In the first year of the 7-class football system in South Dakota, new champions will be crowned in every class. That is right, none of the six defending champions made it back to the championship to be held on Thursday through Saturday at the DakotaDome on the campus of the University of South Dakota.
Four champions (9AA Deubrook, 9B Harding County, three-time 11A Dell Rapids and 11B Winner) made it to the semifinals but then had their seasons come to a close. One of those champs, Winner, had a 22-game winning streak halted by Canton in a 19-7 win. It is time to say kudos to the Dell Rapids program, which won three-straight titles and to Canistota, which was a three-time 9-man champ which had a 37-game winning streak (2nd all-time in 9-man) halted in week two of the 2013 season. In addition, SF Washington had a run of six straight big class title game appearances end in their quarterfinal loss to SF Roosevelt.
This weekend, we will have a rematch tour going on with five games featuring teams that met during the regular season. In 11AAA, Lincoln defeated Roosevelt, 35-28 in week three. In the 11A opener, Pierre Riggs went on the road for a 35-24 win over Watertown. In 11A, top-ranked Madison defeated 11-time champion West Central, 24-21, at home in a week five encounter. The 11B championship features a rematch with Parkston winning a week two battle over Canton, 21-14, in Parkston. Finally, in 9A, Potter County lost to top seed Leola-Frederick, 12-7, in a week four game in Hoven. The only two classes without a rematch are 9AA with six-time champ Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan battling two-time titlist Arlington; and in 9B, where four-time champ Avon meets four-time champ (all in 11-B) Hamlin in the only matchup of unbeatens.
The championships will feature five unbeaten teams, including 11AAA Lincoln (10-0), 11A (Madison), 9A Leola-Frederick (11-0), and both Avon (11-0) and Hamlin (11-0) in 9B. As such, we are guaranteed at least one unbeaten team (9B).
Couple of Prep Notes to Digest -- For the first time since 1996, the South Dakota 9-man ranks have three running backs over 2,000 yards rushing in a season, including Riley Hanson, 2,345; Luke Loudenburg of Howard, 2,248; and Ryne Johnson, 2,072. With 1,829 yards, Brandon Kocmich of Avon has a shot at 2K as well with the 9B championship game left to play. In addition, the championships will include a pair of 2K passers in Taryn Christion of Roosevelt (2,231) and Alex Gray of Pierre (2,078). This season also included two receivers, one in both 9-man and 11-man, who surpassed 60 receptions in a season. While neither player is playingat the championships, their performances are worthy of note. Those two players are Yankton's J.J. Hejna (63-1,199-10 TDs) and Wall's Trevor Anderson (63-1,123-17 TDs), the all-time leader in receptions for a season.
KSFY Sports Prognasticating Trio Breakdown – So, how are we doing through three rounds? As we head into the championship weekend, I maintain a slight edge over KSFY Sports Director Erik Thorstensen. My total stands at 73-9 while Thor is 72-10. Sports anchor Matt Peterson is 68-14. Both Thor and I finished 11-3 in the semifinals after a perfect 20-0 mark in the quarterfinals. Matt finished 10-4 in the semis after an 18-2 mark in the quarters. In 11-man, my record is 31-1 while Thor is 30-2 and Matt, 28-4. In 9-man, both Thor and I are 34-8 with Matt at 33-9. As for my three-year plus picking mark, it improves to 231-23 or .909. This is the first go-around for Thor and Matt.
Here is a preview on all seven championships along with our picks. Check it out.
Championship Preview Special –
9A – #5 Potter County (10-1) vs. #2 Leola-Frederick (11-0), Session 1, 11 a.m., Thursday
At Stake – In a certain respect, this is a rematch, not only of a 12-7 Leola-Frederick win earlier in the season but a championship matchup in 1982. It was 31 years ago when Frederick defeated Gettysburg, 34-15. However, this championship would be the first for both teams in their current co-op arrangements. Leola-Frederick comes in unbeaten and the top seed in 9A while Potter County has just one loss – to the Titans.
Coaches – Vern Smith, Potter County, 104-29, .782. Marty Morlock, Leola-Frederick.
In the Playoffs – Leola-Frederick has playoff wins over Viborg-Hurley, 56-6; Lemmon-McIntosh, 38-8; and Wolsey-Wessington, 38-34. Potter County opened with a 42-0 win over Corsica-Stickney; defeated Herreid-Selby, 44-30, and upset #1 Howard, 22-8.
Leola-Frederick Notes – Head Coach Marty Morlock and his unbeaten Leola-Frederick team have fashioned an 11-0 record, picking up a pair of wins over tough opponents along the way. The Titan's opponent in the championship will be Potter County, a team that Leola-Frederick defeated 12-7 on Sept. 20. They also defeated then-unbeaten Wolsey-Wessington (10-1), 38-34, in the 9A semifinals by stopping the Warbirds at the two-yard line on the game's final play. As such, the Titans will continue their drive to what they hope will result in a championship. "The season has gone very well for us," said Morlock. "If memory serves me correctly, during the Wolsey-Wessington was the first time all season we had trailed in a game. The boys' responded well to the adversity we faced during that game, focusing on their jobs as individual players, for team success." If the Titans win on Thursday, it would be the program's second as Frederick won the 1982 title over, interestingly enough, Gettysburg, 34-15. While the Titans have survived a couple of tough games, they have been a dominant group, building a 497-to-89 point differential. They have shutouts in three of their final five games. The Titans have scored 38 points or more in every game except a 12-7 road win over Potter County. This is a team led by 1K running back Logan Weisser (107-1,072-14 TDs; 19-420-9 TDs), who had 208 yards rushing and two TDs in the win over Wolsey-Wessington, which a 91-yard scoring jaunt. QB Dane Campbell (55-118-1,032-18 TDs) and wide receiver Dereck Podoll (25-418-7 TDs). The Titans also feature George Lapka (71-539-6 TDs) and Carson Hertel (52-276-5 TDs). The Titans have generated 3,892 yards in total offense, including 2,857 yards on 445 carries rushing (47 TDs). Defensively, they have been stellar, allowing just 89 points or 8.1 per game. They have accumulated 14 interceptions, 20 fumble recoveries and 33 sacks with four defensive TDs, all by Dereck Podoll, who has 74 tackles, 14 sacks, four interceptions (2 def. TDs) and four fumble recoveries (2 def. TDs), putting his name in the running as the top defender in 9A this season. He added to that consideration with 19 tackles in the semifinal win. Other key defenders for the Titans include Austin Hoerner (81T, 2 sacks, 3 FF, FR), Nathan Sumption (89T, sack, 2 FF, 2 int.), Justin Helland (43T, 4 int., FR), Jimmy King (66T, 5 sacks, FF) and Matt Weisser (69T, 5 sacks, 3 FF, int., 6 FR). As they face a rival in Potter County, they will look to minimize the big-play ability of Chayce Hall and the other Battlers. "Chayce Hall is a player that can beat you with his arm as well as his feet. In addition to that, we need to be able to run the ball," said Morlock. "Each player we have on this team is a valuable asset; some get the publicity and some don't. Our defense got punched in the mouth last Saturday, but they made the play when they needed it. We have made some adjustments so that doesn't happen again. What I like about our team is we are a family. We may argue like family members do, but when it comes down to it; we know we have each other's back and step up when needed."
