Sorry Not Sorry: SD High School Football Teams That I Underestimated

This year I went out on a limb and predicted records for all 136 South Dakota high school football teams. The results are mixed.

Dear teams that I underestimated, I’m sorry. But, not that sorry. I hope by giving you a low projection to start the year, it gave you that extra ounce of motivation that you needed to achieve your goals. I don’t want to take any credit for your hard work, but I feel like sometimes under-the-radar predictions help more than they hurt.

Either way you look at it, these teams deserve some recognition and respect for the way they’ve played in 2018. So, with that in mind, here are my top ten “Sorry Not Sorry” preseason prediction updates.

10. Lennox Orioles

Preseason Pick: 1-8 (#12 in Class 11A)

Current Record: 3-4 (#10 in Class 11A)

The Orioles have been much better than advertised. The O’s started the season on fire with wins over Vermillion, Tri-Valley and Milbank. Recently, they’ve played playoff-caliber teams and although they haven’t put a checkmark in the win column against those teams, they are much better than the 1-8 I projected at the beginning of the season.

Their senior quarterback, Zach Leisinger, leads a passing attack that has been borderline bonkers this season (1,802 YDs / 16 TDs). His favorite target WR Caleb Metcalf (40 REC / 799 YDs / 8 TDs) was not on my radar at the beginning of the season but he’s not so quietly put together one of the best seasons in all of Class 11A.

Lennox finishes on the road against two ranked teams, Dakota Valley and West Central. In response to my original prediction, Coach Matthew Luze said, “That's interesting. I never look at the preseason predictions until the season ends.”

9. Watertown Arrows

Preseason Pick: 3-6 (#7 in Class 11AAA)

Current Record: 5-2 (#5 in Class 11AAA)

Let’s start out this “Sorry Not Sorry” report with facts.

  • Fact 1: I did pick Watertown to only win three games.
  • Fact 2: I did say in my preseason article that “If you’re looking for a surprise team in 11AAA, it could be the Arrows.”

The Arrows have been one of the most fun teams in the state this year. Despite some huge injuries to their playmakers, they’ve been able to stay in the rankings for several weeks. They’ve knocked off teams like Mitchell, Lincoln and Harrisburg – all games I thought they’d lose when I made my preseason picks.

Credit to their depth stepping up and their speedy players on offense like Blake Holden, Parker Schmidt, Jake Werner, Adam DeJong and Evan Falconer, who’ve come up big in the passing game.

8. Canton C-Hawks

Preseason Pick: 5-3 (#6 in Class 11B)

Current Record: 7-0 (#1 in Class 11B)

Canton started to feel like a surprise team after giving up a total of 18 points in their first three games. Then they knocked off #1 Sioux Falls Christian – and then two games later knocked off #1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan. Those wins put them firmly on the map.

Kayden Verley and Shaeden Sheidt lead a stocked junior class who are partly responsible for their early ascent. But overall their roster is stocked for success.

Here are the leaders for this surprising 11B team:

Rushing:                    Kayden Verley (830 YDs), Shea Sheidt (618 YDs)

Passing:                     Scott Peterson (32 for 62 / 480 YDs / 4 TDs / 1 INT)

Receiving:                  Kayden Verley (10 / 154 YDs), Isaac Dietzenbach (4 / 100 YDs)

Scoring:                     Kayden Verley (13 TDs / 2 FGs / 27 PATs), Shea Sheidt (11 TDs)

Punting:                     Kayden Verley (13 / 37.7 AVE / 8 inside the 20)

Punt Returns:            Kayden Verley (6 / 182 / 30.3 AVE)

Kickoffs:                    Kayden Verley (29 / 54.3 AVE / 21 TBs)

Kick Returns:            Kayden Verley (3 / 115 / 38.3 AVE)

Ints:                            Kayden Verley (1) Josh Lane (1) Shea Sheidt (1)

Passes Defensed:     Kayden Verley (5), Cody Soderquist (5)

Blocked Kick:            Shea Sheidt (2)

Forced Fumbles:       Isaac Dietzenbach (2), Kayden Verley (2)

Fumble Recoveries: Alex Jorgenson (2)

QB Sacks:                  Dawson Rozeboom (2)

Tackles:                     Shea Sheidt (97), Zach Richardson (72)

Tackles for Loss:      Scott Peterson (6), Shea Sheidt (4)

Pancake Blocks:       Joey Heikkila (17), Garrett Minihan (10)

 Canton will enter the playoffs as the number one seed in Class 11B – unless something strange happens against Wagner on Friday night. Congrats C-Hawks on the great start to the season.

7. Jones County/White River

Preseason Pick: 5-3 (#22 in Class 9AA)

Current Record: 5-2 (T#6 in Class 9AA)

Jones County/White River’s only two losses came from ranked teams this year (Gregory and Wall). Other than that, they’ve taken care of business.

As with most of the teams that have surprised me, it’s been a junior who wasn’t on my radar who has played well. In this case, Izaiah Sorace has been electric for JC/WR. He went career day against Lyman gaining 220 YDs and 4 TDs. JC/WR has one more game against Rapid City Christian on Friday, and then hopes to move into the playoffs with some momentum, plus a home game to start things off. They’re currently tied with Gregory in Region 4 in seed points.

6. Garretson Blue Dragons

Preseason Pick: 4-4 (#12 in Class 9AA)

Current Record: 7-0 (#4 in Class 9AA)

The Dragons are just one of three teams in 9AA who are still unbeaten. Garretson will try to complete their unblemished mark this Friday when they take on Canistota/Freeman – who is also unbeaten.

