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2018 SD High School Football Preview - 11AAA

CLASS 11AAA PREVIEW

The power in South Dakota football resides in Sioux Falls. There have been five years of Class 11AAA football in South Dakota, and five times a school from Sioux Falls was crowned champion. In fact, there have been 14 champions in a row from Sioux Falls in South Dakota’s largest class. Despite the way Sioux Falls has claimed titles, teams from Rapid City, Watertown, Aberdeen and Brandon want to disrupt that dominance.

TOP TEAMS in 11AAA

1. SF WASHINGTON

34 wins and three titles in a row have made Sioux Falls Washington the measuring stick for football dominance in South Dakota. This year things could change at the top. Head Coach Chad Stadem tried to brace me that the road to a state title will be more difficult this year, “11AAA will be as balanced as it has been in many years.  Both Rapid City schools will be much improved as will all the Metro conference schools. We will be very young, so we need time to develop.” Despite the fact that they have more work to do than in the past, their expectations remain very high.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Just three starters return on offense for the Warriors, but those three starters are among the best players in the state. Jayden Johannsen has been working very hard on his craft as he comes back to take snaps as a three-year starter at quarterback. Tupak Kpeayeh has some of the best moves we’ve ever seen in this state. He also is back as a third year starter at running back. Tupak is fully healed from offseason surgery and ready to continue his assault on the Washington record books. Carson Wilson (6’3”, 280) returns to anchor the offensive line. Wilson is a future college football lineman who can dominate the line of scrimmage and is a very hard worker. The Warrior D returns Nate Freese, Adam Durland and Peyton Nieuwsma. Look for sophomore Tyus Hansen to emerge as a receiver this year and go back to quarterback, his natural position, next year. Gabe Person, and Jacob Smith will also get chances to make plays on offense at wide out.

KEY GAMES

Washington doesn’t leave Howard Wood Field for the first four weeks of the season and they play arguably the four best teams in the state (Brandon Valley, SF Roosevelt, SF O’Gorman, Mitchell). They end their regular season with a rivalry game against SF Lincoln that should be much closer than the past couple of years.

BOTTOM LINE

As much as I make a case for another team to be the best in the state I always come back to the fact that Washington has the depth, talent, heart and work ethic to defend their title despite the fact they’ll need quality play from their newcomers. They haven’t lost a game since September 4, 2015. I feel like that winning streak will come to an end this year. I’m not sure exactly where or to whom, but it will be extremely difficult for this young group to not drop a game. That being said, they are the most complete team in the class.

PREDICTION

8-1

2. SIOUX FALLS O’GORMAN

O’Gorman got a couple of huge wins last year that put them on track to compete with the best in the state last year. All three of their losses came to Metro teams, they’d like to improve that mark in their conference. Like Washington, there aren’t a ton of returning starters, but the talent to fill in the empty spots are in place. Just two offensive players have starting experience while six defenders have started.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Canyon Bauer affects a game in every way possible. He caught 51 passes for 853 yards and eight scores last year to lead the team. He also ran for over 100 yards and he can also play defense and add special plays on special teams when needed. Evan Wittry, Zach Norton and Andrew Pujado all saw significant time on offense last year and figure to be playmakers this year. The Knights also feature two defensive ends who can get up field, Aidan Thomas and Noah Reeves and a loaded defensive backfield with Norton, Pujado and Beau Blount. The big question is who will start at quarterback. Teegan Schlimgen is just a sophomore and has a strong arm. “Having a sophomore play quarterback in AAA in the Metro conference is not easy,” said head Coach Jayson Poppinga. Sam Stukel is another option at quarterback. He transferred in from Kansas City and will compete for that spot. They also could go to Zach Norton a junior who played a lot of defense and wide receiver last year but has experience at quarterback in his career.

KEY GAMES

The conference games against Metro teams have really been big games for O’Gorman. They get conference play started against Washington for Dakota Bowl on September 8. Six days later they take on Lincoln and then on September 28th they visit Howard Wood again this time to take on Roosevelt. The season ends in Brandon on October 18th.

BOTTOM LINE

The Knights have had quarterbacks step up since Jayson Poppinga brought the spread offense to O’Gorman. Hunter Thompson broke school records in 2016, Isaac Struck wiped out most of those last year in 2017. This year as of right now it’s unclear who will be chucking the rock for O’G. I can’t wait to see who O’Gorman has taking snaps. Either way, they’ll need a QB to run the spread to take full advantage of having a generational talent like Canyon Bauer.

PREDICTION

8-1

3. BRANDON VALLEY

The Lynx are final four fixtures; they’ve made the semifinals every year since 2010. This season they have a big senior class to replace.

