As the prep football stage hits week four, the prep scene is again dotted with top games sure to keep the area's football-watching public entranced.
It will be interesting to see how the 11AAA vs. 11AA matchups go, given the controversy over the past year in a move by the SDHSAA to add a seventh class. Three ranked 11AAA teams play three 11AA teams in the rankings with 11AAA #1 Sioux Falls Lincoln hosting 11AA #4 Watertown; 11AAA #4 Brandon Valley hosting 11AA #2 Brookings and 11AAA #3 O'Gorman welcoming 11AA #1 Pierre to town. In 11B, two rivals meet when #4 Parkston travels to #5 Wagner in what will be a physical and close tussle of teams that feature rushing games and tough defenses. Then, 9B #3 Canistota hosts an up-and-coming Menno-Marion squad that sets up to be a high scoring affair. Both teams feature high-octane offenses and explosive players who will likely be among the many athletes creating some magical moments on Friday.
How'd We Do? Oops, not so good - two week slump. I was 1-4 (7-8 on the season) – at least I picked the Pierre game correctly. My apologies, it was simply an off-week. As a result, my overall record dropped to 217-50 (.812) in regular season and playoff contests. In the 2011 regular season, I was 24-16 and I was 28-12 a year ago. In the playoffs, I have put together a 79-7 mark. So, with another round of tough matchups to project, I am going with Sioux Falls Lincoln, Sioux Falls O'Gorman, Wagner, Brandon Valley and Canistota.
Just a reminder. When the games end Friday night, don't forget to tune into KSFY-TV with Sports Director Erik Thorstenson and Matt Peterson for Friday Night Lights. I will join Thor and Matt at the close of the show for some quick analysis on games.
Here is a breakdown of five top area games in our "Focus on Five" preview.
11AA #4 Watertown (1-1) @ 11AAA #1 SF Lincoln (3-0), Friday, Sept. 20, HWF
Lincoln Notes: While top-ranked Sioux Falls Lincoln is 3-0 and coming off a huge win over city rival and preseason 11AAA #1 SF Roosevelt, head coach Aaron Beavers knows his team can't take a break with an explosive group from Watertown coming to Howard Wood Field on Friday. "We feel we have a long way to go before we reach our goal but the players are working hard," said Beavers. Through three games, the Patriots have compiled a 141-to-67 point edge in 11AAA wins over Rapid City Central, 55-19; #3 SF O'Gorman, 51-20; and #2 SF Roosevelt, 35-28. Lincoln has accumulated 1,339 yards in total offense, including 876 on the ground. Moving forward, Beavers realizes his team has to continue to win the battles upfront and Watertown will be a challenge. "We must control the line to establish the run and open up the passing lanes," he said. "They (Arrows) are big and physical with a great running running back (Shay Bratland). So far, our line is doing well but still can be much better. After reviewing film, we actually did not play as well as I thought at Roosevelt. We have had several film sessions over the week and we have much improvement that will need to be done," added Beavers. Senior QB Connor Burchill (28-54-419-6 TDs-2 int.; 15-101-TD rushing) has been solid leading an offense that has gone over 400 yards in total offense three straight weeks (449, 479 and 411). Standout senior running back Caden Quintanilla has been the workhorse for the Patriots. He has 79 carries for 524 yards and seven TDs. Against Roosevelt, he had 243 yards on 38 carries as he went over 100 yards for the 14th time in his career. In his career, Quintanilla has 345 carries for 2,364 yards and 25 TDs in with 450 touches for 4,274 all-purpose yards and 38 total TDs. In addition, senior Matt Wagner (9-75), Isaiah Roach (5-42) and Luke Heitkamp (9-45-TD) have contributed to the Pats' rush offense. Senior Dylan Bartow leads Lincoln's talented receiving corps with seven catches for 88 yards and three TDs while senior Trevor Naasz has added seven catches for 135 yards. Nickel Meyers has five catches for 116 yards and three TDs while Caleb Rector has six receptions for 90 yards. The defense is led by Wagner with 19 tackles, sack, 3 TFLs and a fumble recovery. Senior Levi Foss has 15 tackles and a pick and senior Paul Thanel has three picks, nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Junior Braxton Large has added nine tackles with 3 TFLs and two sacks.
