As prep football teams turns the corner and eye the playoffs at the end of October, this week's Focus on Five preview features a number of rivalry matchups.
Two matchups involve traditional rivals and ranked teams, including 11AA #1 Pierre (6-0) traveling to face #2 Yankton (3-3) in a battle of ESD teams. Pierre and Yankton were the preseason favorites in 11AA. In 11A, three-time defending champion and #2 Dell Rapids (4-1) hits the road to face #4 West Central (3-2) in Hartford. The Quarriers and Trojans contest involves teams that have won 15 of the last 20 11A titles. Also on the preview docket will be an intense matchup in 11B when Bon Homme (3-2) travels to Wagner (4-1). In 9-man, 9AA #1 Arlington will travel to face 9B Castlewood (2-3), which has won two of the last three games between the rivals. Finally, there is the contest between 9B Eureka-Bowdle (4-1) traveling to face 9A #5 Potter County (4-1) in Gettysburg.
How'd We Do? For the second straight week, I was 3-2, which pushed my season total to 15-14. Hey, I am over .500! Let the cheers ring out (I can hear them ring across the plains – "way to go, way to go."). As a result, my overall record improved to 225-57 (.805) in regular season and playoff contests. This week, I will go with Pierre, West Central, Wagner, Arlington and Potter County.
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 #1 Pierre (5-0) @ 11AA #2 Yankton (3-3), Crane-Youngworth Field, Yankton, Oct. 11
At Stake –Pierre will put up an unbeaten record and the top spot in the polls when the Governors clash with long-time ESD rival Yankton on Friday night at Crane-Youngworth Field in Yankton. It is a matchup of the two teams picked for the top of the 11AA polls in the preseason. Both teams come in hot and feature explosive offenses.
Pierre Notes: Since the opening snap of the season, Pierre has played with a winning purpose, rolling to a 5-0 record – one of the best starts in school history. In fact, Pierre hasn't been 5-0 since 1988 when they went into the state title game unbeaten before falling to O'Gorman, 44-6. In the season opener, Pierre dispatched Watertown, 35-24, in a tough road test. Then, the Governors handled 11AAA Rapid City Central, 28-14, before rolling to a 48-7 win over then #2 Mitchell. The toughest test of the season was a 16-14 win over then 11AAA #3 O'Gorman, 16-14, on the Knights' home field. Two weeks ago, they defeated Huron, 44-12. Now, the Governors enter arguably their toughest stretch of the season as they look to continue their march to what they hope will be the school's first-ever state title. This week, they face a suddenly hot Yankton squad (3-3), winner of two straight. A week from now, they match up with 11AAA #3 Brandon Valley (4-1) in what could be a battle for the ESD title. Head Coach Jayson Poppinga, 5-0 in his first season at the helm, is pleased with the progress of the Governors. "Every week we have had specifics and worked to improve on that area of the game," he said. "I like the progress of our team, including improved play in our run defense and on the offensive line. It is important that we control the line of scrimmage and J.J. Hejna," he said. Hejna is the state's top receiver with 32 catches, 658 yards and seven TDs. "His height (6-4) creates matchup issues. He has created most of the big plays for their offense. Up front, Yankton has found good success the past week running the football," said Poppinga. "Yankton uses multiple formations to create opportunities and their front line did a really nice job last week in Watertown." Yankton is clearly playing better and will provide a test for Pierre. But the Governors have answered the bell all season. Led by senior QB Alex Gray, Pierre has averaged 361 yards in total offense (1,808 total yards), including 916 on the ground. It is an offense that features balance with Gray hitting on 49-of-77 passes for 892 yards and 11 TDs. Gray leads the running attack with 55 carries for 337 yards and six TDs. Pierre also features Jace Jerome (63-312-2 TDs), and Ethan Case (18-144-TD) in the rushing game. The top receiving targets include senior Austin Christopherson (14-264-6 TDs), who caught four TDs in the win over Huron. Christopherson also has a 95-yard kickoff return and averages 16.5 per punt return. Other receivers include Case (13-211), Garrett Pochop (10-255-3 TDs) and Shay Reinke (8-169-2 TDs). As Poppinga looks ahead, he is just looking for the team's progress and winning purpose to continue. "Our kids have improved every week and we always look to play a complete game," he said. "Alex Gray creates opportunities for our team. When he plays well, Pierre plays well."