IMPACT PLAYERS

One look at the Lynx on the field and you notice that this team is big. Junior Thomas Scholten looks ready to command this offense. He’s got a big arm with a lot of big targets. The Lynx will be able to pass much more this season with an experienced quarterback and without Braiden Petersen to depend on. The roster features Sam Krohnke, Jesse Steffel, Andrew Hanson, Ty McCann, Jack Harvison, Tanner Niewenhuis, Isaac Bullis-Rodriguez, Carter Olthoff, Quinn Grode, Jake Rechtenbaugh, Devon Jones, Isaiah Campbell, Cole Siegfried, Micah McGee, Braydon Carmody, Hunter Marso, Riley Pletten and Wilson Kolbeck.

KEY GAMES

Brandon Valley starts the season with two trips to Howard Wood Field a visit to take on the defending champs on August 24th and an invite to the Presidents Bowl on September 1st against Lincoln. The season finale could be a huge home game against O’Gorman on October 18th.

BOTTOM LINE

Thomas Scholten did a nice job at quarterback for Brandon Valley until a late season injury. He looks fully healed and he’s ready to lead a talented group of juniors mixed with some seniors who have been there before. Brandon Valley has a lot of talent but may take one more year before they’re ready for another title run.

PREDICTION:

7-2

 

4. SIOUX FALLS ROOSEVELT

The Riders got closer to beating Washington in the AAA title game last year when they came up just a point shy of taking them to overtime in the championship game. This year they have four starters back and a stocked junior class ready to get a load of playing time.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Brady Dannenbring rotated as a co-starting quarterback last season but should be the full-time signal caller this year. Dannenbring threw for 1,005 yards and 11 TDs. He has some great targets like Tyler Feldkamp, Devlin McManus and Jacob Bettencourt to throw to this year. Even though the Riders technically return just four starters on defense they have a load of talent coming back. Joey Otta, Devonte Murphy, Ethan Winter, Isaac Oren, Caleb Dwyer, Adam Kusler and Aaron Kusler to name a few.

KEY GAMES

Roosevelt head coach Kim Nelson completed the 2017 season with nine wins and two losses.  For his career, Kim has 280 wins.  This is 3rd all-time in Eleven-Man history behind Max Hawk (284) and Steve Keuter (287). Nelson has an outside shot at tying Hawk while visiting Crane-Youngworth field on September 14 and getting the all-time record late in the season. All the 11AAA games are important including a Presidents Bowl game against Washington on September 1 and a big stretch in the middle of the season where thy take on Lincoln, Yankton, Brandon Valley and O’Gorman consecutively.

BOTTOM LINE

The Riders are always in the mix. Much of their success will depend on how quickly the talented Brady Dannenbring develops. He has the tools to dominate and he's improving all the time. There are a lot of juniors who will be making their first big varsity impact on the football team this fall. If everything comes together the Riders will be an elite team, but it usually takes a while to get everyone on the same page.

PREDICTION

6-3

 

4. SIOUX FALLS LINCOLN

As we move into the second year of the Jared Fredenburg era at Lincoln, we should see a big shift from potential to talent.  The Pats put up just two wins last year and missed the playoffs. They played several sophomores and freshmen which should yield dividends this season for the up and coming squad. Nine offensive starters combined with five more on defense, should give the Patriots a head start heading into 2018.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Grant Trieber (6’7”, 285) has evolved into the top offensive lineman in the state. The third-year starter has received multiple FCS scholarship offers because of his rare power, length and coordination at right tackle. He decided to make Ames Iowa his future home by committing to Iowa State. He’s flanked by another dominant tackle on the left side, Noah Brown (6’4”, 260). Armen DerHagopian (6’1”, 220) is back and gives Lincoln one of the top make up what could be the best line in the state. Unfortunately lineman, Tyler Hiatt (6’2”, 230), will miss the season due to injury, he was a starter last season. Hunter Merkley, Wyatt VanDenTop, Zach Hanson and Nolan Ransom are premier playmakers in this offense. Terel Eisenbraun got some experience at QB last year taking over for his brother who was hurt. He’s back as a senior but Sophomore Tommy Thompson also will compete to play quarterback. The defense has some players back like Avry Rice, Tyler Hackett, Stephon St. Pierre, Mitch Eichacker and Jonathon Smith.

KEY GAMES

The early season games will be key for Lincoln. If they want to prove to the rest of the state that they’ve turned a corner they’ll need to get some confidence early. They open the season in Rapid City to take on Central then come back home to play Brandon Valley in the Presidents Bowl, followed by Roosevelt and O’Gorman.