I knew going into the season that their stud lineman Dakota Johnson was dominant, but I didn’t know that Brennan Mudder (276 Rushing / 7 TDs / 656 Passing), Isaiah Robinson (73 Rushing / 704 YDs / 7 TDs) and Drew Blosmo (19 REC / 423 YDs / 5 TDs) would have such stellar seasons.

The season started with a road win over Howard which put people on notice. Then when they beat Baltic 13-6 on September 21, they got into the rankings and teams started respecting the Dragons.

According to Head Coach Chris Long, the success is from their hard work.

“Our success goes back to our seniors and their hard work they have put in the last three years,” said Long. “Several of them are three-year starters and some have played all four years. They know what it takes to be successful and have worked very hard to get to this point. We have the ability to involve a lot of players offensively which makes it a bit harder for our opponents to take away one or two people. We have both run and thrown the football with good success.”

5. Canistota/Freeman Pride

Preseason Pick: 5-3 (#7 in Class 9A)

Current Record: 7-0 (#3 in Class 9AA)

When the season opened I thought Canistota/Freeman was a borderline ranked team who had some work to do before being a title contender. This season, their quarterback Trey Ortman has led the way helping make them a true contender.

Austin Thu, Bailey Sage and Trey have supplied a lot of the yards for this offense, but the line has been better than expected led by Jared Tieszen. The Pride face another unbeaten team this Friday to try to go a perfect 8-0 before entering the playoffs.

4. Beresford Watchdogs

Preseason Pick: 2-6 (#15 in Class 11B)

Current Record: 5-2 (#6 in Class 11B)

I remember some laughing face emojis that a few Watchdog fans sent my way when they saw my preseason prediction for Beresford. I deserved that.

The Watchdogs have been on point all season long against a very unforgiving schedule. Their only losses have come to top-ranked teams and they’ve been dominant in games that they should be. They have one of their tougher matchups this Friday in Mt. Vernon/Plankinton.

3. Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian Nighthawks

Preseason Pick: 1-7 (#20 in Class 9AA)

Current Record: 5-2 (T#6 in Class 9AA)

The first thing that came to mind when thinking of the Nighthawks a couple of months ago was, how am I going to remember the order of the co-op abbreviations?

Now when people talk about T-D-A-A-C-D-C, people think of a playoff team. In the first year of their new co-op they dropped the first two games, but have played their tails off since then – winning five in a row. It’s been a good year, but a year of transition for the Nighthawks said Coach Mark Gemar.

“This group as a whole have worked very hard in the offseason,” Gemar said. “Most teams have been together their entire HS career; but we have put this together just this summer. These players are TEAM players. they are competitive and want to win. This attitude and focus carries over from intense practices over to Friday night.”

They have gotten an all-world performance from their senior quarterback Jace Faulkner who has lit the school record books up. He’s thrown for 1,325 YDs and 14 TDs while leading the team in rushing and tackling as well. This team is well-balanced on offense and defense and feel like they are just now hitting their stride.

TDAACDC stat leaders through seven games:

Passing:         Jace Faulkner (1325 YDs / 14 TDs)

Rushing:        1. Jace Faulkner (315 YDs / 9 TDs)

                        2. Micah Lau (282 YDs / 3 TDs)

                        3. Daaron Tronvold (188 YDs / 2 TDs)

Receiving:      1. Daaron Tronvold (742 YDs / 9 TDs)

                        2. Micah Lau (279 YDs / 3 TDs)

Tacklers:        1. Jace Faulkner (57 Total Tackles)

                        2. Cliff Johnson (52 Total Tackles)

                        3. Cade Gemar (48 Total Tackles)

                        4. Alex Maas (35 Total Tackles)

2. Bon Homme Cavaliers

Preseason Pick: 4-4 (#8 in Class 9AA)

Current Record: 6-1 (#3 in Class 9AA)

Each season I gather information from coaches across the state, Coach Byron Pudwill sent me his info with a note: “Here you go, straight from the 4-4 Cavaliers.” He was, of course, referring to my misguided prediction. I responded, “Hope you prove me wrong.”

Well Coach Pudwill and Cavs, you definitely proved me wrong. You have been among the best teams in the state this year. The Cavs have won each of their games this season, except against Wolsey-Wessington – a game they lost in double overtime. The Cavaliers haven’t missed a beat with Joey Slama at quarterback and their defense and blocking has been tremendous.

1. Hot Springs Bison

Preseason Pick: 1-8 (#14 in Class 11A)

Current Record: 5-2 (#5 in Class 11A)

I knew when I heard chirping from the fans and players of the Hot Springs Bison that I might have to worry about my 1-8 projection. But they were coming off of a 2-7 season – and I didn’t see a bounce back year, especially not like the one they’ve put together.

Morgan Harkless has thrown for 482 yards and 8 TDs while Andrew Wendland has rushed for 619 YDs and three scores to power the offense. But it’s the defense that has been surprising. Seniors Brand Baker and Kalub Wilson have been outstanding as the Bison have trimmed their points allowed per game average by almost 12 points this season, compared to last year.

They still have 11AA Douglas and Sturgis to close the season. They suffered losses to both of those teams last year and will try to keep their turnaround season even stronger by trying for wins in those games this year.

Click your division to see my preseason predictions:








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