"Champions separate the important from the unimportant. They know that good press, playing time or individual honors aren't as important as knowing that you and your teammates have responded to the challenge together." --Don Shaw
As the South Dakota Football Championships kick off on Thursday morning, a season full of drama will culminate in grand theatre this weekend at the DakotaDome. For 12 teams, the road to the Dome, while filled with some bumps, was a joyride, if not thrilling path that kept schools and their fan base pressing forward.
As the games begin, here are some storylines to consider -
In 11AA, top-ranked Sioux Falls Washington is making its sixth straight championship appearance, which has only been accomplished by one other school in South Dakota playoff history - West Central, 2000-05 (won all six titles in 11A). The AA title game also features matchups of two of the state's most talented quarterback-receiver combos ever with BV's Chase Marso and Matt VandeBerg and Washington's Jon Hander and Nate Gerry.
The 11A title game includes two-time defending champion Dell Rapids trying for a third straight title. In that Dell Rapids-Harrisburg matchup, the Tigers QB Andrew McCuen plays for his father, who is suffering from ALS. In that same game, we will see a former Coyote (Harrisburg HC Brandon White) headed back to his old stomping grounds, this time as Harrisburg's coach.
In 11B Tri-Valley, the only team to defeat Dell Rapids in the past two years, tries to repeat as a titlist and win a fourth time in six years against Winner, a team with four titles and making a 12th appearance at a SD championship game (11A or 11B).
In 9AA, Howard and unbeaten Deubrook Area will clash on the field as two of the most prolific rushing teams in 9-man history. Together, the two schools have a combined 793 carries for 7,396 yards and 112 TDs. Deubrook Area has 3,596 rushing yards and Howard, 3,810, with both totals in the top 10 all-time for a season. In that same game, Deubrook Area's Ryan Knutson is the only player in SD with 2,000 yards rushing (2,175) and could go over 40 TDs rushing for the season (has 38). Howard's Luke Loudenberg goes for a fourth straight 200-yard rushing game.
In 9A, Canistota puts up its 35-game winning streak, second longest in 9-man history, against an undefeated Warner team.
Then in 9B, Harding County with the only 1,000-1,000 (pass-rush yards) quarterback in the playoffs in Jess Feist, who tries to lead his team to a second title in a matchup of the Cowboys (Colome) vs. the Ranchers (Harding County) at an East River venue (DakotaDome). The other SD prep 1,000-1,000 player was Gregory's Jaden Bartling whose team lost to Deubrook Area in the 9AA semifinals.
Canistota's Win Streak Hits 35
Canistota's winning streak grew to 35 following a 50-6 win over Arlington on Saturday. Coach Lenny Schroeder and the 11-0 Hawks have recorded the second longest consecutive win streak in 9-man state history behind Freeman. The Flyers won 46 in a row from 1996-99. Canistota, which has won two straight 9-man titles (9B, 2010; 9A, 2011) is among nine schools (Arlington, White River, Freeman in 9-man; Milbank, West Central, Sioux Falls O'Gorman, Sioux Falls Washington, and Flandreau) that have won 30 or more games.
Seven Unbeatens Remain; Three Defending Champions Still Alive
With the state finals set to open Thursday, Class 11A is the only team that doesn't have an unbeaten team. SF Washington and Brandon Valley in 11AA, Winner in 11B, Deubrook Area in 9AA, Canistota and Warner in 9A, and Harding County in 9B are the seven teams that head to the state championship game unbeaten. Three defending champions are still alive with two-time defending champion Dell Rapids in 11A, Tri-Valley in 11B and Canistota in 9A, which is trying for a third straight title in two classes.
Prognasticating Is An Art, Right?
A year ago, I finished 79-7 (.919) in picking all the SD prep playoff games, going 39-5 in the opening round, 24-0 in the quarterfinals, 11-1 in the semifinals and 5-1 in the championship round. This year I am 74-6 (.925), the exact record after three rounds I fashioned a year ago. I was 40-4 in the first round, 22-2 in the quarterfinals and 12-0 in the semifinals. Heading into the championship session, my two-year picking mark sits at 153-13 (.922). So as the headline suggests, picking games is an art, right?
2012 Football Championships to Open Thursday at the DakotaDome
The South Dakota Football Championships start on Thursday, Nov. 8 in the DakotaDome with the 9A title game at 11 a.m. and the 9AA championship set for 2:30 p.m. The 9B title game will be held at 7:30 p.m. that night. On Friday, Nov. 9, the 11B championship will be held at 2:30 p.m. with the 11A title game set for 7:30 p.m. Then on Saturday after the University of South Dakota hosts Northern Iowa in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup (Noon, start-time), the 11AA championship will be held at 7:30 p.m.
Loudenberg Records Three Straight 200-Yard Game Playoffs; Kinzer Has Two over 200
Luke Loudenberg of Howard has had three-straight 200-yard games in the playoffs, with totals of 239, 278 and 249 for a playoff-best 766 yards. Loudenberg had 685 in eight regular season games. Terrance Kinzer of Colome has three straight games over 100 yards with two of them over 200 yards, including 243 and 224 in consecutive wins for the Cowboys.
Focus on Finals Preview
9A Championship -- #2 Warner (11-0) vs. #1 Canistota (11-0), 11 a.m., Thursday
Coaches - Lenny Schroeder of Canistota, 8th season, 117-69, . 629. Tom Kulesa of Warner, 10th season.
Championship Information - This will be the first-ever meeting between Canistota and Warner. The Hawks have won two straight championships (9A, 2011; 9B, 2010). Canistota defeated Hitchcock-Tulare, 66-0, in the 9B championship in 2010 and beat Wall, 66-6, in the 9A title game in 2011. They have a 132-to-6 scoring edge in two championship games. Warner is playing in its first-ever championship tilt.
In the Playoffs - Canistota has rolled to a 160-to-6 advantage in the playoffs in 2012, a margin similar to previous championship seasons. In 2010, they had a 230-to-8 margin with three shutouts and a year ago had a 216-to-6 advantage with three shutouts in four games. This postseason, they have two shutouts, turning back Hanson, 54-0; Wall, 50-0; and Arlington, 56-6. In the past two plus seasons, they have outscored playoff foes, 606-to-20, fashioning an 11-0 playoff record.
