shown this season. After heavy graduation losses a year ago, the Mustangs had a few holes to fill. Players are stepping up, the coach says. "I think we have gotten better every week so far this year. We found out a lot about our team after the loss to Flandreau, and I think that will help us throughout the rest of the year. We are continuing to get experience on offense and defense. We started the year with a lot of guys who hadn't had meaningful game experience, and we are beginning to get that. We need to continue to get better every day," said Bazata. Tri-Valley has outscored opponents, 159-to-90, utilizing a run-focused attack that features explosive senior running back Logan Koopman. He has 66 carries for 676 yards and eight TDs. The ground game, which has produced 1,358 yards on 202 carries with 16 TDs, also includes Logan Otto with 28 carries for 194 yards and Sam Mader, who has 42 totes for 176 yards and three TDs. Senior quarterback Brett Page has had a solid season and showed up big time in the win over Dell Rapids (6-7-71 yards) with a pair of TD throws, including one to Dominic Burgraff when he was being pulled to the ground. Page has completed 17-of-31 passes for 254 yards with six TDs and just three interceptions. Otto has seven receptions for 91 yards and three TDs while Burgraff has six for 102 yards and three scores. Bazata knows his defending 11B champions, who have already faced Flandreau and Dell Rapids and play Dakota Valley at home next week, have a tough battle ahead with 11A #3 Tea Area. "Tea Area has a very good team. They are well-coached, with an explosive offense capable of putting up a ton of points. On defense, they play fast and they play hard. They are good in all three phases of the game," said Bazata, who is 4-1 in his first season as head coach. "We will need to do whatever we can to slow down their offense, especially their quarterback, who is one of the best we've seen this year. Offensively, we will need to be sound in our technique up front and understand our assignments in order to move the ball. Special teams and turnovers will play a big role in who wins this game."
Inside Slant: Can Koopman find lanes against a Tea Area defense that was vulnerable to the run a week ago against Dell Rapids? Will Tri-Valley's defense be able to stop Roeman, Ensz, Nissen and company? Will this game be like the Tea-Area and Dell Rapids game when the offenses moved up and down the field? Will Roeman or Page have the better game? Will a turnover or special teams play turn the game late?
Coaches: Steve Bazata of Tri Valley, first year, 4-1, .800; Craig Clayberg of Tea Area, 3rd season, 15-11, .600.
Season Results: Tea Area has defeated Bon Homme, 41-6; Lennox, 41-0; Vermillion, 36-0; and Canton, 37-0, and lost to Dell Rapids, 49-34. Tri-Valley has wins
Series Records: Tri-Valley has own this series winning three straight games by scores of 36-7 in 2011, 22-3 in 2010 and 42-6 in 2009.
Bottomline: History doesn't paint a good picture for Tea Area supporters as the Mustangs have dominated three meetings. Still, we believe this Tea Area team has taken some big steps this season. They feature arguably the most explosive offense in 11A and will move the ball against Tri-Valley. The question will be if Page, Koopman and Otto and a tough Mustangs' defense have an answer for the Titans. Expect both teams to establish the run with Roeman again showing some real dual threat prowess. We think this game is decided late, perhaps by a big turnover or by whichever teams gets the final possession.
Who Wins: Look for Tea Area to take a 31-25 decision.
11AA #1 Washington (6-0) at 11AA #5 Yankton (5-1), Crane-Youngworth Field, 7 p.m.
Yankton Notes: Head Coach Arlin Likness knows that his Yankton squad faces a big challenge at home against the top-ranked Washington Warriors. "The biggest challenge this week is to be in good enough shape to stay in the game mentally and physically. We will not be able to rest very many players due to the number of injuries," said Likness. "We will have to play with very few mistakes and execute on every down. It will be a great challenge for us." Still, Yankton is 5-1 and had a solid effort in a 35-21 loss on the road to defending 11AA champions and third-ranked Roosevelt last weekend end at Howard Wood Field. Yankton, which owns a 183-to-77 overall scoring advantage, has exhibited a strong offensive attack, which has produced 2,307 total yards on 333 plays. They have generated 1,656 yards on 252 carries for 276 yards per game and 6.6 yards per carry. The Bucks are also averaging 108 yards through the aerial attack. And, according to Likness, this team is getting it done while battling the injury bug. "After six football games this fall our team is still working hard to get better," said Likness. "The players work as a unit even though we have had our share of injuries. We need to keep growing as a team and get some players back that are still on the injured list. We lost three more players against S.F. Roosevelt last week and that means we are pretty thin on the depth charts." Yankton's offense is directed by senior quarterback Michael Rucker, who has had a solid senior campaign. He has completed 44-of-73 passes for 629 yards and four TDs. In addition, Rucker has rushed for 74 yards and six TDs. Injuries have limited senior running back Evan Schroeder, who has played in just four games with 30 carries for 231 yards and two TDs. Levi Davis leads the Bucks ground game with 71 carries for 530 yards and four TDs. JJ Hejna is the leader of the receiving corps with 11 catches for 186 yards. Yankton has had an opportunistic and solid defensive effort this season, led by Hejna and Kellen Soulek. Hejna has 61 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, two sacks, three interceptions and a fumble recovery and is building a case for all-state honors. So is Soulek, one of the top linemen in AA. He has 31 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, four sacks and a fumble recovery. Yankton, which has 12 sacks, 12 interceptions and five fumble recoveries as a team, also has received contributions from Hisek (30 tackles, 3 TFLs, int., fumble recovery) and Davis (24 tackles, sack).