Potter County Notes – Head Coach Vern Smith, who reached 100 wins in a 56-0 win over McLaughlin/Wakpala on Oct. 18, and his Potter County squad, have made a return to the state championship game, after a drought since 2008. Smith knows this has been a special year for the Battlers, a program very familiar with the DakotaDome. "I think things have fallen into place well for us this year. As a coach, you always want your team to grow and get better from one game to the next," said Smith of his team that will make an 8th appearance in a 9-man title game, first in the Potter County co-op. "I feel we have done that this year, and a lot of that has been out of necessity because many of the teams on our schedule had good seasons this year." As Gettysburg, the Battlers played in seven title games including two in 9AA, 2000 (Stickney-Mt. Vernon, 41-28 loss) and 2004 (Arlington, 30-28 loss). This is their 6th appearance in 9A including games in 1982 (Frederick, 34-15 loss), 2001 (Kimball, 76-28 loss), 2002 (Avon, 44-22 loss), 2006 (Scotland, 20-16 loss) and 2008 (Avon, 37-8 loss). Potter County, which has compiled a 364-to-114 point differential, owns a seven-game winning streak, including winning a playoff shootout in the quarterfinals over Herreid/Selby, 44-20, and an upset win over #1 Howard, 22-8, on the road. The Battlers are led by senior QB Chayce Hall (91-762-10 TDs; 58-110-984-16 TDs), who also serves as placekicker (13-of-20 on PATs; 1-1 on FGs) and punter (39.5 avg.). Hall is one of 9A's best players, something Smith knows all about. "He has been a huge part of our team because he leads us in passing and rushing, but lately he has been playing very well because instead of trying to do too much, he has been letting the flow of the game to come to him. When he does that we become a much more balanced team than the stats show. He has gained confidence in all of his receivers, so now defenses have to respect everyone we send out in pass routes and figure out how to cover them all." Other offensive weapons include his brother Colton Hall (69-372-3 TDs; 3-59-TD receiving), Hayden Simon (77-399-5 TDs; 6-72 rec.), Mitch Hinckley (40-227; 14-167-3 TDs receiving), Luke Vogel (15-282-6 receiving TDs, 8 overall TDs) and Tanner Heuer (11-91-2 TDs rushing; 11-239-4 TDs rec.) who has scored eight TDs, two by rush, four by receiving and two by returns. He has 12 punt returns for 295 yards, including a 72-yard return and 92 yards in kickoff returns. Defensively, the Battlers look for leadership from Hinckley (126T, 2 sacks, int.) and Ryan Sundberg (107T, int., 2 FR). Others playing big for the Battlers on "D" include Colton Hall (71T, 3 FR), Chayce Hall (65T, 4 int., 4 FR), Heuer (51T, 3 int.), Hayden Simon (65T, two sacks, 2 int., FR), Carson Kirby (50T, sack, FR). As for Leola-Frederick, Smith knows it will be a battle with the Titans having a large group of senior. "I think we will have to step up even more because Leola-Frederick has huge group of seniors that have been playing together very well lately. Our defense has done an excellent job of putting themselves in the position to make plays this season, and we need continue to do that," said Smith. "If we can do that, it will force the Titans to put together long drives, instead of the big plays they have had all season. We need to minimize our penalties on the field because against a good team like Leola-Frederick it is hard enough to gain yards in the first place, much less have to give them up and try to gain that ground back again."
Our Picks: Thor – Leola-Frederick. Matt – Leola-Frederick. Genz – Potter County.
9AA – #4 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (10-1) vs. #3 Arlington (10-1), Session 1, Thursday, 2:30 p.m.
At Stake – Notes – Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan and Arlington both have been ranked in the top-five all season and have veteran coaches, who have combined for eight titles and 10 championship appearances. Therefore, both teams will come into the game ready for the circumstances of a championship game. BEE, which is led by head coach Jeff Van Leur (223-100 all-time, 2nd all-time nationally in 9-man wins), has won six titles in eight championship appearances, with the most recent the 9AA crown in 2011 (Kimball-White Lake, 36-24). BEE's Other titles include 2010 (Viborg-Hurley, 48-34), 2007 (Emery/Ethan over Gregory, 33-14), 2003 (Emery-Ethan over Northwestern/Cresbard, 51-13) and 2001 (Emery/Ethan over Harding County, 20-6), all in 9AA. They also won a 9B crown (Colome, 6-0) in 1981). They were runner-up in 2009 (9AA, Howard, 40-16) and 1993 (9A, lost to Irene, 35-14). Over past six seasons, they are 55-12 with three titles and four championship appearances. Arlington has won two 9AA titles including 2005 (Stickney/Mt. Vernon (39-14) and 2004 (Gettysburg, 30-28). Arlington had a 30-game winning streak between 2004-06.
Coaches – Jeff VanLeur, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, 223-100, .670; Steve Gilbertson, 80-39, .672.
In the Playoffs – BEE has defeated Deuel, 50-0; Hill City, 49-8; and Gregory, 30-8. Arlington has wins over Webster Area, 22-20; Elkton-Lake Benton, 28-23; and Deubrook, 34-29.