Hawks Preview - In 2012, the Hawks own a dominating 544-to-95 points edge in 2012. Since the start of the 2010 season, they have won consecutive titles (9B, 2010; 9A, 2011) with an overall point margin of 1,801-to-194. In 9A alone, they have a 1,164-to-56 margin in two seasons. In the two years in 9A, they had a 42-point margin or greater in 18-of-23 games. With a semifinal win in the playoffs, Lenny Schroeder's team has extended its winning streak to 35 games, which ranks second all-time. "Our kids are excited to return to the 9A State Championship Game. It has been nothing short of awesome being able to have the opportunity to play in three straight state championship games," said head coach Lenny Schroeder, noting that discipline on both sides of the football have been the key to the Hawks success. "We have a great group of players that have been able to adjust on the go against the teams we've played this season. We've seen about everything you can imagine on both sides of the football and our kids do a great job of adjusting on the go. In 11 playoff games since 2010, the Hawks have eight shutouts. Canistota, which averages 259.4 yards rushing and 92.2 yards passing per game, doesn't have huge per game numbers, except when looking at points. They have had 42 or more points nine straight games and scored 50 or more in eight of the past nine games. The Hawks' offensive attack is led by all-state senior quarterback Cody Bunger (96-612-17 TDs, 46-79-966-17 TDs). who directs the offense. Alex Robertson (107-1,015-17 total TDs, 14 by rush), Eric Tieszen (83-753-11 TDs; 14 total TDS), and Nick Hofer (33-413-7 TDs; 18 rec., 362 yards, 5 TDs) are other key players in the Hawks vaunted explosive attack. The receiving corps is led by Boone DeKramer with 13 catches for 278 yards and six TDs. Jason Van Winkle leads the defense with 103 tackles (55 solos) and 14 of the team's 30 sacks. Boone DeKramer has 96 tackles, an interception and three fumble recoveries while Tyler Deckert has eight sacks and 48 tackles. Robertson has 53 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and a fumble recovery. Bunger has 50 tackles and a team-high four interceptions. The Hawks have 12 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Looking ahead, Schroeder knows this title game offers some significant challenges with Warner an outstanding team. "They are very similar to us in many ways. They have some very good athletes who do a lot of good things for them. They also have good size and speed. They are capable of pounding the football and at the same time can throw the football all over the place. Defensively they are physical up front and have a tremendous set of linebackers in the Tuszka brothers. We have to be able to get our blockers to those linebackers and not give them a free shot at our backers. Our defense has played a big role in the success of our program over the past three seasons. We do a lot of different things defensively that make us difficult to prepare for. Our kids love their role on defense and know that our defense sets the tempo of the game. Our stats on offense are relatively modest because our defense forces a lot of turnovers which gives us a short field to play on.
In the Playoffs -- Warner is enjoying its most successful season in school history and now are just one win away from its first ever state championship. So far, this playoff season, they have rolled up a 142-to-52 point advantage over playoffs foes. They opened with a 28-18 win over Wolsey-Wessington, a team that featured a pair of 1,000-yard backs in Ryne Johnson and Roy Lumplin. In the quarterfinals, they upended the pass-happy Wilmot squad, 64-14. Then in the semifinals, they defeated Herreid/Selby, 50-20, knocking off a team that was also 10-0 when the game began.
Monarchs Preview - Over the past five years the Monarchs are 31-17 and have made significant record jumps in the past three years. They were 4-7 in 2009, 4-5 in 2010, 7-3 a year ago and now 11-0. Head coach Tom Kulesa has time and again talked about his team's maturity and work ethic. "We are excited (about going to the Dome) as it has been a long time goal (to get there). The maturity I spoke of keeps us humble and hungry for more," he said. Warner, which has outscored opponents, 459-to-81, have held every opponent to 14 points or less and recorded three shutouts. The win over Herreid/Selby on Saturday was the eighth straight game that the Monarchs had scored at least 45 points. This team is led by quarterback Clay Rozell (43-75-850-17 TDs; 584 yards) and Mitchell Boesl (1,313 yards) at running back. Derrek (17-408)and Jarrod Tuszka (382 yards rushing, 12-193 receiving) are a pair of explosive ends, with the elder Tuszka (Jarrod) used in a multitude of ways from receiving to running to even throwing. "Jarrod Tuszka is a legitimate DI player and win or lose this game, I can tell you I don't want another player in the state. His linebacker play is extremely solid. (Mitchell) Boesl is a funny little fire cracker that has cracked the 2,000 all purpose yard barrier this year. He is animated and our goof ball leader if you will. Clay (Rozell) is every stereotypical thing QBs should be. Smart and cool under pressure. He is our soul on offense as Jarrod is on defense. These two would be a prize on any team," said Kulesa. This is a squad that can play defense and rack up the points and yards on offense. Against a strong Herreid/Selby team, they had nearly 400 yards in total offense. In that game Rozell had 166 yards passing and four TDs while Boesl rushed for 157 yards and two TDs as well as caught a TD pass. In total, the Monarchs had 32 carries for 225 yards. As they look ahead to the title game, Kulesa is confident in his squad and also impressed by Canistota. "We have to get our defensive reads down and be disciplined enough to trust them. Their (Hawks) greatest threat is their size and aggression and the fact that they make few errors of any sort," he said.
Who Wins - If you go by history, Canistota will dominate and put up a high number of points. Yet, it appears that this Warner team is more balanced and more physically capable to match up with the Hawks then its previous two opponents in the state title game. The Monarchs, who have perhaps the most talented 9-man athlete in Jarrod Tuszka, have a lot of speed and athleticism, just like Canistota. Cody Bunger is one of the best quarterbacks around and has proven it with 34 combined TDs. They have a deep and talented backfield and receivers that can go get the ball, plus a defense that usually is lights out vs. opponents. It is hard picking against a championship team that has been dominant this season. I like Canistota, 28-18.