BOTTOM LINE

The talent is there for the Patriots, however they must develop depth and even more toughness to be able to compete with the best in the state. They will make big strides this year and next season should be able to compete for a state title.

PREDICTION

6-3

 

6. RAPID CITY STEVENS

Last season the Raiders went 5-4 and showed improvement throughout the season. This year they lose 17 seniors from the roster but bring back some very good players who have gained varsity experience to try to build on last season.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Senior quarterback, Tiegen Heckel (1,650 yards, 11TD) returns to the Raiders offense. He was asked to do a lot as a junior and really got this offense moving late in the season. Heckel has one of the best targets in the state, Michael Norman. He caught 42 passes for 587 yards and five scores. He presents matchup problems for any DB in the state and has the versatility to run the ball or even throw it at any time. Look for sophomore Branson Kuehl to step up as a playmaker as well. Defensively the Raiders will see the most improvement with a few of the top athletes in the state like, Wesley Folsom, Jr. ( 4 sacks), Ostyn Pruitt, Sr. OLB, Phillip Walls, Jr. , Michael Orthman, Sr. OLB and Tyrese Morris, Sr. DT. Plus they may have the best special teams weapon in the state with senior kicker, Corben Mahaffy, who drilled a 55 yard field goal at Howard wood field last year.

KEY GAMES

Like most AAA teams they could point to every game as a key game, but starting out on the right foot is imperative. Last year they got stomped at home in the opener against Roosevelt. This year they travel to Sioux Falls to play the Riders and would like to put together a more impressive showing. The second half of the season features some outstanding competition with Washington, Brandon Valley, Lincoln, O’Gorman and rivals Rapid City Central.

BOTTOM LINE

There has been a lot of talk about this improved Stevens team with their quarterback and top playmaker Michael Norman returning to the offense. They will have to get some signature wins on the east half of the state if they want to become a legitimate title contender.

PREDICTION

4-5

7. WATERTOWN

The Arrows return seven starters on offense and eight on defense as they try to get back into contention in class 11AAA. Head Coach John Hodorff is ready to get started, “This season could be a good season for the arrows we have good speed and skill players. I am excited about the off season effort the guys are giving.”

IMPACT PLAYERS

There are a couple of outstanding players on this roster starting with Blake Holden (6’3”, 235) at middle linebacker. He’s a terrific read and react player on defense and also can carry the ball on offense. He has verbally committed to the University of South Dakota to play next year. They also have one of the fastest players in the state, Garrett Determan, at wide out. He’s an explosive player who can help get the team on the board from anywhere on the field. Determan is also a ball hawk on defense in the secondary. Adam DeJong (6’0”, 185) should be a major part of the running game this year with Brett Fossum (5’10”, 180). Senior Brandon Florey and junior Brandon Smith are competing for the quarterback position. Hunter Cordell and Nick Geffre return as leaders on defense.

KEY GAMES

The Arrows start off the season in Mitchell in a game where they’ll be the underdogs. Then they play Rapid City Central to open up their home schedule. On September 7th they’ll travel to Rapid City to take on Stevens for a game that will be live on Midco Sports Network.

BOTTOM LINE

If you’re looking for a surprise team in 11AAA it could be the Arrows. They have plenty of experience, top notch skill players and a good defense. They will need to reload the holes in their line and get good play from the quarterback positions in order to reach their potential. They also could use a little more depth playing against much bigger schools on most nights. Don’t be surprised if they pull out an upset or two this year and challenge for a winning record.

PREDICTION

3-6

8. RAPID CITY CENTRAL

The Cobblers surprised most of their opponents with a double wing offense last year that featured a lot of misdirection and precise blocking. Head Coach Erik Iverson hopes to build on that precision this year, “We made strides last year with our new offense but we averaged 4 turnovers a game.  We are concentrating on eliminating those and have worked hard this off-season fine tuning our line adjustments and eliminating mental mistakes.” The Cobblers return three offensive starters and four defensive starters.

IMPACT PLAYERS

The Cobbler offense doesn’t feature a quarterback at all, there are several backs that could take the direct snap. Rob Weber (TE), Dylan Dunn (OL), Tate Remmers (RB), Jeremy Weidman (RB), Aaron Iverson (RB) and Jetzon Olson (RB) are among those that will impact this offense. They’ll get defensive leadership from Keenan McKnight (MLB), Olson, Tyler Liebig(DB), Remmers, Iverson (LB) and Wyatt Jungclaus (DL).

KEY GAMES

Look for the Cobblers live on Midco SN during the Midco Rushmore Bowl on September 7th when they host Sturgis. They end the year with a tough stretch against Roosevelt and Washington in Sioux Falls, then come home to take on their rivals from Stevens.