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan Notes – Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan is a program steeped in tradition and excellence. The Seahawks are gunning for a seventh state title with a senior-led team that has overcome some early season challenges to make its way back to the DakotaDome. "It's been a great season. We had a little adversity with some pre-season injuries but our players have rallied behind each other," said VanLeur. As VanLeur noted BEE has come a long way from where the team was at the start of the season. The Seahawks lost their starting quarterback Jace Connor, a former Joe Robbie MVP, to injury after a summer work accident. However, Blake Bartscher (42-64-562-6 TDs; 94-567-5 TDs) was installed QB and senior has responded, says Van Leur. "We had all the confidence in the world in Blake. He's a good athlete and a competitor. I knew he'd work hard and give his team his best effort," said VanLeur, also noting the contributions of Connor, who has been a leader on the sideline. "Jace has been invaluable to this team. The leadership qualities that Jace brings to every practice/game are incredible. Jace has helped Blake fill the role of QB for us this year but his talents go way beyond that." It helps that this team has a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, just like in the title-winning season in 2011 (Kendall Lindeman, 197-1,913-27 TDs; Anthony Huber, 168-1,308-17 TDs). Wade Miller (219-1,635-26 TDs) and Jordon Grosdidier (144-1,031-15 TDs) have been big-play guys, who have performed at a top level. With their play and that of a physical and aggressive offensive front, the Seahawks have rolled up a 438-to-129 point differential (39.8-to-11.7 ppg). They have totaled 4,081 yards in total offense (371.0 per game), including 3,449 yards rushing on 498 carries for 313.5 yards per game. BEE does heavy damage in the first half, putting together a 122-to-28 margin in the first quarter and a 173-to-30 advantage in the second quarter, or a 295-to-58 differential in the first half. BEE's defense is led by Tyler Myers (108T, 7 sacks, 2 FR) and Camden Myers (102T, 15 sacks, 2 FR), J.D. Shape (92T, 3 sacks) and Ethan Riggs (90T, two sacks) and Bartscher (65T, 5 int., FR). Overall, they have 36 sacks, nine picks and 17 fumble recoveries. With Arlington standing in their way to another title, VanLeur knows his team must win the battle upfront. "We need to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball along with that keeping our penalties down and not turning the ball over." In addition, they must slow down the talented Andrew King, a dual threat. But BEE has been solid all year on defense, as three shutouts this season and a 129-16 ppg point differential in the playoffs indicate. "Defensively we have been gaining confidence all season long. We are playing more disciplined and with our confidence level have being playing more aggressive," said VanLeur, who is very proud of his entire team. "This a special group of young men. They have great work ethic."
Arlington Notes – Two-time champion Arlington hasn't had a smooth road to the 9AA championship. The Cardinals, which owns a 403-to-230 scoring edge, has been involved in five straight tough games, including close wins in all three playoff games. Every playoff game has been decided by six points or less. For a team that defeated defending champion Deubrook Area twice and earned the KSFY-KWSN Broadcaster's Poll #1 ranking at times during the season, those late season wins show the resilience and determination of a group that features a number of underclassmen at key positions. "This season has been an exciting journey for sure," said veteran head coach Steve Gilbertson. "We overcame injuries all season, mixing and matching lineups week-by-week. The younger kids filled in when starters were sidelined and kept the ball rolling," he said. Arlington, which seeks a third overall title, is led by junior QB Andrew King, a dual threat, who has been a steadying influence all year for the Cardinals team. The junior QB has completed 57-of-96 passes for 1,252 yards and 13 TDs while rushing 142 times for 772 yards and 17 TDs. King, who has 31 combined TDs and 2,024 combined yards, is one of the state's top 9-man QBs. "Andrew's value to the team is immeasurable to say the least. He carried us when our backfield was out with injuries. Andrew is a playmaker who helps us find a way to win." Another stalwart for Arlington has been sophomore Luke Weber (161-1,173-6 TDs; 17 rec., 472 yards, 4 TDs), a 142-pound kid, who just keeps going and going. Tanner Lemme (12-336-2 TDs rec.; 39-249-5 TDs) is another key player for the Cardinals offense, which has generated 4,170 yards in total offense, including 441 carries for 2,918 yards and 37 TDs rushing. In addition, junior Alex Heuer (33-303-3 TDs) has contributed to the rushing attack With another tough opponent on deck, Arlington has to stop yet another talented rushing attack, after dealing with Deubrook and the state's top rusher Riley Hanson (2,359 yards) last week. They held Hanson to 96 yards and a TD and now face the dual 1K rushing attack of Wade Miller and Jordon Grosdidier. "The key to stopping BEE will be to stop their run game and force them into a game that they do not like. If we let them run the ball successfully and get us overplaying the run and we allow them to play action pass, we will be in for a long night," said Gilbertson. "We need to take care of the football and sustain drives," he said. As they prepare for their biggest game for Arlington in eight years, Gilbertson has a team that keeps pushing forward, showing extraordinary resilience. "They don't panic when things get tough. The last game of the season (38-30 loss to Dell Rapids St. Mary) was a learning experience for us when we lost. It could have taken us down a different path, but these young men used it to their advantage and have really persevered."
Our Picks: Thor – BEE. Matt: BEE. Genz -- BEE
11A – #2 West Central (10-1) vs. #1 Madison (11-0), Session 1, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
At Stake – Madison will look to win their first-ever title and finish the season 12-0, also a first for the program. West Central, which lost to Madison, 24-21, will try to win the rematch and pick up their 12th overall title, the most by any school in any class in South Dakota. This is the Trojans 14th playoff championship appearance.
Coaches – Max Hodgen, Madison, 20-16, .534. Kent Mueller, West Central, 97-27, .782; 93-15, .861 at WC.
In the Playoffs – Madison defeated Milbank, 55-0; Vermillion, 54-11 and Dell Rapids, 48-7. West Central has playoffs wins over Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, 54-0; Tea Area, 47-7; and Hot Springs, 35-29.
West Central Notes – At the outset of 2013, West Central head coach Kent Mueller felt he had a team that good do big things this year. Now, for the 14th time in the program's history, the Trojans are in the 11A title game, seeking an unprecedented 12th title. "We thought we had the making of a very good team this year when we started fall camp. After suffering through some challenges mid-season and going through some personal changes we think we are playing our best football right now and really appreciate the opportunity to continue getting better right up to and in this last game," said Mueller. West Central has won titles 2007 (St. Thomas More, 51-3), 2005 (Milbank, 49-13), 2004 (Tri-Valley, 19-0), 2003 (Hot Springs, 48-7), 2002 (Lead, 42-7), 2001 (Lead, 33-0), 2000 (Belle Fourche (47-14), 1998 (Winner, 34-7), 1996 (Belle Fourche, 43-7), and 1993 (Winner, 20-14, 3 OT). The school has had two runner-up finishes in 2011 (Dell Rapids, 35-0) and 1994 (Douglas, 20-14). West Central is directed by senior QB Noah Matson (28-44-381, 7 TDs), who was hurt in the last Madison game but has rebounded and stepped back into action three weeks ago. "Many people questioned our decision to start Noah (Matson) when he was cleared prior to the Tea quarterfinal game and how bringing him back would affect team chemistry. Jace Hanisch had done an excellent job in Noah's absence and finally appeared completely comfortable but Noah is senior and two-year starter. We have complete confidence in his ability and he showed he was ready in practice," said Mueller of Matson, who is also a team captain. "His teammates have responded to his return with complete respect and his performance has been excellent. Plus, we can move Jace back to split end, giving us another weapon there." Speaking of weapons, West Central has a trio of running backs that are talented and have been making plays all season. The group includes Cole Tirrell (101-986-16 TDs), who has rushed for 100 yards in four of the last six games. Cody Bussell (114-917-11 TDs), had 208 yards rushing in the win over Hot Springs while Cody Miller (89-583-12 TDs) has been a workhorse. In total, the trio has 39 TDs combined and 2,486 yards rushing. In total, West Central has rushed for 3,336 yards on 421 carries or 303.27 per game with 46 TDs on the ground. They have 3,919 yards in total offense or 356 per outing. "The trio makes it difficult on opponents because you can't focus your attention on any one player or position. With Noah back, we can throw play action and make it tough on opponents. "As the team looks to face top-ranked Madison, it will be a major challenge, says Mueller. " Stopping Madison is especially challenging because of the multiple weapons they have offensively and the fact they can run/pass on any down. Milne, Nordling, and Giles get most of the recognition but their other skill players will hurt you if you don't account for them," he said. "The offensive and defensive lines are big, strong and aggressive. So, ideally we will need to eliminate any big plays and force them into second and third and long and try to make them one dimensional," he said. "Our best ‘D' might be our offense's ability to control the ball and clock with long sustained drives, especially early in the game, keeping Madison off the field."