9AA Championship - #8 Howard (9-2) vs. Deubrook Area (11-0), 2:30 p.m., Thursday
Coaches - Adolph Shepardson of Deubrook Area, 2nd year/6th overall, 40-65, .381. Pat Ruml of Howard, 5th year, 38-15, .717.
Championship History - Deubrook Area, which has gone 19-3 over the past two seasons, is making its first journey to the 9AA Championship at the Dome. They reached the semifinals a year ago only to fall to Kimball/White Lake, 42-28. Howard, which was 5-5 a year ago, lost to 9A #1 Canistota (20-16) and then 9AA #1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, 28-26, has won a pair of titles, including the 9AA title in 2009, defeating Emery/Ethan, 40-16. They also won the 11B crown in 2004, running past St. Thomas More, 29-8. In addition, the Tigers have won two mythical crowns in 1959 and 1960. These two teams have never played.
Deubrook Area (11-0)
In the Playoffs - Second-ranked Class 9AA Deubrook Area overcame a 37-22 halftime deficit to defeat fifth-ranked Gregory 44-37 in the Class 9AA football semifinals Saturday in White. Ryan Knutson had 28 carries for 243 yards and four TDs in the win. Early in the playoffs, the Dolphins defeated Ipswich-Edmunds Central, 55-0, and then survived against Potter County (8-2), 22-20 in overtime. In the win over Potter County, the Dolphins had a season low 142 yards rushing and a season-high 174 yards passing. In each of its last two playoff wins, the Dolphinis rallied from eight or more points to win. The 15-point deficit against Gregory is the Dolphins' largest of the season. Before the playoffs began, Deubrook Area had won every game by at least 21 points.
Dolphins Preview - Deubrook Area, which owns a 515-to-167 overall points advantage over opponents, has gone unbeaten into the state championships for the first time ever. Shepardson, who played at SDSU and coached at USD, has a team that has rushed 375 times for 3,586 yards and 58 TD with that yardage and TD total ranking in the top five all-time. "We are ecstatic to be going to the Dome for the first time in school history. It has been our goal," said Shepardson. "We play hard every play, stick to fundamentals, feature great team speed and are big and physical. We always find a way to make plays and win games," he said. One of the guys making big plays has been one of South Dakota's top backs in senior Ryan Knudson, who is the only player in any class to go over 2,000 yards in a season in 2012. Knutson's dazzling numbers include 206 carries for 2,175 yards (top 10 all-time) and 38 TDs (all-time record). He is averaging 10.56 yards per carry and 197.7 yards per game. He has had five games over 200 and rushed for 303 yards and six TDs (both school records) in the season opener. Knutson had 10 games over 100 yards this season and 14 in his career. Knutson now has 456 carries for 3,486 yards and 45 TDs in his career. Another weapon for Deubrook Area is the fast and elusive Riley Hansen (59-574-6 TDs; 14 rec., 217 yards, 3 TDs; 25.14 punt return average with a 94-yard TD return, 37.42 kickoff return average with both a 83-yard and 95-yard kickoff return for a TD and 4 int. on defense), who has 13 TDs. Senior quarterback Taylor Olson (39-245-4 TDs, 66-134-987-12 TDs, 3 int.) directs the offense while Dalton Kruse (28-355-6 TDs) and receivers Trooien (27-488-3 TDs) and Byers (14-231-6 TDs) are part of an explosive offense. Deubrook Area generates 326 rushing yards and 419.4 yards in total offense while scoring at a 46.8 points per game average. Eight times this season, Deubrook Area has rushed for 300 yards or more. Twice they have gone over 400 yards. Tyler Jensen leads the defense with 145 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries. Hanson has 39 tackles, two sacks and five interceptions while Dallas Murphy has 85 tackles, five sacks and two fumble recoveries. Evan Sheffield has 95 stops and three sacks while Knutson has four picks and Trooien has three picks. Evan Sheffield and Kay Glatzer have three sacks each. While much as gone right for the Dolphins, Shepardson is well aware of Howard and the challenge ahead. "We need to run the ball well, make big plays in the pass game, win special teams and play great defense against their double wing. Howard is big and physical, much like us. We need to win the line of scrimmage," he said.
In the Playoffs - It is hard to believe this Howard squad is the #8 seed, given its schedule and record. Still, they are what they are. And that is a talented crew. In the playoffs, Ruml's group has defeated Elkton/Lake Benton, 51-23, in the opening round and then took out the #1 seed and top-ranked Kimball/White Lake, 38-34, in one of the outstanding games of the playoff season. The Tigers advanced to the title game with a 50-0 road win over Clark/Willow Lake, a team that had won nine straight games. Howard has won 9-of-13 playoff games since 2004. One of the big stories of the plays have been Luke Loudenberg, who has rushed for more than 239 yards in three straight playoff games. He has 239, 278 and 249 for 766 yards, which is the most in any class in the playoffs. In fact in the opening round, both Loudenberg and Cole Potter (209) both had over 200 yards on the ground.