Yankton Notes: After a slow start (1-3), Arlin Likness's Yankton Bucks are starting to make a run. The Bucks are back to 3-3 after a second consecutive win. Yankton defeated O'Gorman, 22-14, two weeks ago and Watertown, 17-7 on a windy, rainy, stormy night on Friday. In the win over the Arrows, Yankton overcame a 7-0 deficit to and rallied for a 17-7 win. For much of the season, Yankton has failed to find any success on the ground. On Friday, with the wind and rain causing problems for pass games on both sides, Levi Davis stepped up with 151 yards rushing. Davis rushed for more yards against Watertown than he had all season combined (134 yards). After a win over Rapid City Stevens, 52-36, the Bucks lost a pair of ESD shootouts to Brandon Valley, 42-25 at home and Aberdeen Central, 34-21, on the road. Now, Yankton will face its biggest test with a date against #1 Pierre. Likness likes how his team keeps pushing each other to get better. "As a team we have made very good progress from the start of the season up to now," said Likness. "Hopefully we keep getting better for the next couple of weeks and peak at play-offs. We started out only being able to throw the ball but now have a little bit of a running game with the passing game." The rushing attack is led by Davis, who has 67 carries for 294 yards and two TDs. Likness knows that his quarterback play will need to shine against Pierre along with the play on both sides of the ball upfront. Yankton utilizes a pair of quarterbacks with Mason Strahl (51-100-861-4 TDs) and Brady Hale (33-69-492-6 TDs). If that pair can help the team move the chains, then positive things may be in the offing. Critical will be to find both Tanner Termensen and Hejna in the passing game. Hejna leads all receivers in South Dakota with 32 catches for 658 yards and seven TDs while Termansen has eight catches for 194 yards and a TD. "Our defensive front has stepped up the last two weeks and that has allowed us to play with a lead in the fourth quarter," said Likness. "Offensively we are a work in progress getting better every week but still have a ways to go." Against Pierre, Yankton has to play another complete game. "We need to win the turnover battle along with the field position," said Likness. "If we can do that and play solid defense and move the ball on offense we have a chance. The big question is can we match them in the line play?"
Inside Slant: Can Yankton find a way to slow down Alex Gray of Pierre? Will Christopherson come up with a big catch or make something happen on special teams? Will Pierre be able to slow down J.J. Hejna? Which team wins the line of scrimmage? Can Yankton's QBs come up big at home?
Coaches: Aaron Likness, Yankton, 15th season (29th overall), 114-50, .693 @ Yankton, 232-81 overall. jayson Poppinga, Pierre, 1st season, 5-0, 1.000.
Series Records: In the last 12 matchups since 2004, Yankton has won 9-of-12 matchups, including the past two, 27-21 in 2012 at Pierre and 43-20 in 2011 in Yankton. Pierre's last win was a 28-7 decision in Pierre in 2010.
Bottom-line: Alex Gray has been the best player in 11AA all-season. Gray's play on the field, along with leadership in the huddle, has been critical for a Pierre team that has met every challenge this season. Now, they head to a game against a nemesis in Yankton, which has dominated the recent series with Pierre. If weather conditions permit (calm night), this game has a chance to turn into a shootout.
Who Will Win? Stick with the top-ranked Governors, who will prevail 33-21.
11A #2 Dell Rapids (4-1) at 11A #4 West Central (3-2), Friday, Oct. 11, Hartford
At Stake: In this battle of 11A opponents, West Central will look to end a two-game slide while Dell Rapids is trying to extend a four-game winning streak. This matchup features teams that have won 15-of-the-last-20 11A titles with West Central picking up 11 titles and Dell Rapids, 4. In that span of 20 years, the two squads have made a combined 18 championship appearances (West Central, 13; Dell Rapids, 5). This will be a match-up featuring talented backfields and squads with urgency to win.
