Is it football season already?
I though you'd never ask, let’s take a look at the more intriguing season openers for the South Dakota teams.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Sioux Falls O’Gorman (0-0) at Brandon Valley (0-0) Brandon Valley returns to opening their season with their annual fundraiser event, the Pigskin Classic. By popular opinion, this is the visiting team’s game to lose, and it comes with good reason – This Knights team got to the state title game behind a very uncharacteristic junior-laden roster, a roster that is now mostly seniors. Led by quarterback Connor Schaefbauer and power running backs Sam Steffl and Flynn Donelan, their power running attack out of a wing-T formation that many teams have yet to solve over the past quarter century. Defense and line play have always been the cornerstones of Brandon Valley’s success. They were two cornerstones along with a high-powered passing game that led the Lynx to a shocking opening night upset over the Knights two years ago, on their way to an undefeated regular season. Brandon Valley usually plays pretty well in this game, but the injuries to the offensive line won’t help a new quarterback. THE PICK: Sioux Falls O’Gorman over Brandon Valley
Howard (0-0) at Canistota (0-0) Howard is moving to the Cornbelt this season, and they don’t get a welcoming committee, they’ll get the defending class 9B champions. On the road. Howard has a great football tradition over the years. Last season was a disappointment for the Tigers, finishing 5-3 and falling in the first round of the playoffs, a hard fall from their team that won the class 9AA championship in 2009. They’ll have a roster loaded with a junior class, and will have to find replacements for wingback Derek Genzlinger and lineman Alan Kramer. They’d better figure it out quick, because Canistota brings back what amounts to a track team in their backfield, even after quarterback Sam Jolley and running back Jeb Olsen graduated last year. The Hawks will be aggressive early and often on the defensive side of the ball too, which held the opposition to an average of 3 points per game last season. If they’re anywhere within shouting distance of those gaudy numbers, the rest of 9-man football could be in for a long season. THE PICK: Canistota over Howard
GREENWAY PASTURES Watertown (0-0) at Mitchell (0-0) “Who will block for them?” That’s the question that immediately comes to mind when assessing the Mitchell Kernels. The speed of the Greenway twins (Justin and Jason) was able to cover a glaring problem up front, ultimately resulting in a 4-5 record last year and a quick exit from the playoffs. This season, the offensive line has beefed up and the core of this team is all back, leading many to believe this could be a great autumn in Mitchell. Watertown is their first opponent on Saturday evening, which has to develop almost an entire backfield, but will be vastly helped by one of the strongest offensive lines in the state. That alone will be able to move this offense. The question mark is going to be their defensive unit, which also must be rebuilt. It should be a high-scoring, interesting game either way. By the way look for the replay of this game on MidcoSN. THE PICK: Mitchell over Watertown
WEST RIVER GAME OF THE WEEK Spearfish (0-0) at St. Thomas More (0-0) There’s a new outlook for the Spearfish Spartans, as they’ve moved down a class, to 11A and are back into the Black Hills Conference. Their “We can compete” motto is the talk around their camp going into the season. The Spartans should be able to win some games this season behind their depth and several players with experience at skill positions. Their first game back is a doozy, though. They visit St. Thomas More, who run a shotgun spread offense, led this season by junior quarterback Jake Sullivan. The Cavaliers have also reloaded with Newt Johnson, Corey Weidmann and Jay Cooper. We’ll see what the future holds for both teams in their new classes as the season goes, but for now the familiarity of the territory and style of play will lean the Cavaliers’ way in this game. THE PICK: St. Thomas More over Spearfish
NEW BEGINNINGS Tea (0-0) at Bon Homme (0-0) The Bon Homme Cavaliers could have been one of the teams to beat last season, but a few key injuries derailed that notion. This season, the Cavaliers need to replace many starters, but have the coach and discipline to still have a good season. Tea’s star was on the rise late last season, taking a few games late in the season to qualify for their first 11-man post season berth, and even winning a playoff game last season. This year, the Titans have six starters back on each side of the ball, something that should help improve their consistency. But with word that star quarterback Corbin Lawler may not play it will be a tough opener for the Titans. THE PICK: Bon Homme over Tea
Tri-Valley (0-0) at Canton (0-0) These are two of about a dozen teams with a legitimate argument in the preseason class 11B scuffle. In Tri-Valley’s most recent runs to the Dakota Dome over the past few seasons, the keys have always been physical play, an airtight defense, and a powerful running game. The Mustangs go into this season with a solid offensive line, and features an entirely new backfield, and their defense has a lot of experience behind them as well. Canton drops to class 11B a season after advancing to the semifinals in class 11A. The C-Hawks are even more run-oriented than Tri-Valley is, and features the running back depth that many teams lack. Coupled with their line play and stringent defense, the C-Hawks could be a very dangerous team both in this game, and in this season. But the Mustang's big guys are too big for the C-Hawks THE PICK: Tri-Valley over Canton in a close one.