Tigers Preview - The fourth-ranked has outscored opponents, 481-to-180. This team features a powerful rushing attack and an efficient passing game. Head Coach Pat Ruml notes that the team and community is excited about the chance to play in the Dome again. "Making it to the Dome is always a special feeling because it is so difficult to do," said Ruml. "With the way our current FB playoff schedule is, it's a tough run and, of course, all the teams that we play are good football teams. The whole team and community is excited about making it there," he said. The Tigers are led on offense by quarterback Landon Laible (33-51-8 TDs; 49-of-75 passes for 637 yards and 13 TDs is the field general. Howard, which has produced 3,810 yards on the ground (346.3 per game) with 54 TDs and 4,455 yards in total offense, has had a three-headed monster in the backfield, paced by Loudenberg (170-1,451-16 TDs), as well as Evan Donahue (95-822-11 TDs), and Cole Potter (64-933-14 TDs), who is a game time decision after missing the last two playoff games. How hot is this squad? They have only lost to 9A #1 Canistota (20-16) and to then 9AA #1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, 28-26. Since then, they have five straight wins when they own a 238-to-78 advantage. In those wins they have point totals of 33, 58, 58, 51, 38 and 50. This team has scored over 50 points six times and over 30 nine times. On defense, Donahue has 77 tackles, a fumble recovery and three interceptions while Jordan Kuhle has 72 tackles and a fumble recovery while Potter has 63 tackles, four fumble recoveries and two picks and Nick Pardy has 53 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. As his team heads to the state title game, Ruml feels good about what the team has done. However they have to meet one final goal. "I'm very proud of our team for making to the state title game. We have a short turnaround to get ready for an undefeated Deubrook team in the Dome," he said. "We have to play well on special teams, and certainly avoid turnovers. In addition, we have to tackle well because Deubrook brings in some very fast and elusive running backs. I guess basically we just need to get our running game going early and adjust to the speed of the game and the defense that Deubrook runs. Our RBs have been great all year and they have been doing it by committee. It seems like they have all contributed to our great season at some point," said Ruml. "Our O line is almost all seniors and they have done a great job, especially the last few weeks. Our passing game has been very good as well. We don't throw it a lot, be we certainly complete a high percentage when we do. Deubrook will be a big challenge for our defense, but I know they are looking forward to playing them."
Who Wins? Both of these teams have had impressive seasons. They both pound the ball and feature explosive backs that can take it to the house. Expect to see a large number on the Dome scoreboard. This game may not have any punts and look for a scoring play on special teams. It goes to the wire with Howard taking a 44-38 decision.
9B Championship - #2 Colome (10-1) vs. #1 Harding County (11-0), 7:30 p.m., Thursday Night
Coaches - Kevin Keiser of Colome. Jay Wammen of Harding County.
Championship Info - Harding County has advanced to the state championship game for the sixth time The Ranchers are trying to herd together the school's second title. The Ranchers won its only title in 1993 with Ab Penn as head coach, 8-0, over Castlewood. They also were in the 9B title game in 1992 and advanced to four 9A title games in 1998, 1999 and most recently 2010 (34-16 loss to Hanson). Colome, which lost the first ever 9B title game to Bridgewater, 6-0, will be in its sixth championship game. Th Cowboys won two 9B championships in 1988 and 2007. With head coach Dave Fennewald they won the 1988 title and with Kenny Graesser at control, they defeated Grant-Deuel, 44-14 in 2007. They also finished second in 2006, falling to Iroquois, and in 1987 to Ramona-Rutland.
Harding County (11-0)
In the Playoffs - Harding County fought off a strong challenge from Castlewood, 40-28, and moved into the championship game. Aside from Castlewood, Harding County has been dominant in the playoffs with an 88-0 points advantage in the opening two rounds. They defeated Jones County, 46-0, in the first round and then handled Faulkton Area, 42-0. In the win over Castlewood, quarterback Jess Feist threw for 216 yards and receiver Ckyler Floyd had 117 yards receiving. Harding County has split two games with Colome, including a 56-12 win last October 25, 2011.
Ranchers Preview - HC, which has a 523-to-85 scoring differential, is the only unbeaten team in 9B. In the last five seasons, Harding County has won at least nine games every season and have an overall 48-6 record. The Ranchers, which averaged 45.4 points per game, and has recorded seven shutouts, one of the best totals in nine-man history. "We had our goals set high for this year," said head coach Jay Wammen, who teams has scored over 40 points in three straight playoff games and 40 points or more in 11-of-12 games this season. "The kids and the coaches are completely ecstatic but we know we have unfinished business and are not satisfied with just making it to the state championship game," he said. On the season, Harding County has averaged 235.7 yards rushing with another 147.9 passing for 383.4 yards per game in total offense. "We were able to stay healthy for the majority of the season and now have everyone back at full strength," said Wammen. "Our offense has had great balance running and passing the ball while our defense has really stepped up their game all season long." The Ranchers are led by quarterback Jess Feist, one of two 1,000-1,000 (pass/rush yards) players in South Dakota (Gregory's Jaden Bartling). He has completed 108-of-175 passes for 1,745 yards and 20 TDs and only five interceptions. He has also rushed 126 times for 1,133 yards and 20 TDs. Feist, who has a season-high 173 yards rushing vs. Newell, has five games over 100 yards rushing, averaging 103.0 yards per game and 8.99 per carry. Feist also has passed for at least 100 yards in 10-of-11 games with a high of 267 vs. Timber Lake. Harding County also has a number of other explosive standouts, including running back Steve Kock, who has 102 carries for 736 yards and 14 TDs. Windon Hewson has 60 carries for 454 yards and seven TDs. Fullback Dalton McCann has 68 carries for 411 yards and four TDs. At wide receiver, Ckyler Floyd has 48 receptions for 824 yards and eight TDs while Harvey Mollman has 23 catches for 492 yards. The Ranchers defense has been dominant, racking up 36 sacks, 12 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries. Steve Koch has led the way with 105 tackles, four fumble recoveries, three interceptions and two sacks. Reece Jensen has 89 tackles with three fumble recoveries and six sacks while Dalton McCann has 44 tackles, three fumble recoveries along with 16 sacks, one of the highest totals in South Dakota, regardless of class. In addition, Tate Gress has 89 tackles and eight sacks while Feist has 48 tackles and four interceptions. Wammen knows this team has been special. led by Feist. "He is a born leader (Feist)," said Wammen. "We try to keep the ball in his hands as much as possible. Great things seem to happen when we can get him in the open field. He also is our defensive leader and gets everyone aligned. Ckyler Floyd has amazing hands. He broke the school's single season receptions record this past week. He missed 3 games due to injury but has played the last 2 weeks for us and is back to full strength. Dalton is extremely explosive off the ball and is a disruptive force at DE. Tate Gress is our leader on the offensive and defensive line. We look to line run behind him as much as possible and he moves extremely well in pulling situations. Defensively, he does an amazing job disrupting the opposing teams backfield and frees plays up for our linebackers." Wammen knows that Colome will be a challenge for his team. "Offensively we will have to try and stay balanced against their giant line," he said. We need to be able to move the ball rushing on them. Defensively we will have to slow down their power rushing game, especially QB (Terrance) Kinzer and not let them control the time of possession."