West Central Notes: After losing a second straight game to another ranked opponent, West Central will look to get back on the winning track, albeit against rival and three-time defending champion Dell Rapids, which has won four straight games. Prior to the losses to Madison and Canton, West Central had three wins by a 153-to-12 margin (Dakota Valley, 49-6; Vermillion, 53-0; Lennox, 51-6) "Obviously we are disappointed with the outcome of Friday night's game with Canton (23-0 loss, but it had as much to do with Canton's execution and play as the mistakes we made on both sides of the ball," said head coach Kent Mueller. One of the keys to West Central's problems has been injuries to senior QB Noah Matson, starting center Kyle Ochsner and linebacker Josh Mettler. Former tight end Jace Hanisch has stepped in at QB, hitting on 9-of-20 passes for 148 yards and a TD. Junior Ryan Mallinger has stepped in at center. "Both are doing a good job, considering the limited reps they have gotten to this point. We fully anticipate that they will be fine as they gain experience. We realized at the beginning of the season that this stretch leading into the play-offs would be the most challenging. We are still learning and growing as a team, and making adjustments as necessary along the way to give this team the best chance to end the season successfully," said Mueller. The Trojans need to get their rushing attack going after being stymied against Canton. The Trojans' running game features a talented and explosive trio, including Cody Miller (42-317-2 TDs), Cole Tirrel (32-238-7 TDs), and Cody Bussell (50-296-4 TDs). Overall, West Central has 1,596 yards in total offense or 319.6 yards per game. Of that total, the Trojans have 1,149 rushing yards and 447 through the air. For Mueller, the key to West Central's success this week and down the line lies in the ability to control the ball and clock, limit turnovers and find openings in the pass game. "On defense, we have to stop big plays and limit our mistakes," he said. As they prepare for Dell Rapids, Mueller believes Hanisch and his offense are getting more settled. "His progression this week has been much better as he has settled into the QB position, especially mentally, and gotten the majority of the snaps in practice. We expect he will improve day to day through the season and do an outstanding job for us. Jace has a quiet confidence and toughness about him that commands respect, his teammates have complete faith in him, and Noah has been an outstanding mentor and teacher through this transition."
Dell Rapids Notes: For three-time defending champion Dell Rapids, the 2013 season has been a continuation of success but not in the dominating fashion of the past few seasons. For Dell Rapids, which has now won 38 of its last 41 games, a 4-1 start is okay for now. Quarriers Head Coach Steve Hansen knows his team is a work in progress. "I feel like we are still trying to get better. Offensively we are still making mistakes on assignments and need to keep improving each week. Defensively we have been playing pretty well and improving," he said. His team opened the season with a 39-12 road loss to the current 11A #1 Madison (6-0). Since that loss, Dell Rapids has won four straight, including a home shutout against #3 Tea Area, 15-0. They have a 46-7 win over Milbank, a 12-7 win over Dakota Valley and a 41-7 decision over Lennox. Tri-Valley, which has defeated the Quarriers two straight years in the regular season, is up after the battle with rival West Central. To this point, Dell Rapids has built a 124-to-60 points differential off the play of a strong rushing attack that has produced 1,415 yards on 211 carries for 283.0 per game and 6.7 per carry. The Quarriers' passing attack has just 175 yards in five games. Senior Tanner Solberg has completed just 8-of-33 passes for 117 yards with two TDs. "I feel Tanner is doing a fine job of running our team but he needs to have more confidence in his teammates and relax," Hansen said of Solberg. The Quarriers feature a backfield that is deep with senior Brett Nichols (44-486-7 TDs), junior Riley Schmidt (50-338-TD), senior Cody Nielsen (40-188-3 TDs) and junior Jacob Huewe (16-172-2 TDs). Schmidt leads the receiving corps with four catches for 73 yards, which includes a 60-yard TD reception that provided the difference in the home win over Dakota Valley. Schmidt, who was the Joe Robbie MVP in the 2012 state title game win, is dangerous on returns with a 20.0 punt return average and a 19.6 average on kickoff returns. Matt DeNoon leads the defense with 19 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and a sack while Zach White has 18 stops, 6.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Brett Nichols has 17 tackles, two sacks and 5 TFLs. The Quarriers, who will look for a quick start (54-20, 1st Q; 38-7, 3rd Q points edge) against West Central, faces a team anxious to get back on the winning track. It is a West Central team that is well-coached squad and rarely makes mistakes, said Hansen. "We are going to have to limit our mistakes and stay focused on our game. They (West Central) are always an opportunistic team so limiting turnovers will be important."