Watertown Notes: For the second time in three weeks, Watertown will match up with a #1 team. In the first go around, the Arrows dropped a 35-24 decision to Pierre. After a win over 11AA Aberdeen Central, 32-13, Watertown gets 11AAA #1 Lincoln, a solid team that plays good defense and features an explosive offense. Watertown head coach Steve Svendsen knows his team has a challenge, both physically and mentally, with the Lincoln squad. "Lincoln's offensive line comes off the ball very good and with physically. Their defense is real sold across the board. They are physical and very aggressive," said Svendsen. For the Arrows to have success, they will need to play toe-to-toe with the Patriots. "We have to be able to move the chains with some long 8 - 10 play drives (which we have done this season) and keep their offense off the field. Defensively, we cannot give up the big play and we have to play a physical game in the box." As this point, Svendsen's offense is providing a spark, generating 744 yards in total offense, including 547 on the ground. "I feel our team has improved from the first game to now but we still have a few questions to answer. We need to improve in our passing game and cut down on our mental mistakes. I do know that we are better up front and have played a more physical style of football," he said. Watertown's physical play upfront has enabled talented senior running back Shay Bratland (a Pigskin Preview cover athlete) to put together solid numbers after two games. He has 61 carries for 406 yards and five TDs, which pushes his career total to 214 carries for 1,103 yards. "He (Shay) is one of the hardest workers I have seen in my coaching career. He lays it all on the table in terms of his effort, hard work, and dedication for his team (during practice and game-time)," said Svendsen. "He will be the first to tell you that he has some decent stats because of the offensive line and them opening up lanes for him to run through." The Arrows also feature Joe Foley who has three rushes for 45 yards and a TD while Ricky Hannasch has five carries for 33 yards. Tyler Lindahl has one carry for 54 yards. Senior QB Logan Gabriel leads the offense and has completed 13-of-31 passes for 197 yards and a TD. Senior wide out Jess Poppen has five receptions for 67 yards and now has 38 catches for 389 yards in his career. Marcus Gravatt has three receptions for 56 yards while Matt Decker has two catches for 56 yards. Svendsen speaks highly of his all-state back. As they face Lincoln, Svendsen has been impressed by his team's effort and hopes improvement continues. "This is a great bunch of kids who have hit the weight room hard since December and all the way through the summer. We have good senior leadership in getting this done," he said.
Coaches: Aaron Beavers, Sioux Falls Lincoln, 10th year, 62-48, .562 at Lincoln; 108-56, .657 overall. Steve Svendsen, Watertown, 2nd year with Arrows.
Inside Slant: In a matchup of two of the best running backs in South Dakota, who gets the upper hand Quintanilla or Bratland? Will Watertown's offensive and defensive line match up and play toe-to-toe with Lincoln's group? Will the Arrow's passing game have any success? Will Lincoln's defense shine again?
Series Records: Over the past nine years, these two teams have played just twice with Watertown taking the most recent matchup, 29-13, in the 2010. In 2009, Lincoln prevailed, 15-7.
Bottom-line: Lincoln appears to be firing on all cylinders. They are a talented offensive group led by Burchill, Quintanilla and company. Watertown had an impressive win over Aberdeen Central and played solid against the Governors in week one. The key is how Watertown can match-up with Lincoln's line group, which controlled action against Roosevelt. Lincoln's defense has allowed 67 points this year but has played solid.
Who Wins? Lincoln will move to 4-0 with a 36-18 win over Watertown. Look for the Patriots to pull away in the second half.