In the Playoffs - They are now 8-3 in the playoffs since 2004 after defeating fourth-ranked Viborg-Hurley, 52-36, in the semifinals on Saturday. The Cowboys also defeated Avon, 22-16, in the quarterfinals after a 52-0 win over Bison in the opening round. They have a 126-to-54 points advantage in the playoffs. In the playoffs, quarterback Terrance Kinzer was electric with 37 carries for 595 yards and 10 TDs. Two of the games he had over 200 yards rushing, including 243 vs. Avon.
Cowboys Preview - Second-ranked Colome has won nine straight games, its longest streak since 2007. "We are excited to play for a championship. I am just happy the kids get to experience this, they will remember this always, but at same time we can't be satisfied to just get here," said head coach Kevin Keiser. Colome is led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Kinzer and running back Andrew Odden, who have a combined 14 100-yard rushing games. Kinzer has completed 27-of-58 passes for 499 yards and eight TDs with just one interception. But his real damage for opponents has come on the ground, where he has 151 carries for 1,420 yards and 27 TDs. He has a 129.1 yard average and has seven 100-yard games. Kinzer has accounted for 35 TDs running and passing. Senior running back Andrew Odden, who had a brother play for a title when he was younger, has 208 carries for 1,281 yards and 14 TDs rushing and owns eight 100-yard rushing games this season with a high of 170 vs. South Central. Cohl Ratermann (16 rec., 292 yards and 6 TDs) is a key weapons for the Cowboys, who are averaging 286.5 yards rushing per game and scoring 38.4 points per game. Overall, they had 454 carries for 3,152 yards and 49 TDs rushing. With the win, they now have an overall scoring advantage of 422-to-197 with three shutouts in the last five games. The defense, which has 20 sacks, 14 interceptions and three fumble recoveries, is led by Kinzer with 118 tackles and six interceptions while Brandon Hauf has 83 tackles and Ratermann, 84 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Lane Fawcett has 51stops and 8.5 sacks while Jacob Worden has 57 tackles and an interception and Brady London has three interceptions. Coach Keiser knows the team will face a challenge with the unbeaten Harding County squad. "We will have to control line of scrimmage and limit their big plays and win turnover battle," he said. "In addition, containing their QB will be key and we have to be physical with them."
Who Wins - In a battle of the Ranchers and Cowboys, expect a lot of physical play, centered on running. Both teams feature dynamite quarterbacks with outstanding running backs. Feist has had a sensational year for the Ranchers and will likely be the difference in this game due to his pass-rush ability. Look for a close battle that will be decided in the fourth quarter. Both defenses are solid and the one that makes a key play late will determine the winner. Harding County wins, 28-24.
11B Championship - #1 Winner (11-0) vs. #2 Tri-Valley (10-1), 2:30 p.m., Friday
Coaches - Steve Bazata of Tri-Valley, 10-1, .909, first year. Dan Aaker of Winner, 94-29, .764, 10th season.
Championship History - Tri-Valley, 19-3 in the playoffs since 2004, will try and defend its 11B title when they battle Winner on Friday. Tri-Valley, has made five title appearances in 11B since 2007. A year ago, the Mustangs defeated McCook Central/Montrose, 18-14, for the crown. They also won the 2008 title, 41-3, over Groton and defeated Groton in 2007, 2014. They lost a 2009 title game to Winner, 12-6, when the Warriors threw a 'hail Mary pass at the end of regulation. Overall this is the Mustangs seventh overall title game appearance (2nd in 2004 and second in 1986). Winner, 17-4 in the playoffs since 2004, is making its 12th championship appearance in either 11B or 11A. The Warriors, which has won at least 10 games in five straight seasons, will try for its fifth title. They claimed the 2009 championship, a 12-6 win over Tri-Valley. The Warriors also won titles in 1989 (Milbank, 27-14), 1987 (Aberdeen Roncalli, 42-15) and the first ever 11A title in 1981 (31-21 over Vermillion). The Warriors finished second in 2008, 1998, 1995, 1993, 1992, 1990, and 1986. A year ago, the Warriors were eliminated by McCook Central/Montrose, 28-7, in the 11B semifinals.
In the playoffs - Winner, which has six shutouts on the season, defeated top-ranked Flandreau (10-1), 26-21, to move onto the title game vs. Tri-Valley. The Warriors also defeated Custer, 49-0, in the semifinals and Bon Homme, 51-6, in the opening round of the playoffs.
Preview on Warriors - Overall, the Warriors, own a 469-to-79 point differential, including 315-to-27 in the past seven games. The Warriors averaged 317.5 yards rushing and 59.1 yards through the air and 42.6 points per game. They have 3,492 yards rushing on 474 carries, including a season-high 466 yards rushing (42 carries) in the first round. Six times this season they have gone over 325 yards rushing in a game. In the win over Flandreau, the Warriors had a season-high 134 yards passing. Winner is led by a talented backfield including Kyle Bertram (108-959-12 total TDs), Ben Connot (116-950-16 total TDs) and Trace Meyer (96-670-12 total TDs) at running back with Tanner Fritz (29-45-650-11 TDs, 1 int.; 39-145-9 TDs rushing) directing the offense. Isaiah Old Lodge (10-256-5 TDs) leads the receiving corps. The Warriors defense, which allows just 7.18 points per game, is led by Meyer (73T, 4 sacks, 2 int.), Connot (55T, int.) Tate Novotny (58T, 4 sacks, FR), Adam Farner (63T), Grant Tomas (47T, 4 sacks, FR), Kray Krolikowski (39T, seven sacks), Jay Brandis (43T, 2 sacks) and Old Lodge (35T, four sacks). They have held eight opponents with eight points or less and have 27 sacks, 18 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries.
