Last year was an entertaining ride in Class A. Defending state champ Hillsboro-Central Valley was dominant all season and rolled to the Fargodome with blowout wins every single week. At the same time, a young Langdon-Edmore-Munich squad that had graduated some talented seniors off the team after losing to the Burros in the 2017 state championship was gaining experience and confidence every single week. Like the Burros, the Cardinals walked into the Dakota Bowl with an unblemished record. The two best teams all year went head to head and it came down to some defensive stops late by the Cardinals in a 20-18 victory. Fast forward to 2019, Langdon-Edmore-Munich returns 10 starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 12-0, and that’s why they’re an easy choice to repeat as state champs. The unknown is what makes this class intriguing, though. The new football plan pushed Hillsboro-Central Valley and a few others up to Class AA. Meanwhile, traditional 9-man powers Thompson, New Salem-GU and Shiloh Christian have joined the division – and seeing how they adjust to the 11-man game will be something to watch.
Let’s just say, I didn’t hesitate too much putting Langdon-Edmore-Munich as my clear-cut favorite to win Class A. It’s not often that you have a team that returns 10 starters on both sides of the ball after going 12-0 and winning a state championship the year prior. First team all-state quarterback Simon Romfo will lead the offense for a 2nd straight season and is just a junior. He’s just a scary player to defend with his scrambling ability and passing accuracy. He also has his triple threat of receivers back, which I’ll dive into more in the impact players section below. It’s not just offense for this team, either. The Cardinals were one of three teams in Class A last year to hold opponents under 10 points per game. Langdon-Edmore-Munich had a point differential of +33.8 last season, and there’s a good chance that number will be even bigger this fall.
There was a lot of pressure on Simon Romfo last year who was a sophomore trying to replace first team all-state quarterback Jacob Delvo who led the Cardinals to a Class A runner-up finish in 2017. Romfo must have ice water in his veins, because he took the reins of the offense and ran with it. He passed for 2,519 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 883 yards and 13 scores. On defense, Romfo racked up 49 tackles and intercepted 6 passes. Meanwhile, Simon’s twin brother Grant is the top returning tackler (71) and a force in the run and pass game. Grant piled up over 1,000 all-purpose yards last fall and combined for 18 touchdowns. Seniors Sean Gette (51 rec, 898 yds, 10 TD) and Jackson Delvo (39 rec, 759 yds, 9 TD) are the other two big weapons in the offense. Delvo also shared the team lead in interceptions with Simon Romfo at 6 apiece.
The 2018 Velva Aggies led off the season by winning their first seven games and outscoring teams by a combined margin of 340-39, including three shutouts. Veteran coach Larry Sandy watched his team flex its muscle, but ultimately fall short of its goal. The Aggies lost their final game of the regular season to region 3 rival Bishop Ryan 35-34 in overtime and were eliminated in the quarterfinal round by Bowman County. The Aggies graduated five players that played both ways, but the program has plenty of talent coming up through the ranks. This year, they’ll feature two seniors and a junior class that gained a lot of varsity experience a year ago. With a combination of great coaching, discipline defense and one of the state’s top running backs, I think Velva will run past a lot of teams on a deep postseason run this fall.
The ace of the Aggies is junior running back Gage Florence. The second team all-state selection rushed for 1,043 yards and 16 touchdowns last season while becoming one of the team’s defensive leaders, as well. Florence will be taking handoffs from his junior classmate Jersey Selzler once again. Selzler passed for over 1,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign. Adam Schepp is a player that you don’t want to challenge on defense. The junior DB/WR intercepted 6 passes on defense last year in addition to his 29 tackles.
Wait… isn’t Oakes a 9-man team? Not anymore. The experienced Tornadoes are back in 11-man and look poised to compete for a state championship immediately. Oakes went 10-2 last fall and was knocked out in the state semifinals by eventual 9-man state champion Thompson 38-7. The good news is that all but two players return for head coach Greg Dobitz. The Tornadoes have a big and experienced offensive line and plenty of playmakers to take advantage of what those big boys do best. If Oakes was still in 9-man, they’d be my #1 team. I could see the defense flourishing even more at the 11-man level because it’s an experienced group that is full of good tacklers that are used to bringing down playmakers in the open field. The Tornadoes aren’t tip-toeing into Class A either. They’ll open the season on the road at defending Class A - Region 4 champ, Bowman County.