Washington Notes: Top-ranked Washington, which is chasing a third championship and a sixth straight appearance in the state title game, remained at the top of the AA rankings with a sixth straight win, 27-20, over a stubborn and game Pierre Riggs team. As has been the case at various points this year, Nebraska recruit and standout wide receiver/safety Nate Gerry stepped up to keep Washington unbeaten. He had three carries for 77 yards and a TD as well as four catches for 166 yards and three TDs against the Governors. Gerry had TD receptions of 49, 58 and 56 yards and his 67-yard TD run in the fourth quarter gave the Warriors a 27-13 lead. The Warriors, which had trouble hanging onto the football with six turnovers, rallied from a 13-0 deficit to overtake the stubborn Govs in the second half. The Warriors have allowed just five TDs in six games, but gave up two against Pierre. While Washington's turnover problems are concerning, head coach Brian Hermanson, believes his squad continues to get better each week. "We have continued to improve each week and we have great team chemistry. We have also been able to stay away from injuries," he said. "Much of our success can be attributed to our senior leadership. In order for us to continue to have success we must continue to control the line of scrimmage and not turn the ball over. To many turnovers up to date," he said. Against Pierre, senior quarterback Jon Hander went over 1K passing for the season. He is 55-of-95 for 1,008 yards and 13 TDs with just two interceptions. In his career, Hander is 168-of-283 for 2,679 yards and 27 TDs. Nate Gerry, who has 16 receptions for 426 yards and a combined 12 TDs (eight receiving, one by rush, two on defensive TD returns and a 90-yard kickoff return), has accumulated 1,309 receiving yards in his career on 66 receptions. He has 458 rushing yards and 27 total TDs. The backfield is led by Sam Cook who has 86 carries for 489 yards and six TDs while Dan Marlette has 32 totes for 221 yards and two TDs. Ty Wiley has 10 receptions for 96 yards and a TD while Chris Parker has nine catches for 115 yards. As for the 2012 Warriors, they are averaging 43.8 points per game and allowing just 6.8 per game. They have 2,345 yards in total offense on 357 plays. As noted, the Warriors defense has been the best in the class. They give up just 61.8 yards rushing and 58.2 passing yards and have totaled six sacks, four interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries and three blocked kicks. Marlette leads the defense with 51 tackles, 11 TFLs, a sack and a fumble recovery as well as two forced fumbles. Sam Johnson has 35 tackles, 10 TFLs, two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recovery. Gerry has 32 stops, 4.5 TFLs, two picks and Austin Benson has 26 tackles, four TFLs, a sack and a fumble recoveries. On the road for a second straight week, Washington will face a tough challenge with Yankton, according to Hermanson. "Yankton is very well-coached and has a big and athletic team. We cannot turn the ball over like we did last week and expect to have the same results. We will have to control the ball. Special teams will have to give us the field position edge."
Coaches: Arlin Likness, 28th season and 14th at Yankton, 227-76, .753 and 109-44, .716 at Yankton. Brian Hermanson of Washington, seven years, 76-16, .826.
Inside Slant: Can Washington end its turnover bug? Will Yankton have success running against a strong Washington front? Will Nate Gerry continue to make big game-changing plays? Will the Warriors find success running the ball?
Season Results: Washington has defeated Rapid City Central, 49-7; Lincoln, 32-7; O'Gorman, 24-0; Sturgis, 73-0; Watertown, 58-7; and Pierre T.F. Riggs, 27-20. Yankton has defeated Pierre T.F. Riggs, 27-21; Huron, 30-7; Watertown, 44-0; Aberdeen Central, 42-14; and Brookings, 19-0; and lost to Roosevelt, 35-21.
Series Records: In the last five meetings, dating back to 2004, Washington owns a 5-0 series advantage. They took a 29-14 decision a year ago and won 42-0 in 2009. Other Warriors' victories include a 49-30 win in the playoffs in 2007 along with a 23-19 win in 2006 and a 35-6 decision in 2004.
Bottomline: Look for a tight battle until the third quarter when Washington will start to pull away. The Warriors have the best defense in 11AA circles and an offense that seems ready to break out at any time, if they can hold onto the football. If Yankton can establish the run with Davis and get big plays from Rucker in the pass game, they might give the Warriors some trouble. The Bucks need to create turnovers and turn those mistakes into points.
Who Wins? We favor Washington in this one. The Warriors move to 7-0 with a 38-20 win.