In the Playoffs - Tri-Valley, which only has a 24-22 loss to top-ranked Flandreau, is the second seed in 11B (based on power points). The defending 11B champions opened the 2012 playoffs with a 42-14 verdict over Garretson, rallying from an early deficit to roll to a win. Tri-Valley handled Deuel, 37-14, in the quarterfinals as they rolled up 344 yards on the ground. On Saturday, Tri-Valley stopped #4 Aberdeen Roncalli (10-1), 28-7. In the playoffs, Tri-Valley has held every opponent to less than 100 rushing yards (86, 82, 75) in three playoff wins.
Preview on Mustangs - Tri-Valley, which owns a 385-to-165 overall scoring margin over opponents, has won seven straight games, including three in a row in the playoffs. "We have a great group of kids. They are hardworking, tough, and are willing to do whatever it takes to win. Our seniors have really taken ownership of this team. They are the reason we have had this level of success," said first-year coach Steve Bazata. The Mustangs are led by senior quarterback Brett Page who is 32-of-54 for 554 yards and 11 TDs with just four interceptions. He has 49 rushes for 203 yards and 5 TDs. Senior running back Logan Koopman has 128 carries for 1,252 yards and 15 TDs. Logan Otto has added 74 carries for 500 yards and five TDs with 15 catches for 284 yards and seven TDs. Dominic Burgraff has nine catches for 133 yards and two TDs. It is on defense that Burgraff excels with 45 tackles, four sacks, a fumble recovery and three blocked kicks. Jaden Krump, a junior linebacker, has a team-high 78 tackles with a sack, two fumble recoveries and a blocked kick. Logan O'Hara with 54 tackles. The Mustangs have 15 sacks, 10 fumble recoveries and eight interceptions on defense and have allowed just 224.2 total yards per game. "We will need to be able to run the ball successfully and stop the run. The team that does those things the best will win the game. Winner is a very physical, well-coached team. They are fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they have a number of guys who can hurt you with the ball in their hands. Defensively, they get off of blocks well and fly to the ball," he said. Regardless Bazata has a group of seniors to be proud of. "Brett (Page) is the unquestioned leader of our team. His stats may not show it, but he is the guy who makes our offense go. Without him, we would not be playing in this game. Logan (Koopman) is our home run hitter. He is a threat to score every time he gets the ball. That opens the field up for the rest of our offense. Those two guys are the reason we have enjoyed the success that we have had this year. Logan Otto can run the ball and is a good receiver out of the backfield. Sam Mader is a good blocker and runs hard. Our offensive line has improved with every game this year."
Who Wins - Tri-Valley is the defending champion, which makes a difficult to beat. Yet, in Winner, we have another team that knows how to win on the big stage. The last time these times gathered at the Dome, it was a tough, physical contest won by a last-second 'hail Mary' pass. This game will be similar but expect a little more scoring. Like a year ago, the Mustangs will be pushed to the end. Go with Tri-Valley, barely, in a 22-20 decision.
11A Championship - #2 Harrisburg (9-2) at #1 Dell Rapids (10-1), 7:30 p.m., Friday
Coaches - Steve Hanson of Dell Rapids, 18 seasons, 124-61, .670. Brandon White of Brandon Valley, third year, 22-10, .687.
Championship Info -- Dell Rapids is gunning for a third straight title and the school's fourth overall crown. The Quarriers, who will play in their fifth overall championship, defeated West Central, 35-0, a year ago and defeated Harrisburg, 55-20, in the 2010 title win. They also own a 34-6 verdict over Winner in 2008. In total, they have a 140-to-46 points advantage in four title games (3-1 record). Dell Rapids also finished second in 2006. Harrisburg, which is playing in its eighth title game in 11A or 11B, will have a rematch with Dell Rapids, which won a 2010 title game contest. This is Harrisburg's second appearance in the 11A championship. The Tigers won three 11B titles including a 22-7 verdict over Gregory in 1984, a 21-0 decision over Stanley County in 1997 and a 31-10 win over Gregory in 1999. They also finished second in 11B in 1985, 1994, and 1995 as well as 2010 as noted. Dell Rapids owns a 6-2 series lead over Harrisburg (since 2004).
Dell Rapids (10-1)
In the Playoffs - Since a 35-6 loss to Milbank in the first round of the 2009 playoffs, Dell Rapids has been unbeaten in the postseason. They have won 11 straight games, putting together a 486-to-154 overall points advantage against playoff opponents. This season they have a 153-to-54 advantage in wins over Milbank, 57-22; Chamberlain, 47-6; and Hot Springs, 49-25. Eight times in 11 games, the Quarriers have scored over 40 points in playoff games.
Quarriers Preview -- The Quarriers, which have a 432-to-168 scoring advantage against opponents, appear to be on the championship track again. For the third time in three seasons, they have rolled through the regular season. The Quarriers has won 33-of-35 games over the past three seasons, only suffering two losses to 11B rival Tri-Valley (21-14 in 2011 and 28-21 in 2012). According to head coach Steve Hanson, this team is one that gives everything they have got, resulting in success. "I feel the kids work hard, execute and do their jobs. It always feels good to get to the Dome," said Hanson. This Quarriers unit, like past outfits, have started fast in games this season owning a 150-to-47 first quarter edge. By half-time, the season margin against opponents is 280-to-88. Dell Rapids is averaging 285.1 rushing yards a game behind all-state and SDSU recruit Cole Langer, one of the top backs in South Dakota. Langer has 91 totes for 800 yards and 14 total TDs (13 by rush). In his career, Langer, has 270 carries for 2,446 yards and 42 TDs and has 209 career tackles . "Cole Langer is a great player, probably the smartest I have ever coached. He is big, physical, fast and smart," said Hanson. "Probably the best thing about him is that he is just a great all around kid. He has meant a lot to our program the last four years. He has been a great player since his freshman season. He is a leader and a great role model," Hanson said. Lane Lebrun (112-782-7 total TDs), Ryan Nichols (51-347-5 TDs) and Riley Schmidt, who has a team-high 1,407 all-purpose yards has 61 carries for 365 yards and 10 TDs, along with nine catches for 156 yards and two TDs, 686 yards and three TDs (long of 92) on kickoff returns and 263 (21.9 avg.) in punt returns. He has 15 total TDs. Quarterback Matt Kolbeck (38-77-849-13 TDs, 4 int.; 53-84-3 TDs) directs the offense. "Matt has stepped up to have a great senior season. He is a smart kid and the skill to be very good. He is also a great leader for us on the field," Hanson said. His main passing targets include tight end Bryce Koch (16-470-7 TDs), and Schmidt. "Bryce Koch is another great kid that has become an outstanding football player. He is a big target with great hands and is a good defensive end. He has brought a whole new weapon to our game," said Hanson. However, Koch may have turned an ankle in the semifinals and is availability may be a question mark. Despite missing a couple of games due to injury, Langer leads the team in tackles with 55 along with three forced fumbles. Koch has 33.5 tackles, three sacks and 10 TFLs. Jackson Entringer has 28 tackles, a sack and 7.5 tackles for loss while Colin Lebrun has 29 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and two forced fumbles. With Harrisburg between the Quarriers and a third straight title, Hanson knows his team has to be ready for a talented squad. "We will need to execute and sustain drives and keep there quarterback (McCuen) contained," he said. "They are well-caoched and have good athletes that do a variety of things."
