The Sioux Falls area has had a grip on the 11-man circuit in South Dakota football for the better part of the last decade. Could it be that there are more than a few party crashers this season?

Yankton seems to have a much better team this season. They showed an inkling of this last season, when the Bucks outplayed Sioux Falls Washington in the second half of their game last in Sioux Falls, and never let the game really get out of hand. This season, they’re 5-0, and have racked up 2,032 (406 ypg) yards and 162 (32.4 ppg) points in five games.

Pierre has also brought a sneaky-good team this season, but their defense is very suspect, and will be susceptible to bigger offensive lines. We’ll see this when they host Washington on Friday.

Spearfish dropped back to class 11A last year, and made a run to the semifinals. This season, they’ve handed losses to their class 11AA Rapid

City opponents, and we’ll get to see just how good this team is when the Spartans visit Harrisburg Friday night.

Class 11B is anyone’s guess with usual party crashers Winner and Aberdeen Roncalli in the title picture, but now Webster is back in the picture after about 10 years since their last state title. Webster’s Andy Rithmiller kept the Bearcats undefeated season alive with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a comeback win against Mobridge-Pollock.

Everything, even football is cyclical, and it might be time for the pendulum of football power to start swinging away from Sioux Falls again.

With that, on to this week’s quartet of previews from the south of the seventh standard parallel:


1. Howard (3-1) at Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (3-1)

True, both of these teams have lost a game this season, both in close fashion and both to the same team this season. Those two games to Canistota had a combined margin of victory of 12 points. Considering what the Hawks have done to their other opposition (And what the teams in this game have as well, for that matter) these two teams will both likely have something to say about the class 9AA championship before this season is done. So let’s break this down.

Both teams have been running the same offensive system for years. Howard runs a very efficient double wing offense, which they’ve been perfecting since they were still playing 11-man football, and are led by back Luke Loudenburg, who has 450 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the season. To prove how efficient the Tigers are on offense, Cole Potter and Evan Donahue have also combined to give Howard almost 300 rushing yards per game this season.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan has been devastating on defense, allowing only 10.5 points per game, which has set up the Seahawks up to score 46 points per game. This team has been running a split back wing offense for as long as I can remember, but this season, there’s another weapon if they need it. Quarterback Jace Connor’s deadly accurate passing arm. Connor has completed an amazing 83% of his passes and seven passing touchdowns to nicely compliment their power running game. It’ll be a tough game either way, but with the game in Emery and their raucous fan base, along with the Seahawks’ defense will take care of business in this one, and defend their home field with an eight-point win.


2. Tea (4-0) at Dell Rapids (3-1)

Tea has looked very, very good in their first four games, allowing only six points thus far, and posting three straight shutouts, and has not allowed any points in the last 13 quarters. Those teams the Titans topped are a combined 5-14 this season. The next four games to close their regular season (against Dell Rapids, Tri-Valley, Harrisburg and Dakota Valley, all highly ranked teams) will be their stress test before heading into the playoffs.

That road starts against the team that knocked the Titans out of the class 11A semifinals last season, Dell Rapids. It is interesting to note at this point, that the Quarriers have only lost two games in the last two seasons, both to Tri-Valley, an 11B team. That means that for at least two seasons, Dell Rapids has not lost to an 11A opponent. The Quarriers face another test this week, and has to defend a strong running game led by Gunnar Ensz (10.5 ypc, 7TD rushing)  but must also stop their passing game as well with junior quarterback Taylor Roeman (62% comp, 7TD, 652 yds passing).

The matchup to look for will be Cole Langer versus the Titan defense. Langer has bulled his way down small town fields eight yards at a time for the past three years. This week he faces a Titan defense which has yielded just one rushing touchdown on the year. Another key to this game will be the Quarriers quarterback Matt Kolbeck hooking up with six-foot five-inch Bryce Koch downfield in the passing game. Kolbeck will have to find a seam against a stingy Tea defense led by Riley Knutson in the secondary.

Tea Coach Craig Clayberg is focused on Dell Rapids main weapons this week,

“We need to be able to stop their main weapons on offense – Langer and Koch and the other 2 running backs – they are fast and run hard.”

Dell Rapids coach Steve Hansen was concerned about mistakes in their game last week against Tri-Valley and has been preaching to his team about those details in practice this week,

“We need to come out ready to play, and not allow the game to be decided by someone other than us.  We also need to eliminate costly mistakes and be crisper on our assignment.”

This is a tough one to pick; I can’t imagine Dell Rapids losing in back to back weeks, especially at home. But I’ve been a believer in Tea all season and expect their physicality to match Dell Rapids. Tea Area will be able to bust a few big plays and that will be the difference in the game. Give me Tea by six points.

3. Spearfish (4-1) at Harrisburg (4-1)

It seems Spearfish has resumed their winning ways since moving back to the Black Hills Conference and class 11A last season. They’ve beaten three class 11AA opponents by a combined 103-7 score (It should be noted, that these west river teams, as we’ve mentioned in the past, are going through quite possibly their worst collective season in recent memory).  Nate Rotert, who racked up two more rushing touchdowns last week against Hot Springs, but got help from quarterback Brandon Kemp as well, with a passing touchdown, leads the Spartans.

They face their biggest test of the season this week in Harrisburg. The Tigers are coming off a big win against West Central last week, with quarterback Andrew McCuen accounting for all four of Harrisburg’s touchdowns in that game (three rushing, one passing). Spearfish might be a tough nut to crack defensively, but Harrisburg is improving with each game they play. I’m taking Harrisburg to win at home by seven.

4. Yankton (5-0) at Sioux Falls Roosevelt (4-1)

While both of these teams are currently in line for one of the four class 11AA first round playoff byes, if they want to keep it, they’ll likely need to win this game. Yankton is in very much the same position in class 11AA that Tea is in class 11A – They’ve so far beaten the teams that they should be beating, but are facing very difficult tests to close their season. They get Roosevelt this week, Washington next week, and Brandon Valley to close the season.

Talk about a test.

Last season, Yankton did show signs of being a good team for this season, but couldn’t quite put it all together. This season senior quarterback Michael Rucker and company are rolling up yardage left and right, to the tune of 1050 yards of total offense over the last two weeks. Rucker himself has passed for 571 yards on the season with three passing touchdowns. They’ll need to put their spread attack to use the same way Lincoln did three weeks ago to keep up with the Riders. Levi Davis has been a force running the ball with 469 yards on the ground averaging 117.3 yards per game. Rucker uses many targets on offense to throw to so it will be hard for Roosevelt to key on anyone. JJ Hejna is Yankton’s leading receiver with 151 yards on the year.

Head Coach Arlin Likness has been telling his team that they can play with anyone in the state, “We need to believe that we can play with Sioux Falls teams and go out and play hard to the end. We need to finish with points on the offensive end.”

Sioux Falls Roosevelt, meanwhile had to play without quarterback Taryn Christion last week due to a groin injury, but Jett Thune stepped in and did a fine job in relief with two passing touchdowns. Look for Christion back in the lineup Friday but Coach Kim Nelson tells me it’s not a sure thing. Mikal Smith made his much-awaited return to action last week, and made his presence felt by scoring twice, once on an 80-yard run, and also on a 99-yard kickoff return to open the proceedings last week. Smith will play again but is still not 100%. That’s a lot of weapons for the Bucks to handle. Coach Nelson knows his young team’s effort will have to match their talent,

“We need to be consistent in our effort.  We are streaky, not steady.  I still think we can become a dangerous team.”

I’ll take Roosevelt to show some big play ability, but it won’t be decided until the fourth quarter. Roosevelt by 10.

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