11AA #1 Pierre Riggs (3-0) vs 11AAA #3 Sioux Falls O'Gorman (2-1), McEneaney Field, Fri. Sept. 20
Sioux Falls O'Gorman Notes: After losing a pair of two-way starters to injuries in senior QB/DB Tyler Schulte and RB/DB Eion Donelan, Sioux Falls O'Gorman has had to reshuffle the lineup a bit. And, progress is being made, says veteran coach Steve Kueter, who team has a battle with 11AA #1 Pierre Riggs (3-0) on Friday at home. The latest effort was a 28-10 verdict over city rival Sioux Falls Washington at the Dakota Bowl. Keuter, who picked up his 273rd career win (11 from tying Max Hawk for the all-time career mark), knows his team's identity must remain running the ball and stopping the opponent. However, he notes that the pass game needs to do better. "We need to run the ball with some success, and improve in the passing game," said Keuter. In the win over the Warriors, sophomore Luke Fritsch continued to shine for the Knights. He finished with 16 carries for 131 yards and TD runs of 12, 47 and 59 yards. The Knights jumped on Washington early, utilizing a recovered fumble and a Matt White TD run on fourth down to grab the lead that they never relinquished. The Knights received 21 carries for 56 yards and a TD while Jaden Holzer had 10 carries for 53 yards. Overall in 2013, Fritsch, who has made two starts, has 28 carries for 191 yards and four TDs while completing 4-10 passes for 54 yards. White has 49 carries for 211 yards and two TDs while Ben Briggs has 12 carries for 129 yards. Jaden Holzer and Aiden Hart are making solid contributions. "Luke Fritsch has done a great job running the offense—his ball handling ability has really helped our option game," said Keuter. As for Pierre, Keuter notes they are a talented team and O'Gorman has to handle their front. "On defense, we need to control the line of scrimmage—they have a very good group of players this year. We are making progress each week. The injuries we have had (3 two –way starters are out so far this year) has made for some shuffling of players."
Pierre Riggs Notes: Pierre continues to be the story in 11AA. Governors have opened up 3-0 for the first time since the 9-3 season in 2005, when they lost in week four to SF Roosevelt, 42-3. This time, they head to Sioux Falls to battle 11AAA #3 O'Gorman. "Our kids have done a nice job of working hard each week and improving the mistakes made the previous week," said Pierre head coach Jayson Popping. Pierre left no doubt who is the top team in Class 11AA last Friday. In a match-up with previously #2 Mitchell they cruised to a 48-7 win. Austin Christopherson had a kickoff return of 96 yards and a punt return 41 yards as the Governors opened up a 21-0 first-quarter lead and were never threatened. Pierre rolled up 417 yards in total offense, including 262 on the ground for the game. Poppinga has had balance on offense this year with a rushing attack producing 211.3 yards and a passing attack generating 203.7 yards a contest. Overall, the Govs have 1,245 yards in total offense, averaging 8.4 yards per play. The key to their success has been quick starts, owning a dominate 69-to-17 edge during the first half of games in 2013. Gray is off to a fast start for the Govs with 30 carries for 228 yards and five TDs while completing 25-of-41 passes for 611 yards and five TDs. "Pierre is lucky to have Alex Gray," said Poppinga. "His experience as a three-year starter is immeasurable and the leadership he gives us on and off the field is tremendous. He's a great kid in the classroom, community, and on the football field." The Pierre rushing game is led by Jace Jerome with 46 carries for 232 yards and two TDs. Ethan Case has eight carries for 85 yards and a TD with four receptions for 90 yards. Brevin Kaiser has six totes for 68 yards and a TD. Christopherson is Gray's top target in the pass game, catching eight passes for 201 yards and a TD. Garrett Pochop has six receptions for 192 yards and two TDs while also serving as the team's kicker (13-15 PATs). Reinke has five catches for 130 yards and two TDs. As they prepare to battle the Knights, Pierre needs to do well up front and stay disciplined while avoiding turnovers on offense. "OG's front defensive linemen are hard-working, disciplined kids. Their defense, as a group, has done a great job of containing offenses and limiting big plays," said Poppinga, whose brother Shannon serves as defensive coordinator. "We will have to play disciplined defensive football. OG's Wing T style forces defenses to play solid and not try to make someone else's play. OG has made big plays on offense so we will have to try to contain the QB Fritsch."
Inside Slant: Will Pierre's defense handle sophomore sensation Luke Fritsch and a rapidly improving Knights' ground attack? On the flip side, can the Knights' defense deal with the talented offense of Pierre, led by Alex Gray? Will Jace Jerome find space for the Governors inside against O'Gorman? Can Austin Christopherson break a big play in the receiving game or on special teams?