Inside Slant: Who wins the line of scrimmage? Will both teams avoid the turnover bug? Will a special teams play (watch West Central's Cole Tirrel and Dell Rapids' Riley Schmidt) sway the outcome? Can the defenses shut down running attacks?
Coaches Records: Kent Mueller, West Central, 10th year (24th overall), 91-27, .771; Steve Hansen, Dell Rapids, 129-63, .671.
Series Records: Since 2004, West Central owns a 7-6 series edge over Dell Rapids. However, the Quarriers have won five straight and six of the last eight encounters. In 2012, Dell Rapids took a 28-14 decision in the regular season. The 2012 win by Dell Rapids followed a sweep in 2011 when the Quarriers took a 35-18 regular season win and a 35-0 verdict in the state title game. In 2010, Dell Rapids won the regular season encounter, 37-22, and defeated the Trojans, 32-26, in the 11A semifinals. West Central's last win in the series was a 33-22 victory in 2009. From 2004-09, West Central won seven-of-eight games. Other scores in the series since 2004 include: 2008 – WC 36 DR 20; DR 19 WC 14 (playoffs); 2007 – WC 21 DR 20; WC 28 DR 14 (playoffs); 2006 – WC 28 DR 14; 2005 – WC 40 DR 0; 2004 – WC 42 DR 16.
Bottom-line: This will be a hard-fought battle. West Central is coming off two straight losses but host the Quarriers. This should be a game featuring strong rushing attacks on both sides. Schmidt, Nichols, Tirrel, Miller and Bussell all have the capacity to make things happen. Can Dell Rapids extend its winning streak to six games against its biggest rival?
Who Wins? Look for West Central to pull out a 24-21 decision.
11B Bon Homme (3-2) at 11B Wagner (4-1) Friday, Oct. 11, Wagner
At Stake – When Bon Homme and Wagner meet up, count on the 11B game turning into a rough and tumble, defensive battle, featuring ground games pounding away at front walls. Both teams have the ability to throw but it is likely ground games and defenses determine the outcome.
Bon Homme Notes: At 3-2, Bon Homme Head Coach Byron Pudwill likes the way his team is playing. After two losses to open the season, the Cavaliers have won three straight games. "We are happy with the way our season is going of late," said Pudwill. "The beginning of the year was a little rough but the kids have really stepped up to the plate lately and are playing well," he said. Part of the early struggles came from a schedule that will include six teams ranked in the top five this season, including the opener against Canton, a 36-21 loss. In week two, the Cavaliers fought toe-to-toe with the defending 11B champion Winner, a team that now has won 17 straight. After that tough 15-9 loss, Bon Homme has turned it around. They defeated McCook Central/Montrose, 27-7, turned back defending 11B runner-up Tri-Valley, 19-0, and picked up a 29-13 win over Sioux Falls Christian. Clearly progress has been steady for a team with a solid group of seniors, including quarterback Dakota Bodden, a dual threat who is getting looks from area colleges. Bodden has completed 25-of-69 passes for 292 yards and a TD while rushing 64 times for 395 yards and five TDs. Also in the backfield is junior halfback Hunter Young (31-152-2 TDs) and freshman Chase Kortan (39-154-2 TDs rushing; 8 rec., 141 yards, 2 TDs rec.). At wide out, senior Scott Wieseler (10-99-0 TDs) is a key player. Bon Homme is run-based with 820 yards on the ground and 1,189 in total offense. The defense, which has allowed 1,099 yards in total offense, is led by Wieseler (40T, FR), Austin Kaul (37T, FR, def. TD) and Levi Dockendorf (35T). With rival Wagner next on the schedule, Bon Homme is facing another difficult challenge. Pudwill knows his squad needs to take care of the ball and slow down Wagner and their talented rushing attack, led by David Kocer. "We can't give up big plays," he said. "We need to slow them down." With a veteran offensive front (all seniors) and four seniors on the defensive line, Bon Homme has a group that can grind it out with the best in 11B as they showed against Winner. Still, this game like so many in 11B will come down to the rushing attack. "I think whoever has the most yards rushing will probably win the game," said Pudwill. "We had about 300 yards rushing the last game so we are getting things figured out."
