We’re ready to come back full force this week with the weekly high school football previews. So let’s get right to it!
RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT
1. Sioux Falls O’Gorman (0-2) vs. Sioux Falls Washington (2-0)
The Sioux Falls O’Gorman Knights have gotten off to one of their worst starts in recent memory, dropping a sloppily-played opener at home to Brandon Valley and then losing their premier event, the Dakota Bowl, for only the ninth time. Roosevelt played great shutdown defense, not allowing O’Gorman’s Wing-T to grind it out after Tanner Schulte was sidelined with a first quarter injury and won 19-7 last Saturday.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Knights. They get the top-ranked Washington Warriors, who are the clear favorites to win the state title this season. Washington has not had much resistance yet this season, still playing from their shotgun spread offense, but not passing as much from it, as illustrated by the 202 yards on 34 carries put up by Sam Cooke, Dan Marlette and Luke Reiter last week against Lincoln. Add that to an absolutely dominating defense, and I believe Washington will take the opener of the 21st President’s Bowl by 21.
2. Sioux Falls Roosevelt (2-0) vs. Sioux Falls Lincoln (1-1)
The nightcap of the President’s Bowl on Saturday involves a battle between a pair of young quarterbacks. Junior Lincoln quarterback Connor Burchill is trying to fill the shoes of Alex Schultz. He experienced some growing pains last week trying to solve the Washington defense. He only mustered 4-for-13 passing for 44 yards, but did get the team’s only touchdown on a 29-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Bartow. Roosevelt plays a similar style of smothering defense, so the question is how much did the Patriots learn from their game against Washington? Not only that, but the Riders seem to have found an exceptional talent in quarterback Taryn Christon, who got both a rushing and a passing touchdown in their 19-7 win over O’Gorman last week.
Christion like any sophomore signal caller will have a learning curve as the season goes on, but that curve is headed upward. If Lincoln’s defense can disrupt the Roosevelt offense like it did to Washington last week in the first half, and carry that over the entire 48 minutes, they can win this game. However, I believe the Riders’ offense is excellent, and this will lead the Riders to a 14-point win.
NINE MAN GRUDGE MATCHES
3. Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (1-0) vs. Canistota (1-0)
This is the premier nine-man rivalry game this week. The teams will square off in the nightcap of the FCA Bowl at Bob Young Field in Sioux Falls Friday night. Last season, this represented the Hawks’ closest game all year, a 34-26 win in which Canistota was never really in danger of losing. This season, though, Canistota has already had a dose of reality, surviving a 20-16 game in Howard two weeks ago. While Cody Bunger is still the quarterback, the track-star backfield from two years ago is now completely gone, and replaced by running back Alex Robertson, who carried the ball 12 times for 86 yards in that opening game. Canistota still plays for the big play whenever possible, and still relies on the run until the opportunity for a play-action pass presents itself. The Seahawks will be a tough test, though. They bring back Anthony Huber and Jace Connor from last year’s state championship squad, and they’ve already led BE-E to a 60-6 win over Freeman in their opener. Huber rushed for 198 yards and five scores in that game. I believe this should be a more defensive game than in years past, and Canistota will see their 25-game winning streak end with a six-point loss.
4. Gregory (2-0) vs. Avon (1-1)
Avon dropped their rivalry game in Alexandria, as the Hanson Beavers handed the Pirates a 30-14 loss last week, allowing 187 yards of rushing in that game. Avon has to bring a better defensive effort to be able to contain Gregory quarterback Jaden Bartling, who scorched Colome last week for 410 yards of total offense (208 rushing, 202 passing) with seven touchdowns. It doesn’t matter who the opponent was, that is an impressive stat line. While Bartling isn’t likely to repeat this performance against Avon, it is a dual threat the Pirates are going to have to deal with. The good thing here is that Avon’s coaching staff has been together for a very long time and will definitely have a sound game plan for it. I’m going with Avon by 12 here.
5. Eureka/Bowdle (1-0) at Potter County (1-0)
For those that don’t know, Potter County is the team formerly known as Gettysburg/Hoven. They won their opener last week 33-12, getting 21 fourth quarter points despite being without their standout quarterback Tate Nafzinger. The Battlers have long been practitioners of a stout defense, and then lulling their opponents to sleep with straightforward running plays before play-faking and throwing deep. Their defense might need some work this week, as they allowed Faulkton’s Darin Wiesseler 237 rushing yards last week.
As for Eureka/Bowdle, they got a big win in their opener in McLaughlin, and their confidence should be on a high, but they know the challenge that awaits them in this game. In a relatively close game, I’ll take Potter County by eight.
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP REMATCH
6. Dell Rapids (1-0) at West Central (2-0)
The tables have turned in recent years with this rematch of last year’s state 11A championship game. Dell Rapids has won the last four games between these teams, the latest being the 35-0 drubbing in the Dakota Dome last November. That humbling experience is sure to still be on the Trojans’ minds heading into this week’s clash.
Dell Rapids, meanwhile, is without the Barber brothers for the first time in three seasons. What they do have is an extremely deep reserve of running backs to replace them, led by returning fullback Cole Langer. Lane LeBrun, Brett Nichols and Michael McGee compliment Langer and new quarterback Matt Kolbeck put up 292 rushing yards against Canton – A very comparable total to the last few seasons. Both teams run very similar double wing offenses, though West Central uses an unbalanced line in theirs, their playbooks are essentially identical, and both defenses rely on quick players swarming to the ball. So in this vis-à-vis battle of team schemes, this game will go to the team with better talent. That team this season is once again Dell Rapids, but not by much. They should walk away with a 7-point win on the short road trip.