Coaches Record: Jayson Poppinga, Pierre, 1st year, 3-0, 1.000; Steve Keuter, O'Gorman, 36th year, 272-76-1, .778.
Series Records: No meetings for several years.
Bottom-line: This is a matchup of the top 11AA squad vs. the #3 11AAA team. The game will hinge on the play upfront by both teams. We know that Luke Fritsch of O'Gorman will make some plays, either by run or pass. He is coming off a big game vs. Washington. On the other side, Pierre has arguably's 11AA's top QB in Alex Gray, a dual threat. Austin Christopherson can make plays at wide out or on special teams. The defenses for both teams have been solid for the most part. Look for this game to be decided in the fourth quarter.
Who Wins? Since O'Gorman is at home, they get the slight edge, 24-21.
11AA #2 Brookings (2-1) @ 11AAA #4 Brandon Valley (2-1), at Brandon, Friday, Sept. 20
Brookings Notes: As 11AA #2 Brookings travels to face 11AAA #4 Brandon Valley, they face their biggest challenge of the season. The Bobcats opened with a 20-13 win over Huron before losing to 11AAA Aberdeen Central, 28-12, in week two. Last Friday, they rolled past Spearfish, 47-0. Through three games, the Bobcats have produced 785 yards in total offense, including 584 on the ground. They have been stingy on defense, allowing just 317 rushing yards and 282 through the air. As head coach Lee Schmidt prepares his group for BV, he knows his young team needs to continue to show progress, even as the Bobcats lost at least one starter due to injury. Leading rusher and senior running back Devon Crandall (42-222-TD) was lost for the season with injury with senior linebacker Shawn Bradley is a question mark. "Moving forward, I like we have to be much better in our passing game and not turn the ball over," said Schmidt. "Also we will have to control BV's big athletic defensive line while not allowing big plays. We have to create some turnovers," he said. While the loss of Crandall hurts, Brookings has a solid core backs, led by junior sensation Dayton Bender, who tied a state record with a 98-yard kickoff return in the win over Spearfish. Bender has 14 carries for 140 yards rushing and three TDs with four catches for 46 yards and two TDs. He has six total TDs and is an explosive player. "Dayton Bender has been outstanding and has carried a heavy load for us to this point," said Schmidt. Sophomore Gerald Maxwell (18-110-2 TDs) and senior Cody Shepardson (6-17 rushing. 2-66 receiving) will need to step up for the Bobcats. Junior Carter Gordon (11-31-154-3 TDs) and junior Tyler Hanson (4-5-80 yards) have both played QB for Brookings. Senior Tyler Madler has four catches for 48 yards and two TDs. "We are still a young team, but it's time to grow up and play with more consistency than we have up to this point," said Schmidt.
Brandon Valley Notes: As Brandon Valley welcomes 11AA Brookings to town, the Lynx are a squad that appears to be playing better week-by-week. After being hit by graduation hard, Brandon Valley had to install young players at several key positions. The team opened with a 30-0 loss to 11AAA #2 Roosevelt before rallying back with wins over Huron, 46-13; and Yankton, 42-25. Head Coach Chad Garrow is seeing growth in his team. "Every week we are gaining more experience and showing better timing and rhythm in our offense," said Garrow. First-year BV QB Jake Comeaux has completed 43-of-73 passes for 536 yards and eight TDs, including five in the win over Huron. "Jake is coming along and showing better ball security and consistency. He needs to continue to take care of his reads and take underneath stuff while protecting the ball," said Garrow, who is also pleased with the development of senior running back Cam Holmes in his first year as a starter. Holmes has 36 carries for 160 yards and a TD, including putting up 17 carries for 86 yards and a TD in the win over Yankton. The receiving corps is also faring well, despite losing A.J. Garrow (8-51) for the past two games. Garrow, who has 118 career receptions (top eight all-time), has had surgery for a torn meniscus and is expected back by the Washington game. In the meantime, junior Alex Wilde (10-202-2 TDs), Drew Reinschmidt (12-134-2 TDs) and Riley Franzen (5-51-TD) are providing important contributions. Senior Eric Ode has led a solid group on the offensive and defensive front. Overall, the defense is playing well, says Garrow. "I thought we played pretty well in the first two weeks but gave up too much on the pass against Yankton. But for the most part I am pleased with the defense," he said. With Brookings the next challenge, Garrow believes keeping versatile and speedy Dayton Bender in check is critical. "He is very explosive and we have to know where he is at all times. Defensively, we have to be physical. Our goal is to continue to make progress. The more experience this group gets, the better they will be," he said.