Madison Notes After a 5-4 season a year ago, Madison was ready to take a step forward this year. To go unbeaten in the regular season and to this point means those steps were huge and by players and coaches throughout the program. "It has been a wonderful year so far. We had some games where we jumped out early and were able to play our underclassmen, getting them some valuable experience. A few games we faced some adversity and had to dig down deep, I think those experience of getting challenged will help us as we face a very good West Central team," said head coach Max Hodgen. Dominant is one way to describe Madison, which has a 467-to-115 point differential, including 147-to-18 in three playoff wins. The Bulldogs have scored 30 points or more in 10-of-11 games and won four straight by a minimum of 33 points. It is a squad directed by senior QB Jacob Giles (97-174-1,702, 12 TDs; career – 177-341-2,702-21 TDs), who has been one of the best in the state this season and part of a dynamic trio of seniors. Another senior doing damage has been running back Rush Milne (214-1,364-33 TDs, rushing; 10-187-2 TDs receiving; career – 486-2,726-58 TDs; 31-531-4 TDs receiving; 3,879 all-purpose yards). A third member of Madison's explosive senior trio is wide receiver Preston Nordling (31-685-6 TDs, receiving; 14-279-2 TDs punt returns, 11 combined TDs). Other offensive weapons include Mitch Hansen (49-294-3 TDs), Brodie Frederickson (50-247-4 TDs) and Carter Kasuske (29-392-2 TDs receiving). In total, Madison has generated 4,251 yards in total offense or 396.5 yards per game. Of that total, they have 2,500 yards rushing on 430 carries with 51 TDs. On defense, Tyler Currey (98T, 12.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, int.), Bradyn Steffen (51T, 12.5 TFLs, 5 sacks, 2 int.), Johnny Monroe (51T, 3 TFLs), Jordan Unterbrunner (49T, 10 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 2 FR) and Dexter Nowstrup (40T, 14 TFLs, two sacks, FR) are the leaders for a group that has allowed just 257.3 yards in total offense. They have allowed just 1,269 rushing yards or 88.0 per game. Nordling (37T, 7.5 TFLs, sack, 2 int. returns for TDs) and Jacob Giles (26T, 4 int.) have led a tough secondary. With West Central next, Hodgen knows the game will be determined by which team establishes control upfront, a key to any success in championship play. "It all comes down to defense for us. We need to be physical inside and we want to push them to our edges and use our speed," he said. "We need to make them earn it, which they are very capable of. West Central is patient they will smack you for 3 or 4 yards all the way down the field. We need to win first down and get them behind the chains," he said. While the skill players get most of the ink, Hodgen knows the value of his boys in the trenches. "The line on both sides is the heart and soul of our team. They're athletic, big, and intelligent – they're the main reason for our success this season," he said. Overall, Madison is a team that has played like a top-ranked team, showing composure and finding a way to win close games (Tea Area, 34-31; West Central, 24-21). "This team trusts and believes in each other," said Hodgen.
Our Picks: Thor – West Central. Matt – Madison. Genz – Madison.
9B – #2 Avon (11-0) vs. #1 Hamlin (11-0), Session 2, 11 a.m., Friday
At Stake – Both teams comes into the game unbeaten as the top two teams in 9B. Both Avon (2002, 2005) and Hamlin (1991, 1996) have brought unbeaten teams into the title game twice before. Hamlin has been ranked #1 since early in the season (KSFY-KWSN Broadcaster's Poll) while Avon has been #2 but earned first place votes throughout the year. This will be a physical contest with both sides featuring athleticism at skill positions as well as on the offensive and defensive front. Hamlin will try and win their first-ever 9-man titles after winning four 11B crowns. Avon is trying for a fifth 9-man title. The two schools have never met. Both teams have been dominant in the playoffs with Hamlin owning a 90-to-22 edge and Avon, 132-to-22.
Coaches – Jeff Sheehan, Hamlin, 70-35, .666. Tom Culver, Avon, 147-39, .790; 134-30, .817.
Playoff Results – Hamlin defeated Castlewood, 42-0; Hitchcock-Tulare, 30-22; and Harding County, 18-0. Avon has wins over Scotland, 46-0; Dell Rapids St. Mary, 46-8; and Wall, 40-14.