This list could get pretty big for Oakes. Senior RB/LB Logan Sell (6’2”, 185 lbs) will be the tone-setter for the group coming off a big junior season. Sell rushed for over 1,500 yards and 18 scores last season, while making 75 tackles and forcing a trio of fumbles on defense. Garret Meehl returns at quarterback and defensive back. Meehl completed 79 of 129 passes last season for 1,300 yards and 23 TD. Like Sell, he excelled on defense too by racking up 59 tackles and intercepting two passes. Junior linebacker Marc Seyer is another defensive disrupter who made 88 tackles, 11 for loss, six sacks, and an interception in 2018. As I mentioned above, the Tornadoes also have a big advantage up front. Hunter Greenmyer, Gabe Quandt, Dalton Nelson and Ashton Biesterfeld all have a lot of experience playing varsity and should have the chemistry to push Oakes into state title contender status.
4. Bishop Ryan
The defending Class A – Region 3 champs look poised for another strong season and will battle Velva for the region crown, once again. Last year, Bishop Ryan edged the Aggies 35-35 in overtime to claim the region title. Head Coach Roger Coleman had to bid farewell to a talented senior class, but feels very confident with the group that he has back led by a class of nine seniors. Program stability has been a constant for the better part of the last decade for the Lions. They’ve won five region titles in the last seven seasons. The team will also co-op with Our Reedemer’s this year, which should add some more depth to the roster. Last season, Bishop Ryan took advantage of a weaker region (besides Velva) and ranked top four in both scoring offense and scoring defense. I think they’ll be right back in that mix again this fall.
Not a lot of teams in Class A have a 300-pound lineman ready to dominate games, but Bishop Ryan is the exception. Keegan Henjum enters his senior season ready to pave the way after being named 2nd team all-state as a junior. Logan Merck is another familiar name for the purple. Merck, a junior RB/LB, will hear his name called plenty by the PA announcer this season whether he’s taking handoffs or taking down the opposition from his linebacker position. Nick Sanders will likely be the one to replace departed senior Ben Bohl at quarterback. Sanders passed for a trio of touchdowns last season but was featured more on defense making 42 tackles and intercepting six passes en route to earning all-region honors.
5. Bowman County
I didn’t have Bowman County high on my list entering the 2018 season, but it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to grab my attention. Todd Frie’s team beat Trinity, one of my preseason favorites, 30-26 in week two of the regular season. The Bulldogs also beat Beulah in the final game of the regular season and Velva in the playoffs before losing to eventual state champ Langdon-Edmore-Munich 22-19 in the state semifinal round. I still don’t think people realize how great that Bowman County team was last year… I mean 10-1 with their only loss being a 3-point defeat at the hands of a perfect state champion. The Bulldogs proved last year that they have a program built to win shootouts or defensive showdowns. Their region will have a different look this season with perennial contender Beulah moving to Class AA and former 9-man powers Shiloh Christian and New Salem-GU joining the region. There’s no way I’m leaving Bowman County out of my top five this season. I’m not making that mistake two years in a row.
The Bulldogs return seven starters on offense including senior quarterback Jacob Svihovec, who was a 2nd team all-state selection his junior season. Svihovec (6’4”, 165 lbs) passed for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 400 yards combining to score 19 touchdowns. Nathan Boehm and Jaxson Fisher are a couple of all-region lineman that will be counted on to dominate the line of scrimmage again this season for the Bulldogs. Junior WR/DB Caleb Duffield is one of the top athletes on the squad. The 1st team all-region choice accounted for 427 receiving yards last fall and scored a trio of touchdowns.
The Bubble Teams
Thompson, Dickinson Trinity, Shiloh Christian
10 Players to Watch in Class A
- Jacob Svihovec, Bowman County
- Kelly Eggen, Nedrose
- Garret Meehl, Oakes
- Logan Sell, Oakes
- Simon Romfo, Langdon-E-M
- Grant Romfo, Langdon-E-M
- Jackson Delvo, Langon-E-M
- Gage Florence, Velva
- Jaden Mitzel, Shiloh Christian
- Seth Nelson, Carrington
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