Coaches: Lee Schmidt, Brookings, 2nd year, 7-7, .500; Chad Garrow, Brandon Valley, 15th season, 68-25, .732
Inside Slant: Can Dayton Bender make a play in space for the Bobcats? Will BV's defense play well as it did in two wins? Can Brookings QB Carter Gordon play big in this game? What about BV's Jake Comeaux, will his progress continue? With the loss of Crandall, does Brookings have the depth at running back to keep its offense going?
Series Records: Since 2004, BV has controlled the series, winning seven of nine matchups. A year ago, BV took a 38-0 decision while Brookings won two years ago, 42-28. The other games include: 2010 – BV, 24-21; 2009 – BV, 21-14; 2008 – BV, 38-14; 2007 – BV, 19-0; 2006 – BV, 23-7; 2005 – Brookings, 21-0; and 2004 – BV, 21-19.
Bottom-line: While BV is starting to gel with its group of new faces, Brookings has been hit hard by injuries, particularly to lead running back Crandall. Bender will be relied on heavily and he can do a lot of things, including on special teams. Brookings has a lot of talented athletes but they need to avoid falling behind early and find a way to play consistent football. For BV, the loss of AJ Garrow for a few games has hurt but Wilde and Reinschmidt have stepped up. BV's defense has been pretty good, even giving up a lot of points a week ago. Look for the Lynx to pull away in the second half.
Who Wins? Brandon Valley takes a 31-14 decision.
11B #4 Parkston (3-0) at #5 Wagner (2-0), Friday, Sept. 13
Parkston Notes: Optimism is high in Parkston right now. Why not? The Trojans are off to a quick 3-0 start in which they have defeated Groton, 21-0; Canton, 21-14; and Elk Point-Jefferson, 36-0. Now they face a rival in nemesis in Wagner, which has won 9-of-the-last-12 meetings between the teams. Sixth-year head coach Eric Norden knows his team faces a strong challenge from a team that somewhat mirrors his squad. Both teams feature strong rushing attacks with outstanding defense. "We need to make sure we control things up front first," said Norden. "We want to establish our run game and develop our offense from there. We need to slow down their skill position players. They are very strong in these positions, and we can't allow them to control the game," he said. According to the coach, Parkston is progressing as the season has moved along. "We are coming along, but we have a few things that we need to improve on," said Norden, who team follows up this road game at Wagner with a battle against defending 11B champion and #2 Winner on Sept. 27 at home. So far this season, Parkston has 760 yards in total offense, utilizing its rushing attack which averages 225.7 yards per game. The Trojans have 125 carries for 677 yards and 10 rushing TDs. Despite losing starting halfback Chase Stoebner to injury early, this group has had solid play upfront and a group of backs step up. Junior Miler Semmler leads the way with 26 carries for 213 yards and five TDs. Junior QB Wes Dvorak, who is 6-of-13 for 83 yards passing, has 24 carries for 183 yards and 3 TDs. "Wes Dvorak has done a great job with the QB spot this year. He is coming along and helping us by being a threat other needs to account for," said Norden. Also adding strength to the rushing attack is senior Mitch Heisinger, who has 25 carries for 107 yards and a TD while junior Brady Reiff, whose brother Riley plays for the NFL Detroit Lions, has provided 13 carries for 63 yards and a TD.