Avon Notes – Avon, which owns a 503-to-105 (45.7-to-9.5 ppg) scoring differential, has been one of the most dominant teams in the 9-man ranks this season as they head into a 9B final with Hamlin. The Pirates will be chasing a fifth title in their eighth title game appearance. This is the third time that they come into a championship game unbeaten. They were 12-0 and titlists in both 2002 and 2005. They have won 9A titles in 2008 (Gettysburg, 37-8), 2004 (Doland-Conde, 36-20) and 2002 (Gettysburg, 44-32) with their only 9B title in 2005 (Montrose, 40-14). They also were in the 9B title game in 2011 (58-24 loss to Waverly-South Shore) and lost 9A finals in 2009 (Hanson, 20-16) and 2003 (DeSmet, 59-0). "I have been very happy with the season and how our kids have played this year," said head coach Tom Culver. "We have made a tremendous amount of improvement from last year and throughout this year." The Pirates have scored 40 points or more in nine straight games, including a high of 70. They own wins over playoff teams Wall, South Central, Gregory, Dell Rapids St. Mary, Scotland and Canistota. Avon, which has won every game by at least 20 points or more, is run-oriented, using a wishbone offense to pound opponents into submission. Led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Avon has accumulated 4,077 rushing yards (top five all-time) on 457 attempts and 56 TDs with 4,223 yards in total offense. Senior standout Brandon Kocmich, who has 122 carries for 1,829 yards and 27 TDs (198-2,841-43 TDs in his career). Junior Devin Tolsma, who had 20 carries for 219 yards and four TDs (five total) in a semifinal win over Wall, has 99 carries for 1,202 yards and 17 TDs while steady QB Logan Mudder has 65 carries for 458 yards and six TDs. He also has completed 4-of-14 passes for 57 yards and Kocmich has a 64-yard halfback TD pass (vs. Gregory, 34-14 win). Avon runs the ball 96.5 percent of the time and has just six receptions this season. Culver calls Kocmich and Tolsma outstanding leaders. "They both work hard in practice and will get after or encourage teammates, depending on what is needed," said Culver. "Logan has been playing at a high level for our team. He is intelligent, who has become a very physical player. I give him free reign to make reads when we run the option. He can make audible reads when needed and his decision-making has been key," he said. Aside from the skill group, Culver knows the success of this year's team hinges on the play of the offensive and defensive front. "Our line has had a tremendous season," said Culver. "We are averaging over 370 yards per game, which is the best total I've had from a team at Avon. I don't think they have received near enough credit for what they have done on defense," Culver said lineman Jacob Reeves, Alex Balvin, Josh Knodel and Jacob Knodel, as well as Kole Beeson (DE/FB). "They have occupied blockers, which has allowed our linebackers to run free and make plays," he said. Avon's defense is led by Tolsma (140T, 16.5 TFLs; 258T in past two seasons), Kocmich (56.5T, 2.5 TFLs, 6 int., and 9 int., in his career), Mudder (39T, 4 TFLs), Jacob Knodel (34T, sack, 9 TFLs) and Alex Balvin (30T, two sacks, 5.5 TFLs). As for facing Hamlin, Culver knows his team, which owns a (132-to-22 scoring differential in the playoffs), needs to continue to be physical and stop the Chargers upfront. "They like to spread it out on offense which means we will have to be disciplined and keep their QB (Brody Grantham) and running back (Dusty Quiram) contained," he said. ‘To prevail, we will have to be physical, establish our run game and keep their offense off the field."
Hamlin Notes – Hamlin, which has been top-ranked all season, will make their first-ever 9-man title game appearance. This is the third time that a Hamlin team has taken an unbeaten mark into the state title game. The Chargers went 12-0 and won state 11B crowns in 1991 (Parkston, 38-6) and 1996 (6-0 over Gregory). They also won 11B titles in 1990 (Stanley County, 34-29) and 1989 (Stanley County, 32-12). In addition, the Chargers were second in 1992 (Platte-Geddes, 14-8) and 1982 (Wagner, 13-7 OT). Head Coach Jeff Sheehan has a team that has gone 19-1 over the past two seasons, which includes unbeaten regular seasons in both 2012 and 2013. "I would have to say that this season has gone very well for our program. Our community has been tremendous this year and you can tell that they are all excited for this team. This has been a special year, so far, and hope it continues," said Sheehan, who loves the "heart" this team has exhibited all season. "They play for each other and understand the team concept. That is rare to find in high school kids, and they work very hard in practice." Hamlin features a strong rushing attack with arguably 9B's top defense. In rolling up a 455-to-72 scoring margin, Hamlin has generated 340.6 yards in total offense, including 276.45 rushing yards per game (431-3041-48 TDs). They have allowed just 7.2 points per game and recorded six shutouts, including two in three playoff games (90-to-22 playoff point margin). Led by 13.5 sacks from Alex Holzwarth (84T, 17 TFLs, int., 2 FF) and 10 from Tristen Leiseth (69T, 11 TFLs, 10 sacks), Hamlin has 40 sacks along with 77.2 TFLs, 13 fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions. Other members of the vaunted Hamlin defense include junior Brody Grantham (87T, 12 TFLs, 4 sacks, 5 FR, 2 int.), Ryder Grantham (84T, 6 TFLs, 4 int.) and Dylan Reuer (62T, 8TFL, 7 sacks). This is a team that is big, quick and athletic. "This defensive unit is driven by the saying that ‘defense wins championships.' They work hard in practice and study the tendencies of the other team on film. They are great students of the game, and work hard to be successful on this side of the ball. We have been a pretty good tackling team this year and that will need to continue Friday," he said. The offense is led by B. Grantham (39-79-577-9 TDs, 2 int.; 154-1,158-15 TDs rushing) and Dusty Quiram (168-1,233-21 TDs), who have both gone over 1,100 yards rushing this season. Quiram has totaled 362 carries for 2,722 yards and 40 TDs in his career, including back-to-back 1K rushing seasons. He has 3,540 all-purpose yards, including 1,456 this year. As for B. Grantham, he has career totals in passing of 86-of-182 passes for 1,533 yards and 18 TDs and rushing of 222 carries for 1,463 yards and 26TDs. "Dustin and Brody have been our go-to guys in the playoffs. They have run hard and have gotten as much as the can out of each play." Aside from those two leaders, Hamlin also receives contributions from freshman Kale Stieg (62-325-5 TDs) and junior Austin Niemann (24-202-6 TDs rushing; 18 rec., 196 yards rec.). As they meet Avon, Sheehan realizes his team has to be able to run the ball but stop a quick and athletic Avon bunch. "We will have to play sound defense, including watching our keys and making tackles," he said. "We will have to play a game with no turnovers and minimal penalties. We need to play physical with them and take advantage of opportunities as they arise."
Our Picks – Thor: Avon. Matt: Avon. Genz: Avon.
11B – #3 Canton (10-1) vs. #5 Parkston (10-1), Session 2, 2:30 p.m., Friday
At Stake – The 11B final is another of rematch tour going on at the State Football Championships. In week 2, Parkston defeated Canton, 21-14, in a home game for Parkston. The Trojans will try and win their first-ever title after finishing runner-up twice, including 2002 (Clark, 27-18) and 1991 (Hamlin 38-6). Meanwhile, Canton, which had a turn-around season after going 4-5 a year ago, will look to add a third title. They are 2-of-2 in title games with a 27-20 win over Dell Rapids in the 11A title game in 2006 and a 14-7 win over Winner in the 1986 11A final. Both teams feature powerful rushing attacks, although neither squad has a 1,000-yard rusher. In other words, they do it as a group.
Coaches – Rich Lundstrom, Canton, 61-47, .565; Eric Norden, Parkston, 21-24, .467.