Wagner Notes: After a 6-3 season in 2012, Wagner came into the 2013 campaign with a lot of optimism. Why not? They returned six starters on both side of the ball. After a 4-1 start, the Red Raiders enthusiasm is building. They are one of the top teams in 11B with a run-pass mix that makes their offense tough to handle. Head Coach Jason Knebel likes the growth of this team. "We are continuing to get better each week," said Knebel. "The kids are working hard each day and working on fine tuning their games. We are playing well at all aspects of the game offense, defense and special teams," he said. Wagner, which is looking for a ninth winning season in the past 10 years, has a 143-to-69 point edge over opponents. The Red Raiders opened the season impressively with a 22-14 win over defending 11B runner-up Tri-Valley. In week two, they stopped McCook Central/Montrose, 27-12, before falling to #5 Parkston, 30-12 at home. Since then, they have a 20-6 win over Beresford and a 62-7 decision against Todd County. Lead the way is a group of standout seniors, including QB Dylan Brunsing, who has completed 27-of-63 passes for 503 yards and 10 TDs. He is now 95-of-213 for 1,634 yards and 20 TDs in his career. He throws the ball to a pair of explosive wide outs in seniors Chris Kuca and Noah St. Pierre, who has 12 catches for 235 yards and five TDs. St. Pierre can make big plays on offense, defense and special teams. Then there is the talented running back David Kocer, who has 85 carries for 626 yards and four TDs as he is headed for another 1,000-yard season on the ground. Kocer, who had 1,289 yards a year ago, has 2,079 yards on 285 carries with 17 TDs in his career "Both Dylan and David are playing well for us," said Knebel. "Dylan is doing a great job of getting the offense organized on the field. He is making the correct audibles and is running and passing well for us. David is playing extremely well for us on both sides of the ball. He runs hard and creates plays on the offensive side and on defense he is our play caller. He gets us lined up where were we need to be and makes plays from the LB position," he added. Against Bon Homme, Knebel knows his defense has to step up and the offensive needs to continue to shine. "On defense we have a pretty good rotation of players right now that are playing well. And on offense we are finally settling in on an offense line that is consistent."
Inside Slant: Which teams win the battle upfront? Will defenses dominate as has been the case in this rivalry series? Will Kocer find some space against a tough Bon Homme defense? Does Brunsing find St. Pierre on a big pass play? Can the dual threat ability of Bodden make a difference?
Coaches Record: Byron Pudwill, Bon Homme, 11th season; Jason Knebel, Wagner, 6th year, 45-18, .714.
Series Records: In this rivalry series, Wagner holds the upper hand with a 7-3 record since 2004. In the last five games, the edge is just 3-2 with Wagner outscoring Bon Homme by just a 49-41 margin. In all 10 games, Wagner's point edge is 183-to-95. The Red Raiders have won three of the last four games in the series Here is a breakdown of the games: 2012 – BH 20 W 0; 2011 – W 20 BH 0; 2010 – W 9 BH 0; 2009 – W 14 BH 7; 2008 – BH 14 W 6; 2007 – W 41 BH 26, BH 15 W 6 (playoffs); 2006 – W 20 BH 0; 2005 – W 32 BH 13; 2004 – W 35 BH 0.
Bottom-line: This will be a hard-fought affair. Both teams have talented athletes that can make big plays. Dakota Bodden is a special athlete for Bon Homme, and has the ability to make it happen at crucial stages of a game. Dylan Brunsing, David Kocer and Noah St. Pierre have been playing together for several seasons and know what it takes to win. All three have the ability to make a big play. Expect this game to be low-scoring with Wagner holding the home-field edge. It is likely the game will be decided in the final five minutes.
