In football, revenge is a subject that often comes up after a tough loss from the season before. This week, we have four such games on our preview slate. This time, however, none of the teams have more than one loss, and this game could separate the “for real” teams from those that still have a few holes to work on before the playoffs start in four weeks.
These games are also in most cases seasonal rivalries as well, so without further ado, let’s get to this week’s quartet of games.
1. Sioux Falls Lincoln (3-1) at Brandon Valley (4-0)
There’s still a sour feeling in the mouths of the Lynx coaching staff from four years ago on a frozen field in Brandon, when they went 9-0 in the regular season, then dropped a close game at home to the Patriots in the semifinals. Back then the quarterback was Austin Sumner. This season it’s Chase Marso at the helm, who has so far led the Lynx to a 4-0 mark, scoring 45.5 points per game, completing about two thirds of his passes for eight touchdowns in parts of four games.
What the Lynx have to worry about in this one is their defense’s handling of running back Caden Quintanilla, who has gashed defenses for 6.2 yards per carry with six touchdowns this season. But the Lincoln Connor Burchill leads this Lincoln squad that averages 290 yards of offense this season, and is complimented nicely by receivers Trevor Naasz and Keyshaun Britt. The key for Lincoln to stay in this game will be how they handle A.J. Garrow and Matt Vandeberg, the best one-two punch at receiver in the state. So far the Pats have held opponents to 31% completion and will need to do the same on Friday. This is very likely going to be a high scoring slugfest in Brandon Friday night, but fact is that the Lynx simply have the better overall team this season, and will win this tilt by 14.
2. Dell Rapids (3-0) at Tri-Valley (3-1)
These teams played one of the best games of the 2011 season, won in close fashion by the Tri-Valley Mustangs 21-14. Both teams were hit by graduation in different areas in the offseason. Tri-Valley was hit on their line, while Dell Rapids lost two of the fastest backs I’ve seen in this state in the Barbers. The difference is that Quarriers’ head coach Steve Hansen has been grooming replacements for those backs, and Lane LeBrun has stepped in at halfback to Cole Langer’s fullback, while Matt Kolbeck has stepped into his role as quarterback seamlessly. Bryce Koch has been a nice change of pace weapon in Dell Rapids’ downfield attack.
Tri-Valley has taken a step back, albeit a small one, from last year. The Mustangs are coming off a loss in Flandreau last week, and are led by running back Logan Koopman, who averages scoring a touchdown once every seven carries. He’s rolled up 641 yards and eight touchdowns this season. This should be a much more defensive game than the game in Brandon, but I expect Dell Rapids to avenge last year’s defeat and win this game by 12.
3. Castlewood (3-0) at Deubrook (3-0)
In the only nine-man game on our slate this week, we head to the Dakota Valley Conference, where these two undefeated teams meet. Castlewood usually brings a pretty good team to the field each season, and have done so again this season. The Warriors have built their 3-0 on the strength of their defense and a strong passing game, led by quarterback Lucas Ching. Ching has thrown for 561 yards and 13 touchdowns this season on 46 attempts. We’ll do the math – That amounts to a touchdown pass every 3.5 times he throws the ball. Carson Borer, who has crossed the opposing goal line six times this season and gained over 100 yards per game as well, leads the ground game.
That’s a fine performance so far, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Deubrook’s Ryan Knutson. This young man leads the state in rushing with 753 yards in three games (13.2 yards per carry!) and 12 touchdowns. Knutson has cleared 200 yards in each of his three games and has helped the Dolphins to an average of 48.0 points per contest. That will be a very tall order for Castlewood to stop. Add to that the threat of Riley Hanson, who has scored once rushing, once receiving, and twice on kickoff returns. All of this adds up to a Dolphis victory by eight, thus avenging their 28-20 loss to Castlewood last year.
4. West Central (3-1) at Harrisburg (3-1)
Outside of their loss to Dell Rapids, in which the West Central Trojans stayed in the game most of the way, the Trojans are up to their usual bruising, dominating style of play that we’re used to seeing, as seen last week in their 48-0 blowout win in Sisseton last week. They’ve also proved this season that they can pass when they want to as well. Quarterback Noah Matson, who served in a tandem quarterback system last season, is the full time starter this season, and threw two touchdown passes in that game in Sisseton. Their defense is up to their usual quick, swarming to the ball selves as well, allowing only 21 points in four games.
Harrisburg has been one of the more difficult teams to figure out this season, winning only narrowly in Madison, losing in Luverne, MN, and beating Lennox handily in their home opener before getting a landmark win over class 11AA Huron 21-20 on the road, getting the winning score on a 60-yard touchdown pass from Andrew McCuen to Trevor DeSchepper with 1:07 left in the game. This game is the first of three straight home games for the Tigers, and if they want to be taken seriously in their region along with Tea and Dakota Valley, they need to find a way to win this game. Expect West Central to play a blitzing style defense against the Harrisburg pro-style offense as they’ve done with success in the past, so McCuen will need to be on his toes when he does drop back to pass in this game. Harrisburg’s linebackers will be tested against the Trojans’ Wing-T offense as well, but must also respect Matson’s ability to pass. This could be the most chess-like game of all this week, and it features two bitter rivals to boot. Whichever team figures this out first on Friday night will likely emerge the victor. I expect that team to be the one wearing dark blue and white. The Trojans will take this one by 10.