Wagner Notes: Wagner, which has gone at nine straight years without a losing season, is off to another fast start. The Red Raiders, which won the 1982 11B crown and sits 35-13 over the last five years, has moved into the KSFY-KWSN Broadcaster's Poll at #5, one spot behind Parkston. The Red Raiders excel in a rush-based offense and stout, physical defense. This season, they have a 49-to-26 scoring margin in wins over defending 11B runner-up Tri-Valley, 22-14, and 2011 runner-up McCook Central/Montrose, 27-12. With Parkston headed to town on Friday, the Red Raiders will try once again look to establish the run and play defense. "The offensive keys for us will be execution of our game plan and playing consistent for four quarters," said veteran head coach Jason Knebel, whose team has scored 2,165 points (23.77 ppg) and allowed just 1,082 (12.2 ppg) since 2004. While it is still early Knebel is pleased with the progress of this group of Red Raiders. "I feel good about our progress. We are getting better every day and getting better at all aspects of the game," he said. Leading the offense is quarterback Dylan Brunsing, who has completed 15-of-27 passes for 295 yards and four TDs. Those totals increase his career totals to 73-of-177 for 1,426 yards and 14 TDs. "Dylan has done a great job of managing our offense and providing leadership," said Knebel. Wagner's running attack is led by senior David Kocer, who has 43 carries for 232 yards and a TD. He now has 243 carries for 1,685 yards and 14 TDs in his career at Wagner. In the passing game, Brunsing looks for talented wide out Noah St. Pierre and Chris Kuca, a pair of seniors. St. Pierre already has eight catches for 154 yards and three TDs.
Inside Slant: This will be a game won in the trenches. So, who has the edge? Can Kocer continue to build up his yardage totals and find a way into the end zone? Will St. Pierre break a big play? Or, will it be Dvorak, shaking loose and making something happen?
Coaches: Eric Norden, Parkston, 6th year, 14-23; Jason Knebel, Wagner, 6th year, 43-17, .707
Series Records: Since 2004, Wagner has controlled the series, holding a 9-3 edge. However a year ago, the two teams split with the Red Raiders winning the regular season game 15-10, but falling to Parkston, 21-14, in the playoffs. Parkston has won 2-of-3 games between the teams in the playoffs. The series breaks down as follows: Wagner won five straight until that playoff loss with wins in 2011, 21-0; 2010, 49-0; 2009, 38-0; and 2008, 26-20. In 2007, Parkston took a 22-7 verdict while Wagner had a 14-6 win in 2006 and took the 2005 regular season contest, 21-12 before falling in the playoffs, 24-14. In 2004, Wagner won the regular season game, 20-0, and the playoff encounter, 6-0.
Bottom-line: Get ready for a hard-hitting, close game. Both teams will likely score a couple of TDs. Wagner has an advantage of being at home, where they are tough to beat. Look for Kocer, Brunsing and St. Pierre to have solid games while Semmler, Dvorak and Reiff will make things interesting for Parkston.
Who Will Win? Wagner prevails barely, 15-14 over Parkston.
9AA Menno-Marion (2-0) at 9B #3 Canistota (2-1), Friday, Sept. 13,
Menno-Marion Notes: After rolling to a pair of impressive wins to open the season, Menno-Marion faces its biggest test of the season with 9B #3 Canistota. The Razorbacks are in the first year of a co-op between Menno and Marion and led by co-coaches in Jason Pasco and Todd Obele. Both coaches are excited for the opportunity and feel the team is making progress. "We are coming along. We have a very difficult schedule in front of us and our team knows it. We are up for the challenge and look forward to it," said Obele. The Razorbacks have defeated Irene-Wakonda, 49-0, and Freeman, 50-14, rolling up 1,072 yards in total offense, including 869 yards on 101 carries and 10 TDs on the ground. "We are building our identity every week," said Pasco. Well, a big part of their identity is an explosive offense, led by the dynamic senior QB Nick Gortmaker who has completed 7-of-17 passes for 187 yards and three TDs. Passing game aside, he has done huge damage on the ground with 36 carries for 481 yards and four TDs. He has rushed for 200 yards twice in a row with 18 carries for 222 yards and a TD vs. Irene-Wakonda and 17 carries for 259 yards and three TDs against Freeman. In his career, Gortmaker has 270 carries for 1,493 yards and 21 TDs with 2,311 all-purpose yards. "Nick has been a starting QB for four years and has worked very hard. He is a competitor who provides consistent leadership on and off the field and understands that it is a team game and it takes all of us to be successful," said Obele. The Menno-Marion offense also features senior Chet Peterson, who has 31 carries for 254 yards and four TDs while junior Austin Handel has 19 carries for 78 yards and a pair of TDs. The receiving corps is led by explosive senior wide out Dylan Lehr with six catches for 186 yards and three TDs, including a 69-yard pitch and catch with Gortmaker. As the squad faces three-time 9-man champion Canistota, both coaches say that the Razorbacks have to play turnover-free ball and win the ball control battle. "We will need to play mistake free football on the offensive side of the ball against a very physical Canistota team. Defensively, we have to play solid defense against a team that is well-coached and disciplined," said Obele, pointing to the play of senior Tyrell Bertsch (15T), junior Derrick Lehr (9T, four sacks) and Peterson (11T, FR). "We certainly have a great deal of respect for their team and coaching staff. They are a solid football team," said Obele.