Who Wins? Wagner wins this battle of rivals, 17-14.
9AA #1 Arlington (6-0) at 9B Castlewood (2-3), Friday, Oct. 11, Castlewood
At Stake: In a matchup of old rivals, 9AA #1 unbeaten Arlington will try to avoid a slip against 9B Castlewood, which has had a frustrating start to the 2013 season. Both teams feature talented QBs but have been hurt by injuries. This could be a stern test for the Cardinals, who have to travel to Castlewood, a squad that has won two of the past three in their series against Arlington.
Arlington Notes: After a 9-2 record and a semifinal berth in 9A a year ago, the 9AA #1 Arlington Cardinals have opened 6-0 with an impressive start. Head Coach Steve Gilbertson has seen his team continue to win and progress, despite some injuries in the backfield. "Our progress has been steady," said Gilbertson, who is 76-38 at Arlington with a pair of state titles in 2004 and 2005. "We have had some injuries in our backfield so we haven't had any real continuity since the first two weeks. However, our offensive line has progressed very well making our running game our offensive strength at this point," he said. To this point, the Cardinals have been a dominating bunch, rolling up a 259-to-100 point differential. Arlington defeated 9AA #2 Deubrook, 34-20, in the season opener and then proceeded to handle Estelline, 60-14; Oldham-Ramona/Rutland, 52-16; Lake Preston, 39-8; Elkton-Lake Benton, 36-28; and DeSmet/Iroquois, 38-14. Since that tough battle with Deubrook, Arlington's toughest test came in a lightning-delayed 36-28 win over Elkton-Lake Benton, who led by double digits early in that game. Leading the Cardinals is dual-threat QB Andrew King (27-of-41-675-7 TDs passing; 60-349-9 TDs rushing), a junior who has been the team's leader. Overall, Arlington, has produced 2,329 yards in total offense (388.2 per game), including 1,635 rushing yards on 206 attempts for 272.5 yards per game. The individuals operating in the backfield include Luke Weber (44-423-2 TDs), Alex Heuer (23-235-3 TDs), Nathan Parker (31-305-5 TDs) and Tanner Lemme (18-158-3 TDs). Weber and Heuer have recently missed action, forcing Lemme, who was the team's tight end, to shift into the backfield. He produced 18 carries for 158 yards and four TDs in the win over DeSmet/Iroquois. With a road test at rival Castlewood, Gilbertson knows his team must stop the big play by the Warriors and continue to pound the ball. "To defeat Castlewood, we need to prevent the big play, especially from their QB Lucas Ching, who can throw the ball well and has a strong arm. In addition, they have big receivers who can catch with a vertical threat," he said. "For us to be successful, we need to run the ball and control the time of possession," added Gilbertson, noting that King has carried the offense in the past few weeks. "He has made plays to keep us on the winning track during this undermanned stretch," he said.
Castlewood Notes: For the Warriors, the 2013 season has not gone according to plan. After a 7-4 season and a berth in the state semifinals (40-28 loss to champion Harding County), there was a lot of positive vibe with a solid group of returners back. Ranked #3 in the 9B preseason poll (KSFY-KWSN Broadcaster's Poll), Castlewood opened with a win over Lake Preston, 36-20. Since then, they have lost three-of-four, including consecutive losses to 9AA #4 Deubrook, 36-12; and Elkton-Lake Benton, 21-0, last week. Earlier, they fell to 9B #5 Dell Rapids St. Mary, 60-32 and had a 26-0 win over DeSmet/Iroquois. Despite the start, Castlewood, which is 34-20 over the last five plus seasons, has a big opportunity. Head Coach Doug Ruesink said there is a little disappointment with the start but the team has time to rectify matters. "Our progress is not what we quite expected and it has been disappointing," said Ruesink, who now has a 86-49 mark at Castlewood (89-53 overall). "We have been fighting the injury bug along with not have a lot of depth, which has been frustrating." Quarterback Lucas Ching has had a solid season, completing 42-of-100 passes for 616 yards and seven TDs. The Warriors' main weapons in the pass game have been Riley Haug (22-324-3 TDs) and Adam Ching (8-173-2 TDs). On the ground, Jacob Tvedt (86-387-3 TDs) leads the way. As Castlewood prepares for Arlington, the key will be slow down Andrew King and the Cardinals' high-powered offense, said Ruesink, noting Castlewood has been hurt by injuries in the backfield. "We need to make big plays happen on both sides of the ball to win. Our offensive and defensive lines have been playing okay but they need to figure out how to be competitive all game long. We just need to step up our play," he said.