In the Playoffs – Canton defeated McCook Central/Montrose, 50-0; defeated #1 Aberdeen Roncalli, 34-13 in Aberdeen; and #2 Winner, 19-7, in Winner. Parkston defeated Wagner, 38-8; Custer, 34-6; and St. Thomas More, 19-14, in Rapid City.
Canton Notes – When interviewed as a KSFY-TV Pigskin Preview cover athlete, Canton QB Cody Majeres had one thing on his mind – playing in the 11B title game. His brother Zach was a junior backup QB and special teams player on the last Canton team to win a title in 2006 (27-20 win over Dell Rapids). "I have envy for the ring he won," said Majeres, who has led Canton back to the state title game, this time in 11B. Head Coach Rich Lundstrom is impressed by the efforts of Majeres and the entire group of C-Hawks, who have made winning and playing team football their focus. "The season has gone great with our seniors showing leadership on and off the field," said Lundstrom. Majeres (106-725-18 TDs rushing; 30-49-576-5 TDs-2 int.) has been one of the leaders. "Cody is a great player and an outstanding person," said Lundstrom, noting that the senior is one of the state's fastest players as he was third in the 100-meter dash (11.13) and fifth in the 200-meters (23.13) at the State A Track and Field meet last spring. "He is known for his speed but I think his balance is equally impressive. He will do anything we ask him to do. Cody is the most gifted athlete I have coached and he has made our backfield the most balanced we have ever had here," added Lundstrom. That backfield includes Gabe Dolen, the team's leading rushing with 128 carries for 882 yards and 10 TDs; Jake Ablett, 94 carries for 665 yards and six TDs; and bulldozing fullback Tanner Broughton, who has 90 carries for 565 yards and eight TDs. As a group, they have helped Canton crush the school record for rushing with more than 3,500 yards while generating 4,072 yards in total offense. The backs a have played a big role but the front line, led by Andrew Estabrook (17 pancake blocks), Tyler Lems (15 pancake blocks) and Aaron VanVoorst (12 pancake blocks), have also played a lead role. While offense is explosive, the defense has shined just as bright as the team has built a 407-to-96 point differential. Lundstrom notes his defense, coordinated by Matt David, has recorded five shutouts, while holding four opponents under 100 yards in total offense and four others under 200 yards. "The defense has been exceptional this year," said Lundstrom. "They are doing their jobs and trusting their teammates to do there," he added, noting the team lost a starter in sophomore Jaydn Broughton due to a season-ending knee injury at Winner. The leaders on defense include Dolen (90T, 12.5 TFLs), Tanner Broughton (60T, 14 TFLs), Eli Ripley (60T), and Lems (51T, 9 TFLs, 3 FR, 2 FF) along with Bryce Schroedermeier (4 int.) and Majeres (3 int., including 103 yard-interception return vs. Aberdeen Roncalli). With over 800 miles in travel time over the last two weeks, a trip down the road to the DakotaDome will be nice. But they also have to deal with a team that defeated them in week two. "They have a stout defense and a solid rushing attack," said Lundstrom. "To prevail, we need to hold our blocks on offense and be disciplined on defense." But the head coach also is aware; his team is playing with passionate desire to win – led by their QB and a senior class arriving in the spot they have worked for since the first day of practice.
Parkston Notes – Parkston head coach Eric Norden knows that his team has arrived (11B championship) where they wanted to be at the season's start. "We have played a good schedule, which helps. We are where we wanted to be (championship game)," he said. The Trojans, which were tested in a road playoff semifinals win over St. Thomas More, rallying late in the game, now meet up with a familiar foe in Canton, as they seek the school's first-ever title in a third championship appearance. In the second week of the season, they hosted the C-Hawks, emerging with a 21-14 win. Parkston's only loss was a 14-7 loss to Winner, a team Canton ousted in the playoffs. As a result, Norden knows the challenge will be great when the teams congregate on Friday. "We need to prevent the big plays and control the line of scrimmage," noted Norden, pointing out the strength of the team all year ago. "We need to set the tempo and be able to attack offensively and defensively." Parkston is defined by its powerful rushing attack and shutdown defense. The Trojans have built a 265-to-70 (24.1-to-6.4 ppg) point differential on the strength of running and defense. Of 3,131 yards in total offense (284.6 per game), 2,575 have come on the ground (234.1 yards per game). On defense, they have held opponents to 128.3 rushing yards per game and just 201.7 yards in total offense. It is a team that gets out fast as a 91-to-14 edge in the first quarter shows. In fact, they have a 177-to-35 margin in the first half of games this season. Leading the offense is a group of running back that has five players with totals ranging from 264-to-689 yards rushing. Mitch Heisinger leads the way with 112 carries for 689 yards and seven TDs. The rest of the attack includes Miles Semmler (105-617-9 TDs rushing; 13-62 receiving), Brady Reiff (51-289-2 TDs rushing; 7-147 receiving), Andrew Semmler (49-264-3 TDs) and the versatile Wes Dvorak (75-321-9 TDs; 7-209-2 TDs receiving; 19-40-152-2 TDs passing), who makes plays running, receiving and passing. He also serves as kicker with two made field goals and 25-of-31 conversions on extra points. When Dvorak isn't under center, Zach Scott (19-39-406-2 TDs) is. "Wes is involved in all parts of the team with offense defense and special teams. He does a great job of controlling what we need to do," said Norden. On defense, Heisinger is the leader with 111 tackles, 8 TFLs, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Also playing big roles on defense are Reiff (65T, 10 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 2 blocked kicks), A. Semmler (56T, 5 TFLs, sack, 3 int.), Austin Bertram (53T, 8 TFLs, 1.5 sacks, 3 FF, FR) and M. Semmler (50T, 5 TFLs, 4 int., 2 FR, 2 FF), as well as Lane Konrad (52T). To win, Norden knows that this team has to feed off each other. "Our team concept is what makes it work. I like how we work together and play as a single unit."
Our Picks: Thor – Canton. Matt – Canton. Genz – Canton.
Class 11AA – #1 Pierre (9-1) vs. #2 Watertown (7-3), Session 2, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
At Stake – Pierre Riggs is top-ranked and 10-0 with a date against a resurgent Watertown Arrows squad, which has won five straight. The Governors' only playoff championship appearance was in a 44-6 loss to Sioux Falls O'Gorman in 1988. Watertown is seeking a third 11AA crown, with titles in 2001 (Brookings, 18-6) and 2006 (Yankton, 34-6). The Arrows also finished second to Huron (30-0) in 1992. Watertown will try and exact a little payback after dropping the season opener to the Governors, 35-24, in Watertown.
Coaches – Jayson Poppinga, Pierre, 10-0. Steve Svendsen, Watertown, 29th season.