In the Playoffs - Harrisburg will make its eighth trip to the state championships at the Dakota Dome. This playoff season, Harrisburg rolled past Lennox, 62-39, defeated West Central, 35-13, and handled Spearfish, 35-17, defeating the Spartans and the Trojans twice in 2012.
Tigers Preview - The Tigers, which has 3,976 yards in offense on 526 plays, owns a 365-to-217 scoring advantage over opponents. They average 216 yards rushing and 145.5 yards through the air. Coach Brandon White's team is now 7-0 at home. including 3-0 in the playoffs. In a turn-around season (4-5 in 2011), Harrisburg has performed down the stretch, commanding a 111-to-65 margin in the fourth quarter. They also own the first quarter to the tune of 89-to-35 with a 103-to-74 advantage in the second quarter. "Our kids are extremely excited to get back to the Dome," said Brandon White, Harrisburg's head coach. "Our seniors have experience playing in a state title. They also know that our goal is to not only make to the championship but to win the championship. They are focused and driven," he said. Harrisburg has lost just one game in-state (27-7 to Tea Area) and is led by the dynamic quarterback Andrew McCuen, a dual threat who has a team-high 148 carries for 891 yards and 12 TDs on the ground. He has completed 88-of-179 passes for 1,600 yards and 16 TDs with just five picks. As a result, he has accounted for 28 TDs for Harrisburg. In his career, McCuen has completed 170-of-360 passes for 3,044 yards and 32 TDs. Joining him in the backfield is senior fullback Kyle Ackerman, who has 72 carries for 366 yards and six TDs. Devyn Schriever, a senior wingback, has 97 carries for 641 yards and nine TDs. He also has 19 catches for 259 yards and two more TDs. McCuen's main targets in the pass game are Schriever along with the electric Trevor Deschepper, a big play receiver who has 39 catches for 840 yards and 12 TDs. "Andrew McCuen and Trevor Deschepper have had a huge impact on the growth of our football program," said White. "They have influenced so many players here," said White. The head coach knows the title game will be a test for his team. "We will need to play Tiger football, which means being physical, playing with emotion and playing disciplined. They (Dell Rapids) are well coached and have lots of experience in title games. They have so many great players to contain," he said.
Who Wins - Both teams have star power. Harrisburg's McCuen and Deschepper have made big plays all year and at crucial moments. Langer, Lebrun, Koch and company have been dominant and used physical play and athleticism to spell the difference in many games. Harrisburg needs to deal with Langer's power which I think will be the difference. Look for the Quarriers to take a 28-22 decision over the Tigers.
11AA Championship - #2 Brandon (11-0) at #1 Washington (11-0), 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Coaches - Brian Hermanson of Washington, 7th season, 81-16; Chad Garrow of Brandon Valley, 66-23, 13th season.
Championship Info - Brandon Valley, which will play in his ninth state title game, is trying for its first 11AA title since 1998 (28-21, Brookings) and seventh overall. They also won the 1990 title with a 28-7 win over O'Gorman; the 1989 title with a 10-7 verdict over Yankton and captured the 11A crown in 1988 (Douglas, 17-0), 1985 (Custer, 34-0), and 1984 (over Mobridge, 34-8). Twice the Lynx have lost in the title game including 1997 and 1995, both in AA. They also own mythical titles in 1979 and 1980. For Washington, they will play in their seventh AA championship. They have two titles, including a 33-7 win over O'Gorman in 2010 and a 27-10 win over Aberdeen Central in 2009. The Warriors were runner-up in 2008, 2007, 2002 and 1987. In addition, WHS owns 35 mythical titles including in 1905, 1906, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1916, 1917, 1919, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1928; 1930, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938, 1941, 1944; 1951; 1952 (tied with Brookings); 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959,1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1967.
In the Playoffs - In the quarterfinals, Washington rolled to a 48-0 win over Brookings and then dominated O'Gorman in a 49-3 win the semifinals. If you are superstitious note that SF Roosevelt beat O'Gorman a year ago in their title-winning campaign in 2011. The Warriors also defeated the Knights in the semifinals and have won 57-of-62 games since the 2008, including two state titles. The Warriors have advanced to an unprecedented sixth straight AA title game, owning a 17-3 record in the playoffs during that run. In the championship runs in 2009 and 2010, WHS put together a 26-0 record, including five shutouts in eight games. The 2010 team outscored opponents 548-to-62, including 152-to-7 in the playoffs. In 2009, WHS had a 602-to-118 overall scoring edge with a 189-to-20 scoring advantage. In the 2009 semifinals, the Warriors defeated Brandon Valley, 55-10, the last time the two teams have met. With a 97-to-3 advantage in the playoffs this year, how does the 2012 team compare with those championship squads? If they win, then the discussion can begin. All three teams have over 500 total points and made dominant runs in the playoffs. So......
