Sioux Falls Washington was as dominant as any team in recent memory last season, which ended with the Warriors (13-0) claiming their second consecutive Class 11AA championship. Three players from that team--Derek Farniok (Okalhoma), Matt Hermanson (Montana) and Brandon Mohr (South Dakota St.)--are playing Division I football this fall, leaving the champs with some serious holes to fill.
No one is more aware of that than Warriors head coach Brian Hermanson.
Q. Do you have enough coming back for you to be a top team again this year?
A. We’re really excited. We’ve had a really great summer. We were fortunate enough to have a good turnout at the Celebrity Football Camp at Augustana, what I thought was a pretty good showing by our kids at the USD football camp. Fortunately, we’re returning seven lettermen on offense. The key to our offense right now is our offensive line. We return everyone but Derek [Farniok]. It’s nice having a kid like Devonte Clay back, who rushed for 1300 yards. And you’ve got Nate Gerry and Keyen Lage at receiver. So we’re not empty on the offensive side. We’re really excited about what Jon Hander brings to the table as far as a quarterback goes and we’re really excited about what he’s going to do this year for us.
Right now, our big question mark is on the defensive side of the ball. We lost nine starters on defense. Many of those guys played for two or three years for us, so we lost a lot of experience there. We have some kids that have played and they’re eager. They’ve waited their turn and they’re ready to showcase what they have.
Q. You guys have been so dominant over the last couple of years that you were able to get a lot of underclassmen some extended playing time. How valuable is that experience now?
A. The thing about Jon [Hander] last year is we had a couple of packages set up for him. So we got him into games when it was a meaningful time, it wasn’t just when the games were a little out of control or we had them in hand. Jon actually got some great reps early in the season and throughout the season when the games were tight, and he did some great things. We were fortunate enough to have a lot of guys out last year and we two-platooned as much as possible and probably looked in at about 40 different kids as far our packages offensively and defensively at a given time. So that has helped.
Another question mark that we do have this year as a staff is our depth. We lost a lot of kids, and the kids that backed them up are great players and they’re going to have a chance to play this year, but depth will be a question. We’re not quite as deep as we’ve been in the past, especially at linebacker and in the secondary.
Q. You’re entering your 7th season as head coach at Washington, and you’ve watched the first full wave of talent graduate. Is this your biggest challenge, to see if the program can sustain the success?
A. You can’t live in the past. We’ve accomplished some great things as a staff since I’ve been here, and [Kim Nelson] did a great job prior to that, to get it going in the right direction. Washington High has a great tradition and that was real important for our staff, to get that tradition back, the excitement back on the eastside here at Washington High School, and it has. Our kids are really excited about football here at Washington High School, not only the football players but the student body. And it really helps in the atmosphere of the school as you go throughout the school year.
We’ve preached to our kids enough that it’s what you leave as a senior. This is our 2012 graduates, or 2011 football season, it’s their senior year. These are their memories that they’re going to cherish. Just like the kids that were here prior to them, those were their memories. That’s the year they’ll remember. It’s what they get out of this year and hopefully we’ll continue our success here.
Q. All things considered, what are your expectations for the season?
A. I expect us to compete again, to get a chance to play for a state title. That’s been our goal every year since I’ve been here, and we’ll never change that. We’re going to work as hard as we can. We’re going to try and improve every day at practice. We’re going to try and improve as a team every time we get an opportunity to play a football game. Hopefully, if we can stay away from injuries, we’re there in the end. We truly feel that we have a team that has the ability to be one of the four teams, and maybe get a chance to play for a state championship at the end.
Q. We get to see you for the Presidents Bowl (Sept. 3). This year it’s an eastside rivalry game. What's it like to play Lincoln on that stage?
A. That rivalry has always been there. The thing that’s unique about it is you have kids from Patrick Henry Middle School, they split. Some of those kids come to Washington High School and the other part goes to Lincoln High School. They remain good friends, but there’s always that rivalry and always the bragging rights. That will never change.
Lincoln High has a very, very good football team this year. They’ve got some unbelievable skill kids. Alex Schultz is probably the top quarterback in the state right now. He’s got some great receivers and they’re surrounded by some other kids. They have a ton of athletes over there. It’s going to be a fun game and I know our kids and them are really good friends, so that’ll add a little bit of excitement to the game.
You will be able to see that Washington-Lincoln matchup live as part of our President's Bowl doubleheader on Saturday, Sept. 3. We will also feature the Warriors Oct. 7 matchup, tape delayed, as part of our High School Football HD Game of the Week schedule.
- Sept. 3: Lincoln vs. Washington (President's Bowl), 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 13 (tape delayed from Oct. 7): Yankton vs. Washington
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