Coaches: Doug Ruesink, 14th season, 89-53, .627 (86-49 @ Castlewood); Steve Gilbertson, 12th season, 76-38, .667.
Inside Slant: Can Castlewood slow down Andrew King? Will Lucas Ching find a few big plays to cause problems for Arlington? Which team's running attack will gain the advantage? Who wins the line of scrimmage?
Series Records: In the past 10 games between the rivals, Arlington owns a 6-4 advantage. Castlewood has won two of the last three games. A year ago, Arlington took a 36-8 decision while Castlewood won, 34-0, two years ago and 62-34 in 2010. The other games include: 2009 – A 40 C 6; and A 56 C 6; 2008 – C 34 A 16; 2007 – A 27 C 16; 2006 – C 27 A 12; 2005 – A 49 C 18; 2004 – A 39 C 8.
Bottom-line: While the Cardinals have suffered some injuries, steady Andrew King continues to lead the team to victories. He is one of the best 9-man QBs in South Dakota. Another talented signal caller, Castlewood's Lucas Ching has had a solid season but need for his teammates to play more consistent ball. Arlington has been dominant this year and should continue their march to what they hope will be a third title.
Who Wins? Arlington stays unbeaten with a 36-20 win over Castlewood.
9B Eureka-Bowdle (4-1) @ 9A #5 Potter County (4-1), Friday, Oct. 11, Gettysburg
At Stake: Both Potter County and Eureka-Bowdle are off to fast starts at 4-1 and now meet up in a rivalry game on Friday. While Eureka-Bowdle has a 7-3 series edge (last 10 games), Potter County won a year ago and lost only a tightly contested 12-7 loss to Leola-Frederick. Still, it is a matchup that usually promises a close game. Both teams are in a fight for region playoff positioning, albeit in different classes.
Potter County Notes: In Potter County, winning is expected. It is a program that has made seven championship game appearances in the playoff era (since 1981). Two years ago, Gettysburg and Hoven formed a co-op arrangement, naming it Potter County this past spring. In two plus years together, the two schools in Potter County have a mark of 18-7 under the direction of veteran coach Vern Smith, who at 98-29 is nearing the 100-win milestone mark in coaching. This season, the Battlers have opened 4-1 with a 142-to-62 point edge. Smith is happy with the progress that a mostly veteran squad is showing. "I am happy with the improvement we have made in the Battlers past two games," said Smith, noting the 12-7 loss to 9A #3 Leola-Frederick and a 15-12 win over former 9A #1 Herreid-Selby. "I feel we have become come together a lot as a team in two very tough games against very good opponents and I think it should help us a lot in the last few weeks of the season." Before playing Leola-Frederick and Herreid-Selby, Potter County recorded wins over Miller, 45-13; Sully Buttes, 30-12, and Timber Lake, 45-13. Leading the way for the Battlers is senior quarterback Chayce Hall (20-46-257-7 TDs passing; 33-381-4 TDs rushing), who heads an attack that has produced 1,519 yards in total offense, including 1,262 yards on the ground. Also playing key roles on offense for the Battlers have been Hayden Simon (32-140-TD rushing), Mitchell Hinckley (22-152-0 TDs rushing; 5-31-2 TDs receiving), Colton Hall (34-252-3 TDs rushing), Tanner Storer (14-119-TD rushing) and Tanner Heuer (6-79-2 TDs rushing), as well as Luke Vogel (6-67-3 TDs receiving) and Michael Rausch (3-81-2 TDs). The defense has been solid, allowing just 12 points per game with Hinckley (62T, 2 sacks), Ryan Sundberg (48T, 2 FR), Chayce Hall (34T, 2 int.), Simon (32T, 2 int.) and Colton Hall (31T) leading the way. Potter County has recorded six sacks, six interceptions and recovered six fumbles. As they prepare for Eureka-Bowdle, Smith knows the Battlers have another tough game on the docket. "I think the keys against Eureka/Bowdle will be to slow up their ground game by playing aggressive defense and making sure that their leading rusher Brandon Beutler has to work very hard for every yard. If our defense plays at the level they have the past two games, I feel we can make Eureka/Bowdle work very hard for success," he said. He believes both team's rushing attacks and special teams play will be critical to the final outcome. "I think E/B is more of an inside power running team and we are more of a speed/outside rushing team. Both teams use the rush to set up the pass. I think special teams will be a key to the game, especially if the wind and rain that is forecasted does happen because field position will be even more important."