Warriors Preview - The Warriors, which owns a 514-to-61 overall scoring advantage, finished the regular season unbeaten for the third time in four seasons. "We have improved every week and developed some depth at needed positions," said head coach Brian Hermanson. WHS, which averages 387.8 yards and 46.7 points per game, is led by Hander (96-162-1,752-21 TDs; 45-167-2 TDs) and Gerry, who has scored 134 points, including 21 TDs, eight PATs, a field goal. Gerry has 22 catches for 586 yards with 12 TDs and 28 carries for 196 yards rushing and four TDs. He has had the ball in his hands 60 times and scored 21 TDs, including four interceptions all returned for TDs. He also has a 90-yard kickoff return for a TD. In his career Hander ranks among the top-15 all-time in most passing categories. He now has 209 completions on 350 attempts for 3,453 yards and 35 TDs. Gerry has 72 catches for 1,469 yards and 20 TDs in his career along with 487 yards rushing and 33 total TDs. Sam Cooke has recorded 156 carries for 1.029 yards and 15 TDs with five 100-yard rushing games. In his career Cooke has 192 carries for 1,196-16 TDs. He also has three catches for 25 yards and a kickoff return for a TD (77 yards) for 17 total TDs. "We have a great group of seniors that have provided us with leadership this season," said Hermanson. "Nate and Jon are also team captains. Their leadership and experience has really been a plus for us. Both athletes (Gerry and Hander) have had outstanding academic and athletic careers here at Washington High. They are both very competitive and are the type of guys that always give you their best efforts. It's been a privilege watching them develop as young men and athletes," he said. In addition to the dynamic duo in Nebraska recruit Gerry and Hander, Washington can utilize Danny Marlette (41-287-4 TDs), and Luke Reiter (54-241-8 TDs) in the Warriors' ground attack. Hander also has passing targets in Gerry, Chris Parker (12-163), Ty Wiley (16-174-2 TD), Zach Lupica (7-195-2 TDs), Alex Powell (13-155-TD) and Grant Larson (10-197). Marlette (69T, 12.5 TFLs, two sacks, FR, 2 FF), Sam Johnston (58T, 17.5 TFLs, 4 FR, 4 sacks, 3 FF, 3 int.) and Gerry (57T, 13.5 TFLs, 4 int. 2 FF) are the leaders for the best defense in AA. Through 11 games, the Warriors defense has 17 sacks, 10 interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries while limiting teams to 5.5 points per game. "Defensively we like to blitz and use a lot of different players and packages depending on down and distance. We take pride in getting to the football and creating turnovers," he said. As they prepare to face Brandon Valley, Hermanson is pleased that his team gets another shot at a title. "It's always exciting to have an opportunity to play for a championship. One of our team goals was to get to the dome and have a chance to play for another title," said. "We will need to control the ball and prevent Brandon Valley from having any big plays. They have a very talented team that possesses many outstanding athletes. The Lynx have great team speed and play with a lot of confidence. They are very well coached and do not make many mistakes," Hermanson said.
Brandon Valley (11-0)
In the Playoffs -- Brandon Valley has defeated Pierre, 41-17; and Roosevelt, 34-20, in the opening rounds of the playoffs. After two straight years of frustration in the playoffs (12-9 loss to Yankton in 2010 and a 38-37 loss to Roosevelt in 2011), the Lynx are back at the DakotaDome.
Lynx Preview -- BV is looking for a 12th straight win in a season when they own a 452-to-122 overall scoring advantage over opponents. The Lynx, which average 357.7 yards in total offense, run a spread offense which has rarely been slowed down in 2012. In the playoff win over Roosevelt, Chase Marso threw for 355 yards, which is his fifth passing game of more than 300 yards this year. The Lynx offense averages 262.5 yards passing per game and 95.3 on the ground. In the title game, one of the key factors will be which team gets off to a fast start. Washington has outscored opponents, 173-to-0 in the first quarter while the Lynx own a 162-to-17 advantage in the opening quarter. In fact, BV has a 296-to-55 margin in the first half. It is a team that has closed strong with a 81-to-26 fourth quarter margin. In an unbeaten season to this point, BV has been led by Marso, who has accumulated season totals of 191-of-292 for 2,698 yards and 27 TDs, which improves his all-time numbers of 381-of-686 for 5,312 yards and 62 TDs. Marso ranks in the top five in all four career passing categories. His main target has been Iowa recruit Matthew VandeBerg, who is now the 11-man all-time leader in career TDs receptions with 34. He has season total of 58 catches for 875 yards and 17 TDs along with seven interceptions (21 for a career) and 421 yards with three TDs (59, 105, 100) returns on interceptions and a 19-yard fumble recovery for a score. In addition, he has a 89-yard kickoff return for a TD. In total, he has 22 TDs and 2,016 all-purpose yards. He now has 128 receptions (top-five all-time) for 1,941 yards and 34 TDs in his career. A two-way starter, he has 42 tackles, four tackles for loss. Marso doesn't rely on VandeBerg alone, also looking to A.J. Garrow (55-656-5 TDs) and Nate Winter (28-451-5) as well as Adam Bauer (16-257-3 TDs). As for Tripp, he has been a major factor in the Lynx offense with 138 carries for 816 yards with 15 TDs along with 28 receptions for 363 yards and three TDs. The Lynx defense has been stellar with 21 interceptions, 16 sacks and 15 fumble recoveries. It is a group led by VandeBerg, Lucas Lunstra (82T, 5.5 TFLs, sack 3 int.), Jacob Adams (65T, 5.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 3 int., 4 FR), Luke Hyronimus (47T, 6.5 TFLs, two sacks, int.) and Adam Guthmiller (45T, 12 TFLs, 2 FR, 4.5 sacks).
Who Wins - This ranks as potentially one of the top 11AA matchups in playoff history. Two unbeaten and untied teams will knock helmets around in the DakotaDome. Clearly one of the keys to the game will be which team starts fast or neither does. Washington hasn't allowed a first-quarter point while BV has scored 162. A big factor will be BV's ability to move the ball on a Washington defense that is allowing less than six points a game. Perhaps the biggest factor will be upfront - which team will control the line of scrimmage? Expect a great game. The call here is for the Warriors, who pull out a 31-24 win.