Well we've come to the end of the season. This year (as always) flew by. Tune in to Varsity Sports Now's year end highlight show next Thursday for highlights from all title games in North Dakota and South Dakota. If you haven't made your picks yet do that too. If you get them all right I'll mention you on the show.
Bismarck vs. Century
Century hasn't been to the title game since 1977. They've overcome their semi-final jinx and now will play for a title against their rival Bismarck High. Century has been in three close games in a row and now must face the top team in the state. Century features a power running game with Ben Kraft and a big line led by Conrad Schwartzkopf.
Bismarck is in familiar territory getting to their fifth straight title game. Head Coach Mark Gibson tells me that Junior running back Layne Johs will play through the pain of his injured back, "He's still banged up but we have a shot to win this thing so he'll go," said Gibson.
Ricky Purtle did a great job in his absence and will be ready for duty if Johs can't go 100%.
THE PICK: Bismarck wins their third title in five tries with a 30-21 win
Shanley vs. Grafton
Shanley's offense is hot right now, they've averaged 38 points per game over their last three contests. When their defense plays well they win. Tyler Rivard scored 3 times last week and quarterback Nicholas Salentine continues to impress. Coach Oksendahl recorded the last three-peat with Cavalier and will try to lead Shanley to one this year.
Grafton has been my top team all year long. Their senior class has been outstanding led by none other than All-State performer Jake Hanson. Coach Tom Maus said, "Interesting thing about our team. A lot of these guys are on the basketball, hockey and baseball teams which all finished second in state last year. Eight of our players started as sophomores on a 3-6 team from 2 years ago."
They've come a long ways since two years ago. The Spoilers beat Shanley last time 48-14 but expect Friday's battle to be closer.
THE PICK: Grafton wins 21-20
Linton vs. Stanley-Powers Lake
Linton pulled out a come from behind win last week after trailing by 20 points. And they did it with a backup quarterback. Jayden Gross stepped in and the Lions didn't miss a beat. Cody Sehn continues to dominate on the ground and the defense has stepped up big as they have marched toward the title game. Linton hasn't lost to a North Dakota team this year but they'll have their hands full against Stanley-Powers Lake.
Stanley-Powers Lake coach Lyne Enget said this season was set in focus by a pre-season team activity,
"I am proud of these kids for many reasons. They have worked very hard off the field and have become quite close and are positive role models. During preseason this year we loaded the entire team up, went to Minot, and spent the day, as a team, cleaning up three flood stricken homes. The satisfaction they got working to help people they didn't even know brought them together in a way I don't know would have been possible without that experience. I think it taught them that even a small gesture on their part can make a positive impact on someone else," said Coach Enget
Stanley-Powers Lake has allowed just 7.2 points per game and Landon Smith has carried the rock to close out games. Sam Footh has improved each week at quarterback and now the Bluejays look like the most well rounded team in the class.
THE PICK: Stanley-Powers Lake wins 14-7
North Star vs. Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter
These two teams both surprised me to get this far. Both won close semi-final matchups and both love to throw the ball.
North Star is fun to watch, they feature an impressive offensive line which gives them time to throw all over the field.
Coach Bryan Haugen thinks the line play has been key, " Our offensive and defensive line play has been a huge part of our
Watch for playmakers Jacob Hagler (QB) and Daniel Grande (WR) to hook up for big yards at the FargoDome. Hagler has thrown 29 TDs and Grande has been on the other end of those tosses 19 times.
Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter found another big performer last week when Trent Fettig stole two interceptions taking one back for a TD and catching another TD as they beat their rivals Wyndmere-Lidgerwood. The Imperials love to go to the air with star QB Jonah Schwartzenberger and can run with Jared Reis as well
THE PICK: I like NGS in a high scoring game 35-28 (I'm least confident in this pick)
Washington vs. Roosevelt
Last time these two squared off Washington beat the Riders 34-29 handing them their only loss of the year. Washington has been the most improved team since the beginning of the season. The Warriors have Nick Deutscher and Eli Auch back and a totally healthy offensive line which has really helped DaVonte Clay run wild.
Roosevelt has been the most consistent team of the year with just one loss. Their young players have stepped up to compliment the seniors and the Riders quarterback Scott Tyler is the most underrated player in the class. Tyler has been rock steady and extremely accurate. If Roosevelt can make a couple big plays in the passing game against a stellar Washington secondary they will be able to hang with the Warriors.
THE PICK: Washington with the mini-upset 31-28 and their third title in a row.
West Central vs. Dell Rapids
West Central's running machine continues to churn out yards in bunches. Josh Auble, Devon Blaine, Dalton Kuehl and Connor Miles have been grating through fields all season long. Their only loss of the year was to Dell Rapids when they turned the ball over and were not able to stop some big plays from the Barbers in Dell Rapids.
The Quarriers have played much of the season without star Cole Langer due to a groin injury. Now Langer seems to be able to run without too much pain, he led the team last week in rushing and is ready for another Dome appearance. The Barber twins have been absolutely electric and get even quicker on the carpet in the dome. Zach and Channing Barber should have big days on Thursday afternoon.
THE PICK: Dell Rapids 35-21
McCook Central/Montrose vs. Tri-Valley
Some believe that MCM is the biggest surprise of all the teams to get to the dome. I believed in their talent and ability to get to the dome. The Fighting Cougars have only lost one game this year and they've already avenged that loss to Flandreau by beating them in the playoffs. Andy Kappenman is ready to shine, but don't lose sight of star defensive end Jordan Wolf. He's going to have fun against the stout Tri-Valley offensive line.
Tri-Valley has been perfect although they've been tested this year. The Mustangs are strong in the running game. Cooper Hausman, Sam Mader, Kenton Welbig and Brett Page can all motor the ball up and down the field. All because of a superior line led by Thad Johnson. The Mustangs will have their hands full with the Cougars though.
THE PICK: Tri-Valley 21-18
Kimball/White Lake is in their first year as a co-op and they've made the most of it. Trevor Reinesch has been impressive running the ball but they lost to Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan earlier this year 42-14.
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan rides the legs of Kendall Lindeman and Anthony Huber. But the Seahawk defense has been absolutely stellar. They've shut out high powered offenses like Corsica/Stickney and Leola-Frederick. They'll have a tough time with the Wildkats big threats but they'll do it.
THE PICK: Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan Wins big 55-15
Canistota vs. Wall
This is the only battle of unbeatens. Canistota will go for their 24th straight win against a quick and physical Wall team. Canistota hasn't given up a single point since September and their defense will have to cover some serious ground against 2,000+ yard rusher Chavis Shull of Wall. Canistota has Cody Bunger, Alex Robertson and Troy Hofer who can all tote the rock for a long run. When Canistota passes they have multiple receivers who can haul it in as well like Trevor Schroeder.
THE PICK: Canistota rolls 50-12
This could be the most fun game of the week. Waverly-South Shore has turned on the afterburners with a high powered passing attack. Taylor Zemlicka has thrown 29 TDs and Tyson Zemlicka has caught 14 of them. Brent Zemlicka is a threat out of the backfield with 1,600+ yards and 20 TDs. They'll have to stop Avon who has been stout on defense. Avon has only given up 20 points this playoffs. Jackson Powers has powered the running game and the offense.
THE PICK: Waverly-South Shore 42-21
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