SD Class 11AA Semi Final Previews

South Dakota Class 11AA

Pierre at Brookings – Friday November 7 at 7:00 PM

Jayson Poppinga’s young Pierre Governors played a great second half and pulled away from the Douglas Patriots last week in the quarterfinals. He’s been impressed with junior quarterback Brevin Kaiser and the progress the offense has made. Friday night the Govs run into the 7-2 Brookings Bobcats. Poppinga knows what needs to improve to advance one more round,

“We still need to do a better job of tackling, you know getting the first hit and rallying to the ball.”

The Bobcats have come through one of the toughest schedules in the class and are currently on a 4 game winning streak. The running game is in full throttle, the team averages 7.23 yards per carry. The backfield is stocked with power. Mikey Daniel (1,262 yds 19TDs 8.1 ypc),  Gerald Maxwell (635 10TDs, 8.82 ypc) and Dayton Bird (14 ypc 450 yds 6TD) have given the team big plays all season long and seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. Quarterback Carter Gordon (57-110, 846 yards, 7TD, 8 INT) has settled into a nice season as well. RJ Helsper has led a fiery defense with 6 sacks and 46 tackles.

PREDICTION: The combination of Brookings run game and Pierre’s inability to tackle could mean a long day for Pierre. Brookings wins 42-21.

Harrisburg at Yankton – Friday November 7 at 7:00 PM

Yankton has put together a dream season. They won both of their close games early in the year, one on the road against Brandon Valley and one on the road against O’Gorman. It’s the Yankton defense that has been stellar. They’ve given up just 8 points in their last 3.5 games. Head Coach Arlin Likness explains the recent defensive dominance,

“We have a base 3-4 defense with several coverages but have gotten better when we adjust to the formations and let our players read and react. We also have moved a couple of players – Jordan Lightner plays the NG at times and Sheldon Gant moves from outside to inside LBER. So far so good. We have had some improvement all week.”

Jordan Lightner, Parker Kuchta, Sheldon Gant, Tanner Frick and Mason Strahl have all carried the running game for the Bucks in the absence of their feature back Levi Kabella who suffered another season ending knee injury. The Bucks can also throw the ball, Mason Strahl has found Brady Hale and Evan Greenway as his main targets downfield.

Coach Likness is excited about this team,

“These guys have heart and have worked from last fall to get better. They do extra things after practice all the time: throw tires & run the hill behind the school. Our kicking game has been very good to us this year. Brady Hale is one of the best kickers in the state. He has hit 53 yds, 49 yds, 37 yds. I don’t remember all of them but he just missed a 60 yarder. We will keep him. 32 of 32 on extra points.”

Harrisburg had an unfortunate second half of the season, they started out the year 4-0 then ran into possibly the four toughest teams in the state and finished the season 4-4. Head Coach Brandon White knows they have their work cut out,

“We like our chances. We know we having nothing to lose and everything to gain. We can play free, physical, and aggressive. Yankton has a lot of options offensively, we just have to make sure to eliminate some of their options on each play. Defensively they are very athletic and play very aggressive. We have to run our feet and really do a great job of being disciplined. We must create turnovers and make sure we do not turn it over at all. We are excited to get another shot and we are blessed to be where we are at this point in the season.”

The Tigers have one of the most productive players in the class in running back Jon Kabambi. He frequently sees 8 and 9 man fronts to try to stop him but finds a way to get big yards. Shaye Slaughter has thrown for nearly 1300 yards and has found Devon Thilges time and time again when they need a big play. Defensively the Tigers are one of the most physical teams in the state. Lukas Johnson, Lane Warzecha, Vasiliy Stefanyuk and Bailey Schriever headline a tough, hard-hitting defense.

PREDICTION: The Tigers will take care of the ball and keep this game closer than their last meeting (31-8 on Oct 17), but the Bucks have too many weapons this year and their defense will not allow Kabambi to run wild. The Bucks make it to the dome with a 21-7 win.