Eureka-Bowdle Notes: Head Coach Bob Billotto likes what he sees from his Eureka-Bowdle team, which has opened with four wins in five games. "We are very pleased with our progress to this point in our season, although we are entering the toughest stretch," said Billotto, whose team meets the 9A #4 Battlers on Friday. In two weeks the Patriots will battle Herreid-Selby. Like Potter County, Billotto's team is familiar with success with five straight seasons when they have compiled a 31-15 record. Since 2004, Eureka-Bowdle has gone 67-25 with three seasons of nine wins or more in that stretch. In 2013, the Patriots have opened the season with a 54-0 win over McLaughlin/Wakpala and then lost to 9A #3 Leola Frederick, 45-6. Since then, they have three straight wins -- Lemmon-McIntosh, 16-0; Langford Area, 36-22; and Sully Buttes, 30-14. It is a squad that is led by junior running back Brandon Beutler (107-573-7 TDs) with either Josh Raile (16-27-193-2 TDs) or Jesse Weber (14-21-287-TD; 41-171-4 TDs) at QB. However, Raile, a senior, was the incumbent at QB and is just returning after an accident this summer. Key players in the receiving game include Tyler Wipf (8-161-3 TDs), Beutler (7-96) and Weber (6-108). Through five games, the Patriots have generated 1,490 yards in total offense, including 962 on the ground. As they face Potter County, Billotto believes his team needs to control the line of scrimmage. "We want to run the ball to set up our play-action passing," said Billotto. "We are improving but I believe that our offensive line has progressed significantly game-by-game," he said. On defense, his defensive line has been "exceptional," said Billotto. This will be a test for the Patriots, according the coach. "We have seen Potter County in person and on tape and they are very skilled and deep at running back. We know what they will do; it's a matter of stopping what they do. As I said, we have to run the ball in order to be effective."
Coaches: Bob Billotto, Eureka-Bowdle; Vern Smith, Potter County, 98-29, .771.
Inside Slant: Which team wins the line of scrimmage battle? Will Beutler make a big play(s) for Eureka-Bowdle? Will Chayce Hall provide big plays for the Battlers? Will the weather conditions cause problems?
Series Records: In the past 10 games, Eureka-Bowdle has a 7-3 edge, although Potter County registered a 37-24 win in 2012 as Hayden Simon had 90 yards rushing and three TDs. The rest of the series is as follows: 2011 – EB 36 PC 28; 2010 – EB 26 PC 22; 2009 – EB 6 PC 0; 2008 – EB 18 PC 12, PC 26 EB 6 (playoffs); 2007 – EB 26 PC 14; 2006 – EB 10 PC 8; 2005 – EB 28 PC 24; and 2004 – EB 12 PC 6. Of note, the series is tied 1-1 in the Potter County (Gettysburg-Hoven) & Eureka-Bowdle co-op.
Bottom-line: This match-up will be a physical battle between the lines. Look for both teams to work their ground attacks while mixing in play-action throws. With the game being in Gettysburg, the Battlers will have the home-field edge. It will be a tight, physical contest throughout. Look for the Battlers to gain an edge late in the game with either a special teams play or a turnover created by their opportunistic defense.
Who Wins? Potter County prevails, 28-18, over Eureka-Bowdle.