In the Playoffs – Pierre defeated Brookings, 59-19 in the opening round and hammered Harrisburg, 45-13 in the semifinals. Watertown turned back Douglas, 54-7, before running past Yankton, 32-14.
Pierre Riggs Notes: Pierre, one of four teams in the playoffs seeking their first-ever crown, have been the best team in the reshaped 11AA class. Pierre's only loss was to Yankton, 29-26, on the road on a less than favorable weather night. Still, it is a team that doesn't make excuses. Instead they rely on their hard work and inner drive to get better, says first-year head coach Jayson Poppinga. "Our team has continuously improved over the course of the season. We did suffer the one loss to Yankton in the middle of the season, and as a result our kids refocused and have played their best football here at the end of the season. Our players worked hard in the offseason; our senior leadership has been outstanding; and our players have come through and made big plays," he said. Pierre has won four straight, including two in the playoffs, since that loss, with a 161-to-53 scoring edge. They have won every game in that four-game run by 16 points or more. In eight of the 10 games this season, they have won by a margin of least 11 points. Overall in 2013, the Govs have outscored 10 opponents by a 358-to-153 point differential (35.8-to-15.3 ppg), in large part due to a 120-to-20 edge in the first quarter and 215-to-49 during the opening half. Pierre, which includes several players off its State AA Basketball Championship Team last winter, is led by senior QB Alex Gray, who has completed 131-of-220 passes for 2,078 yards and 21 TDs. He has 418 yards rushing and nine TDs for a combined 30 TDs. In his career, he has 1,151 yards rushing and 18 TDs and 3,711 career passing yards and 41 TDs. "Alexander Gray is a special player. His best attributes are his leadership and work ethic. He is a very unassuming individual who's goals are all team-oriented," Poppinga of his QB, who has played much of the season with a stress fracture. "His individual stats, as impressive as they are, are of less importance to him than the goals and performance of the team." Leading the ground attack is Ethan Case (86-662-9 TDs; 30-395-TD receiving) while Jace Jerome (93-484-3 TDs) has also contributed. Gray throws to a bevy of talented receivers with three players catching at least 30 passes. They include Case, along with leading receiver Garrett Pochop (43-771-7 TDs), who had 187 yards receiving in the semifinal win over Harrisburg, and Austin Christopherson (32-571-9 TDs). Besides his receiving prowess, Christopherson is an explosive returner with TDs by punt (41 yards) and kickoff return (95 yards) with 662 yards and nine TDs. In addition tight end Shay Reinke has18 catches for 303 yards and two TDs. Pochop doubles as placekicker with 8-of-12 field goals (long of 47 yards) and 40-45 PATs. Pierre's defense, which has 19 sacks, six fumble recoveries and 12 interceptions, is led by Gray (63T, 3 TFLs), Case (47T, 3 int., 1.5 sacks), Matt Blaseg (53T, 6 TFLs, sack, int.), Reinke (27T, 8 TFLs, five sacks), Trace Scott (34T, 8 TFLs) Jerome (51T, 6.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) and Ben Leidholt (51T, 6 TFLs, 2 sacks). To get to the elusive state title, Poppinga knows the Governors face a significant challenge from Watertown. "We'll have to control the line of scrimmage and try to keep Shay Bratland from having a big night like he did against us the first game of the year," he said. "Special teams will play a big part in the outcome and we need to win the turnover battle."
Watertown Notes: Watertown Head Coach Steve Svendsen says the "light switched on" for the Arrows when they rallied from a huge deficit to defeat 11AAA SF O'Gorman, 29-20, in a road game in week six. "Ever since that moment, we have matured and elevated our level of play," said Svendsen, who has coached at both the collegiate and high school level in the past 29 years, including with the University of Houston while Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware ran the team's ‘Run & Shoot," offense. The Arrows, which began 2-3, have won five straight games, including two playoff games by an 86-to-21 scoring margin. "It is a credit to our ‘Senior Leadership' on our football team. They are a great bunch of kids who have worked extremely hard in the off-season. I don't remember a team that has worked as hard as these kids have as a whole unit," said Svendsen, who has also coached at Aberdeen Central, Rapid City Central, Magnolia, Texas, and Northern State. "This team is very deserving to be where they are at because of their belief and their willingness to all play their roles on this team. It really is a family atmosphere in the locker room and they are just fun to be around," he said. This is a squad led by one of the best players in 11AA, senior Shay Bratland, who is being courted by FCS schools and has an offer from USD. He has 1,474 yards rushing on 252 carries with 17 TDs while also catching 12 passes for 329 yards and four TDs. Along with Bratland, senior QB Logan Gabriel has shined, completing 68-of-149 passes for 1,140 yards and 12 TDs with just six picks. The wide receiving corps is led by the versatile and talented Jess Poppen (21-344-5 TDs), who also kicks for Watertown, hitting on 29-of-31 PATs and 5-of-7 field goals (33 long). Other Arrows' weapons include Joe Foley (13-209-2 TDs rushing) and Matt Decker (12-156-2 TDs receiving). The defense, which has 12 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries and 25 sacks, is led by Trevor Jutting with 41.5 tackles and two sacks. "Shay Bratland has had an outstanding year running the ball but he would be the first to tell you it is because of his offensive line," said Svendsen, pointing to Nate Johnson, Kolton Michalski, Lucas Kobat, Taylor Stacey, and Harrison Jones. "We have utilized our speed/power on both sides of the ball while putting together personnel packages and getting that right combination. Watertown, which has won two titles (2001, 18-10 over Brookings; 1996, 34-6 over Yankton) and made three over championship appearances (lost to Huron, 30-0 in 1992), has a difficult game ahead if they want a third championship trophy. "Pierre is no doubt the favorite and rightfully so. But for the Arrows to win, I believe we must establish our run game and run the clock and keep the ball away from their explosive offense. Also, we can't give up big plays defensively. We must not turnover the ball to give them any extra opportunities for a chance to put points on the board," he said.
Our Picks: Thor – Pierre. Matt – Pierre. Genz – Pierre.
#1 Sioux Falls Lincoln (10-0) vs. #2 Sioux Falls Roosevelt (9-1), Session 3, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
At Stake – Due to the talent returning to both SF Lincoln and SF Roosevelt, these teams were the early favorites to reach the 11AAA title game, which is the first-ever, due to the transition to seven classes. The two teams have played once with Lincoln taking a 35-28 decision. Now, the two teams again battle with a title at stake. Lincoln will put up an unbeaten 10-0 record as they shoot for a second title (2008) while Roosevelt comes in with a 9-1 mark and seeking a fourth title, including the second in three seasons.
Coaches – Aaron Beavers, SF Lincoln, 110-56; 69-48 @ Lincoln; Kim Nelson, SF Roosevelt, 45-11@ Roosevelt, 245-119 overall.
