Varsity Sports Now Players of the Year (SD Football)

The high school football season was one of the best in recent memory in South Dakota. The action was highlighted by some of the best talent this state has seen in a long time. Varsity Sports Now is our weekly television show dedicated to high school sports in the Dakotas and we've selected the top player in each of the six classes.

Class 11AA - Nathan Gerry, Sioux Falls Washington (Sr.) 6-2, 213  WR/FS

Stats: 23 rec 593 yds 12TDs 25.8ypc  |  36 rush 291 yds 5TDs 8.1ypc  |  64 tackle, 13.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 INT for 4TDs, 5PBU, 4 FF  |  25 punts 39.12 avg. 9 punts inside 20 yl

Honorable Mention:  Chase Marso (Brandon Valley), Matthew Vandeberg (Brandon Valley), Caden Quintanilla (Lincoln)

This was the toughest selection of the six classes. We narrowed our choice between four outstanding athletes, Nate Gerry (Washington), Chase Marso (Brandon Valley), Matthew Vandeberg (Brandon Valley) and Caden Quintanilla (Lincoln). In the end Nate Gerry got the nod slightly over Vandeberg. Both are outstanding players with unparalleled versatility, but Gerry's  sheer athletic ability and big play capabilities gives him just a slight edge.

"Nate is the best athlete on our football team.  He is a great competitor who loves the game.  He has the ability to house it every time he touches the ball.  He is blessed with great speed and tremendous hands," raved Head Coach Brian Hermanson. "On defense, his size and strength allowed us to use him in a variety of ways and at many different positions.   He loves to compete and always seems to come up with the big play whether it is on offense or defense."

Gerry will go on to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers next year and ends his high school career as a contributor on two state championship teams ('10, '12)






Class 11A - Cole Langer, Dell Rapids  (Sr.) 6-2, 245 RB/LB

Stats: 102 rush, 874 yds  15 TDs  8.6 ypc  |  3 rec 72 yds TD  |  63.5 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2PBU, 3 FF

Honorable Mention: Andrew McCuen (Harrisburg) , Tanner Lambert (Dakota Valley) , Nate Rotert (Spearfish) 

Cole Langer has led his team to three straight state championships. He's gone through most of his career with nagging injuries but always came ready to play. His work ethic and leadership are unquestioned.

"Cole was a huge part of our Offense for the last 3 years and our Defense the last 4 years.  He is the ultimate team player and a great kid.  A 4.0 Student that every student and adult respects in our high school.  You can not put into words the type of young man he is," said his head coach Steve Hansen.

Cole has verbally committed to South Dakota State University to continue his football career next season.





Class 11B - Ben Connot, Winner (Sr.)  5-10, 165 RB/DB

Stats: 130 rush, 1044 yds, 15 TD 8.03 ypc  |   8 rec 191 yds 2TD  |  61 tackles, 1 INT

Honorable Mention: Logan Koopman ( Tri-Valley), Jacob Patterson (Flandreau), Kyle Bertram (Winner)

Ben Connot shined in the biggest game of the year when he took home the Joe Robbie MVP in the 11B title game. He finishes his four-year high school career with just three team losses. Head Coach Dan Aaker is one of many with a lot of respect for Ben's game,

"Ben has been instrumental to our program the last 3 years.  All-state two of those years and our best all-around football player.  He is a great running back going over 1000 yards but it could have been a lot more if we weren’t blessed with other good runners.  He is very unselfish from that aspect and just wanted the team to win.  He put the team first like the rest of our seniors and everyone else followed their lead."

Ben finishes his high school football career with two state titles ('09, '12).


Class 9AA - Ryan Knutson, Deubrook Area  (Sr.) 5-8, 150 RB/CB
Stats:  230 rush, 2,434 yds, 40 TD 10.58 ypc  |  4 rec 21 yds  |  63 tackles, 5 INT, 1 FR
Honorable Mention: Jaden Bartling (Gregory)  Anthony Huber (Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan) Trevor Reinisch (Kimball/White Lake)
Ryan Knutson not only broke through the 2,000 yard barrier he blew it away leaving the rest of the field in his dust. He used shifty moves and explosive speed to to get through his blockers holes and marched into the endzone an astounding 40 times this season.
Head Coach Adolph Shepardson has nothing but good things to say about Ryan, " He's humble, hard-working, and has a great attitude.  He is a stud in football, a good person, and a good student."
Knutson has also found success as a state bull-riding champ. Ryan led his team to an undefeated season and captured the school's first state title.
Class 9A - Cody Bunger, Canistota (Sr.) 6-3, 185 QB/DB
Stats: 59/93, 1267 yds 19TDs , 4INT  |  107 rush, 645 yds 17TDs  |  DEF:  56 tackles,  7 INT
Honorable Mention: Jarrod Tuszka (Warner), Cooper Schaefbauer (Herreid/Selby),  Austin Hulscher (Wilmot)
The senior quarterback showed toughness, leadership and great athletic ability as he led the Hawks to their third consecutive undefeated season and state title. He finished 24-0 as a starting quarterback and 42-3 as a high school player.

"Cody has had a great career at Canistota," said Head Coach Lenny Schroeder.  "He has worked very hard to become a very good quarterback and defensive back.  His unselfish play helped lead our team to back to back 9A State Championships."

Class 9B -  Jess Feist, Harding County (Sr.) 5-11, 175 QB/CB

Stats: 124/193 2,035 yards 26 TDs 5Int  |  140 rush, 1,226 yds 20TDs  |  DEF: 54 tackles, 4 INTs, 1FF

Honorable Mention: Terrance Kinzer (Colome)  Lucas Ching (Castlewood)  Ckyler Floyd (Harding County)

Jess Feist lit up the Dakota Dome with six passing touchdowns in the 2012 9B title game. He was one of only two players in South Dakota with at least 1,000 rushing and 1,000 yards passing. He was the only player with 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing.

Head Coach Jay Wammen commented on his quarterback, " Jess Feist is the definition of a leader.  He isn't the biggest kid or the fastest but he could quite possibly be the toughest kid I have ever coached.  He has been the leader of our program the past 2 seasons and has put up amazing stats along the way.  He is a dual threat and was a danger to score on every snap.  Defensively, he was an outstanding Free Safety as well."

Feist led his team to a 9B state championship and made another appearance as a runner-up in 2010.



Filed Under Football | Varsity Sports