BOTTOM LINE

The Cobblers won’t surprise as many teams with their offense this year but they’ll be much more fine-tuned. Also look for Coach Iverson to implement a few more passing plays to utilize their athletes in open space. Coach Iverson thinks this season should go better, “Our players are excited to see what they can do in year two of the system.  Coaches and players are excited to get the season going.”

PREDICTION

2-7

 

9. ABERDEEN CENTRAL

The Golden Eagles finished 5-4 last year with a charge at the end of the season including a road win at Watertown and a win over future 11AA Champ, Pierre. Mike Flakus ended his 20-year era as the head coach of Aberdeen Central. He brought ESD championships to Aberdeen where they had never won them before he showed up. Mitch Kranz will step up to coach the Eagles this season. “Our graduating senior class will be hard to replace. We have a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. We will need to get up to speed quickly and are going to need some young kids to step up and be leaders for us. We are going to work hard and just try to improve week to week.” They return just three starters and have a lot of young players looking to gain experience.

IMPACT PLAYERS

Most of the yards on offense came from seniors last season so there will be a lot of new faces carrying the ball for Coach Kranz this year. They have a few options at quarterback including Austin Huff, Avery Bad Moccasin and Aiden McCafferty. Chris Weber will likely get a lot of the carries that Preston Barr got last year and Jackson Rohlfs should be the main target at receiver. Nick Olson leads a young offensive line. Kaden Johnson and Brock Baker will lead the front seven on defense.

BOTTOM LINE

The schedule is going to be tough this year. I never like to pick a team to go winless, but the Golden Eagles look like the underdog in all nine regular season games. They’ll need a few players to step up in order to register some wins this year. The Golden Eagles may have a bright future but they’ll need to use this year to gain valuable varsity experience.

PREDICTION

0-9

JASON ANDERA'S 2018 11AAA PROJECTIONS

  11AAA W L
1 SF Washington 8 1
2 SF O'Gorman 8 1
3 Brandon Valley 7 2
4 SF Roosevelt 6 3
5 SF Lincoln 6 3
6 RC Stevens 4 5
7 Watertown 3 6
8 RC Central 2 7
9 Aberdeen Central 0 9

 PLAYERS TO WATCH IN CLASS 11AAA

Mason   Amato

Sr.

SF Roosevelt

OL

Canyon Bauer

Sr.

SF O'Gorman

WR/DB

Brady Dannenbring

Jr. 

SF Roosevelt

QB

Garrett Determan

Sr. 

Watertown

WR/DB

Tyler Feldkamp

So. 

SF Roosevelt

WR/DB

Nate Freese

Sr.

SF Washington

DB

Andrew Hanson

Sr. 

Brandon Valley

RB/LB

Zach Hanson

Sr. 

SF Lincoln

WR/TE

Tiegen Heckel

Sr.

RC Stevens

QB

Blake Holden

Sr. 

Watertown

FB/LB

Jayden Johannsen

Sr.

SF Washington

QB

Tupak Kpeayeh

Sr.

SF Washington

RB

Aaron Kusler

Jr. 

SF Roosevelt

LB

Adam Kusler

Jr. 

SF Roosevelt

LB

Zaki Ladu

Sr. 

SF Washington

RB/DB

Corben Mahaffey

Sr.

RC Stevens

K

Keenan McKnight

Sr.

RC Central

TE/DL

Devlin McManus

Sr.

SF Roosevelt

WR

Hunter Merkley

Jr. 

SF Lincoln

RB

Devonte Murphy

Sr.

SF Roosevelt

DT

Michael Norman

Jr. 

RC Stevens

WR

Zach Norton

Jr. 

SF O'Gorman

WR/DB

Nick Olson

Sr. 

Aberdeen Central

OL

Jetzon Olson

Sr.

RC Central

RB/LB

Joey Otta

Sr.

SF Roosevelt

DE/OL

Tate Remmers

Sr.

RC Central

RB/LB

Thomas Scholten

Jr. 

Brandon Valley

QB

Cole Siegfried

Sr.

Brandon Valley

TE/DL

Stephon St. Pierre

Sr.

SF Lincoln

DB

Jesse Steffel

Jr. 

Brandon Valley

RB/DB

Aidan Thomas

Sr.

SF O'Gorman

DE 

Grant Treiber

Sr. 

SF Lincoln

OL

Wyatt VanDenTop

Jr. 

SF Lincoln

WR

Chris Weber

Jr. 

Aberdeen Central

RB

Carson Wilson

Sr. 

SF Washington

DL

Evan Wittry

Sr.

SF O'Gorman

RB/LB

 

 

 

 

 

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