9A #2 Irene-Wakonda (6-0) at 9AA Parker (3-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
Irene-Wakonda Notes: Led by quarterback Dustin Livingston, Irene-Wakonda stretched their winning streak to six games with a 63-12 decision over Gayville-Volin last Friday. The win was another impressive start for Irene-Wakonda, which has outscored opponents 293-to-51 this season. As a team, I-W has 195 carries for 1,452 yards and 27 TDs on the ground, averaging 242 yards per game and 7.4 yards per carry as a team. The start has impressed veteran head coach Brent Mutchelknaus. "We started off the year very inexperienced at almost every position. The players have learned their roles and starting to feel more comfortable with their responsibilities. We have scored a few points or created opportunities from specials teams and defense. I think we have to be more consistent with our offensive efforts." While young at many positions, the Eagles are led an electric performer in quarterback Dustin Livingston, who scored a combined five TDs a week ago. Livingston is averaging 12.94 yards per carry and 110 yards rushing per game. Livingston has three games over 100 yards (141, 166, 114) and six games with at least 67 yards as he has totaled 660 yards rushing on 51 carries and 16 TDs. He scores a TD about every 3.3 carries. He also has completed 23-of-46 passes for 388 yards and seven TDs. Livingston has four TDs on special teams and defense and has 27 total TDs. Standout running back Garrett Anderson has been a nice backfield mate for Livingston with 56 carries for 369 yards and five TDs as well as seven receptions for 127 yards and a score. Chris Heirigs has 27 carries for 143 yards and a TD and five receptions for 75 yards and a TD. The Eagles have been a shutdown defensive group with 12 sacks, 11 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. Anderson leads the way with 56 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Heirigs has 27 tackles and Livingston has 33 with three picks. The defense has created disruption for other teams' passing games as Cody Schrenk has four sacks and Michael Saffell, three. As they face a talented Parker team, Mutchelknaus knows his team has a tough challenge. "Parker has big players who move well. We will be undersized against them. In addition, they have good speed at almost every position," said Mutchelknaus. "We will need to play better defensively than we have to date and our special teams need to perform and try to set up short fields."
Parker Notes: As Parker eyes a big matchup with 9A #2 Irene-Wakonda, the Pheasants has shown significant progress because they understand the value of taking games one at a time. "We have been improving on the offensive and defensive lines all season," said veteran head coach Bill Leberman. "This has allowed us to move the ball on offensive more consistently and restricted opponents from doing what they would like to do. Our seniors have stepped up and played with intensity while leading by example. Our younger players have followed suit and we are becoming a pretty solid team," he said. After five games, Parker has a 142-to-108 scoring edge over opponents as they have rolled up 1,206 rushing yards on 209 carries for 241.2 yards per game. They also averaged 38.8 passing yards. The Pheasants are led by standout running back Blake Reynolds, who has 92 carries for 670 yards with 10 TDs and a 7.3 per carry average. Quarterback Seth Dykstra has shined as well with 64 carries for 315 yards rushing and five TDs. He has completed 17-of-33 passes for 194 yards and two TDs. He has thrown seven picks in five games which he needs to improve on. Reynolds leads the receiving group with seven catches for 65 yards while Eric Hunstad has six catches for 85 yards and two TDs. Parker's defense is led by Zach Knock with 31 tackles and a tackle for loss while Reynolds has 31 stops, including 25 solo hits. Patrick Gillespie has 27 tackles, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. Payton Jensen leads the team with 4.5 tackles for loss and has 16 stops as a leader upfront on defense. Jake Anderson has two interceptions. As Parker meets Irene-Wakonda, Leberman knows his opponent this week is explosive, led by the dynamic Livingston. "He (Livingston) really makes a lot of things happen with his athletic ability and we need to control him. We really have to bring our best on Friday. Of importance is the need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and try and control their high-powered offense. We also need to win the turnover battle," he said.
Inside Slant: Will Reynolds continue to find openings and be a big-play performer for Parker? Does the Pheasants have an answer defensively for Livingston, one of the best players in 9A? How much of a difference does Parker's size advantage hold in this game? Does a special team play by Livingston or someone else provide a game-turning play?
Coaches: Bill Leberman of Parker, eight seasons, 29-38, .433; Brent Mutchelknaus of Irene-Wakonda, 29th overall, 26th at I-W, 146-91, .616, and 158-117, .575.
Season Results: Parker has defeated Baltic, 52-20; Centerville, 36-6; and Chester Area, 30-18. The Pheasants has losses to Viborg-Hurley, 28-16; and Howard, 36-8. Irene-Wakonda has defeated Menno, 44-7; Marion, 48-0; Alcester-Hudson, 44-8; Baltic, 43-6; Centerville, 51-18; and Gayville-Volin, 63-12.
Series Records: Over the past eight seasons, these teams have played four times with Parker owning a 3-1 advantage. A year ago Irene-Wakonda won, 41-8, with Parker winning in 2008, 11-8; 2007, 44-8; and 2005, 46-0.
Bottomline: Parker is a much-improved team as indicated by a strong performance against Viborg-Hurley and Howard this year. Blake Reynolds is explosive but the question remains can they slow down the big-play Irene-Wakonda team. Livingston will be tough to slow down and look for Garrett Schmidt to make an impact. This one will be close into the third quarter when I-W takes control.
Who Wins? We like Irene-Wakonda, 42-26.