Canistota Notes: After a 37-game winning streak ended two week ago, the #3 Canistota rebounded in a big way with a 56-12 win over Freeman. Canistota, which has won 38-of-39 games since leaving the Canistota-Bridgewater coop in 2009 As a team, the Hawks had 39 carries for 414 yards rushing while adding another 130 yards passing for 544 total yards on offense in the victory against Freeman. As the Hawks move forward, Canistota head football coach James Strang is seeing development in a team that was hit hard by graduation. "The team is progressing. We are still working our young kids into positions to be successful and they are at times in the right place and the right time. But, we still need to improve and tighten up our play," he said. As expected Nick Hofer has been the team's top player, rolling up 546 yards rushing on 54 carries with six TDs and four catches for 125 yards and two TDs. Hofer is approaching 1,500 yards in career rushing with 1,433 on 124 carries and is near 3K in all-purpose yards with a career mark of 2,996. Sophomore QB Shay Jolley has overall had a solid start to his first season as the starting QB. He is 17-of-29 for 293 yards with five TDs and one pick. Canistota has totaled 1139 yards in total offense, including 117 carries for 887 yards on the ground. Aside from Hofer, Carson Hofer has added 27 carries for 168 yards and three TDs while Jerad Nielsen has 13 rushes for 105 yards and a TD with eight receptions for 129 yards and three TDs. Defensively, the Hawks are led by Jacob Buseman (29T), N. Hofer (29T, TFL, sack) and C. Hofer (26T, TFL, FR). With a talented bunch from Menno-Marion next on the schedule, Strang hopes to keep the pace quick and the tempo moving. "We need to set the tempo for the game, which means establishing the control at the point of attack. It will allow our back to get into space and make things happen," he said. "With the way they are winning games, it will be extremely important to limit their offensive possessions and control the clock with extended drives and no turnovers. Defensively we have to tackle well and rally to the football. Menno-Marion has a big offensive line, a fullback that will run you over, and tailbacks that can see the field," he said.
Coaches: James Strang, Canistota, 1st year, 2-1, .500; Jason Pasco, 4-6, Todd Obele, 7-12, Menno-Marion
Inside Slant: Will Gortmaker continue to shine for Menno-Marion and Nick Hofer for Canistota? Will either defense be able to get some stops, especially late in the game? Does special team play a role in the game? Can Chet Petersen dent the middle of the Canistota defensive wall? In their biggest game to date, will the Razorbacks be able to upset the Hawks on their home field?
Series Records: The two teams have not met with Menno-Marion in a co-op for the first time. However, Canistota is 3-0 vs. Marion, including a 74-20 victory a year ago never played Menno.
Bottom-line: This sets up to be a high-scoring affair. Look for both Nicks (Hofer and Gortmaker) to shine on Friday night, making several big plays and swinging momentum back and forth. Menno-Marion will give Canistota fits. But the Hawks will also be tough for the Razorbacks to handle. Remember, Canistota hasn't lost at home in more than three years. .
Who Wins? Canistota wins a shootout, 34-32.