In the Playoffs – Sioux Falls Lincoln defeated Rapid City Stevens, 42-7 in first round and then took a 28-0 win over Sioux Falls O'Gorman, in the semifinals at Howard Wood Field. SF Roosevelt defeated SF Washington, 28-20 in the quarterfinals and won a shootout with Brandon Valley, 65-35 in the semifinals. .
SF Lincoln Notes – Through 10 games of the 2013 season, the Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots have been perfect in record and nearly so in performance. The Patriots, which has a 410-to-122 scoring margin, sit 10-0 as they go for a second playoff championship to go with the one they won in 2008. For this team, they go by the motto, "First be your best, then you will be first." As they head into the title game with cross-town 11AAA rival Roosevelt, Lincoln will do its bidding without senior QB Connor Burchill (77-151-1,117-12 TDs; Career – 176-362-2,523-27 TDs), who was hurt three weeks ago and went out early with a knee injury in the O'Gorman playoff semifinals win. Still, SFL has plenty of momentum, including a 28-0 semifinal win over SF O'Gorman. "The season has gone – so far - the way I planned. We go out to win every game along with improving each and every day," said head coach Aaron Beavers. Without Burchill, junior Isaiah Roach (24-45-271-2 TDs) will take the reins behind center. "We have total confidence in Isaiah (Roach)," said Beavers. Roach will give the ball to 11AAA's top running back Caden Quintanilla (227-1,644-25 TDs), who hopes to culminate a standout career with a championship As a KSFY Pigskin Preview cover athlete, Quintanilla talked at the season's start about winning a title. "We imagine being in the (Dakota) Dome with the trophy over our heads. "Every day we are in the weight room, working hard and motivating each other. We have that singular goal – winning a championship. We will play every game like there is no tomorrow." In his career, Quintanilla has 20, 100-yard rushing games (nine this season), a total that ranks second all-time in 11-man ranks. For the second straight year, Quintanilla has pushed his career rushing totals to 487 carries for 3,484 yards (top 10 all-time) and 53 TDs (top three all-time) with 5,585 all-purpose yards and 58 career TDs. Besides Quintanilla, Lincoln will look to senior Matt Wagner (29-247-5 TDs), Roach (23-86) and the quick Adam Belhaj 14-60) in a ground attack that has produced 2,594 yards on 409 carries for 37 TDs and 259.4 yards per game. Roach has a group of talented receivers to throw to including Trevor Naasz (28-413-2 TDs), Dylan Bartow (18-258-5 TDs), and Nickel Meyers (13-203-5 TDs), who caught two TDs in the last matchup with Roosevelt. Beavers will likely pound the ball at the center of the Roosevelt defense, utilizing Quintanilla and Wagner, a strategy that paid off in a 35-28 win earlier this year. Beavers knows both teams have improved since that first meeting. "I do not think we will totally stop them --but slowing them down will be key (to success). We need to play TNT (Tough, Nasty, Together) defense. We hold this close to our hearts---has been motto since last year's loss to Roosevelt (21-3). We can't have any turnovers – we must keep the ball out of their hands and in our own," said Beavers. Lincoln's defense is led by Wagner (66T, 11 TFLs, 3 FR), Taylor Salava (55T, 5 TFL, FR), Braxton Large (45T, 8 TFLs, 2 FR) along with Paul Thanel (29T, TFL, 3 int., 2 FR) and Levi Foss (33T, 3 TFLs, 4 int.). Looking ahead, Beavers knows his team his ready. "We have great young men on this team who happen to play good football. They are great people."
SF Roosevelt Notes: Sioux Falls Roosevelt, which has won seven straight games, has a lot of momentum as they meet top-ranked Sioux Falls Lincoln (10-0) for the second time this year. The Rough Riders, which dropped a 35-28 decision in week three, has scored 93 points in two playoff wins. At 9-1, head coach Kim Nelson likes where his team is at right now. "Our season has gone as well as we hoped," he said. Clearly the offense, led by junior QB Taryn Christion and a talented receiving corps, are explosive. Christion is most dynamic offensive player in South Dakota with the ability to throw and run. Christion, who has a chance for a rare 1K double in passing and rushing, has totaled 147 carries for 923 yards and 19 TDs while completing 144-of-237 passes for an 11-man best 2,231 passing yards with 22 TDs and just six picks. In his career, the junior has completed 238 passes in 409 attempts for 3,797 yards and 33 TDs with 287 carries for 1,570 rushing yards and 32 TDs. In other words, he has accumulated 5,367 yards in total offense and a combined 65 TDs. "I am very pleased with the overall play of Taryn Christion, he has gotten better as the season has progressed and is playing with a lot of confidence," said Nelson, who offensive weapons don't stop with Christion. In the backfield, senior Seth Bjordal (88-555-6 TDs rushing; 11-101-TD) and Jake Bear (31-236-3 TDs; 18-162-2 TDs) had big games in the shootout playoff semifinals win over Brandon Valley (65-35). The receiving corps are led by Chase Vinatieri (38-481-4 TDs) along with the explosive David Mulbah (29-740-6 TDs) and the steady Tanner Hennings (27-477-5 TDs). In total, Roosevelt has 314 carries for 1,946 rushing yards and 2,301 passing yards for 4,247 yards in total offense. Roosevelt's defense is solid behind the leadership of several seniors, including Kory Lindquist (55T 11 sacks, FF, FR), Kirby Hora (63T, 2 sacks, FF, FR, def. TD), Trevor Janisch (56T, two sacks, 3 FR), Kyle Olinger (43T, sack, 2 FR) and Nathan Durfee (49T, FR, 1.5 sacks). Nelson knows his defense needs to be better in the final after allowing 55 points combined in the last two playoff wins. "Our defense has been solid all season. We have given up 35 points to Lincoln and BV, but they are two really good offenses. I think we will play better defense this time," he said. Lincoln will pose a major challenge for Roosevelt, which looks to add its fourth title to those won in 2011 (SF Washington, 31-17), 2007 (SF Washington, 28-24), and 2006 (SF O'Gorman, 28-21). "We knew Lincoln would probably be our toughest opponent and they are. To stop LHS, we must contain the running game. Obviously, Caden Quintanilla is the key, but Matt Wagner is a big threat, as well. Their offensive line is probably the best they have had in a long time. Defensively, they are fast and physical. For us to win, we must be turnover free and solid on special teams," said Nelson, who believes his team is ready for the big moment on Saturday night. "The best thing about our team is that we are a tight group and we have improved all season. I think we are playing our best football right now."
Our Picks: Thor – SF Roosevelt. Matt – SF Roosevelt. Genz – SF Lincoln.