Here's my take on South Dakota's Class 11A for 2019. For comments, suggestions, and the official Media Rankings, go to my Twitter account. Tune in to Varsity Sports Live Friday nights at 10:30 starting next week for live high school football updates.
After an 8-2 season last year, the Bulldogs are ready to pick up where they left off with six starters back on offense and three on defense. Head Coach Max Hodgen likes his returning experience and has shown when he has talent coming back, they usually take care of business.
It’s become tradition in Madison to have a potent quarterback, and that’s exactly what Madison has again. Tyler Tappe surprised most people by overachieving as a junior with nearly 2000 yards passing and 18 TD strikes. He has grown even more, and should be primed to have one of the best seasons in the class. Not many can lace up two receivers as talented as Mason Avery and Jacob Unterbrunner on any team in the state. The two put up nearly identical receiving numbers last year, each catching over 40 passes and averaging over 13 yards per catch. Carter Bergheim gives the Bulldogs another big time playmaker at receiver this year. Daniel Swenson leads a solid defense at DE. He wrangled 5.5 sacks and 80 tackles last year.
The Madison team is filled with senior talent and leadership this year. They have the best overall passing attack in the class. If they find a ground game to balance the offense with Chris Reece or another back, the Bulldogs will be hard to stop.
2. Dakota Valley
The Panthers have one of the deepest senior classes in school history. They come off of a 9-2 season where they rode Nate Rice at quarterback with a young group. This season, Jeff Van Den Hul has four starters back, but he’s confident that he’s got the firepower they need to be a contender.
Tadd Green will be a leader on both sides of the ball for the Panthers. He is an athletic fullback and defensive end who creates mismatches. Dakota Valley has experience on both sides of the line but will look for some help at the skill positions from Eric Johnson, Kobey June, Quinton Dickey and Chayce Montagne in the backfield. Nathan Favors and Trey Bowen are competing at quarterback. Zion Robinson has added size and athleticism and could be one of the top linebackers around.
You may not have heard of many of these Panthers – but you will. Dakota Valley has put out some great athletes in recent years, and this year looks to put out even more. “I really like our depth along the offensive and defensive lines. We have a large group of kids that like playing the game of football and truly enjoy being together and working hard. They are a joy to be around and can’t wait to get started,” said Coach VanDenHul.
The C-Hawks move up a class after last season’s surprising record with a bunch of talented juniors leading the way. Rich Lundstrom wants to keep the momentum moving forward after a 10-1 campaign last year with a ton of impressive wins.
There may be no bigger impact player than Kayden Verley. Kayden is a unique player. “The past two years Kayden has been our best player at whichever position we put him. He literally does not come off the field,” said Head Coach Rich Lundstrom. “I think he could play college football at eight different positions.” He’s not the only talented returning player for the Hawks. Shaeden Scheidt is a power runner and has a big line to run behind.
Last year Canton snuck up on the class, this year there will also be doubters because they’re up a class. But I believe that Kayden Verley and company can play with anyone in Class 11A.
4. Tea Area
The defending champs lost a lot of playmakers: Hunter West, Carter Slykhuis, Wyatt Van Tol, Cade Clayberg, Trevor Cox and a host of linemen have all moved on. But the tradition of Tea Area football continues to build. Head Coach Craig Clayberg has eight players with starting experience back, and will try to build enough depth to have different offensive starters and defensive starters again this year.
Caden Ellingson transferred from Beresford to join the Tea Area defense and should pick up and be a leader right away. PJ Parmalee, Haidyn DeJean and Hudson DeJean also build a solid front seven for the Titans. Luke Elkins returns at fullback and Austin Lake should fill in at starting quarterback to get the offense going. The Titans will have to develop some receivers to help Lake make an impact this year.
The Titans have the biggest senior class they’ve had in school history. They’ll try to use that to build depth and talent across the field. It will be tough to repeat in an ultra-tough Class 11A, but they will be among the best once again.
5. Dell Rapids
The Quarriers have seven starters back on offense and eight on defense as they try to build on what I think was a successful season last year. Head Coach Jordan Huska thinks this year’s group will be much more experienced compared to last season: “We have more experience coming back than we did a year ago at this time. We have a group of guys working hard and excited about their opportunities.”
The offense will have three starting linemen back and some speed to make plays behind them. Logan Stone, Tyler Wood and Logan Ellingson can all break big plays for Dells. On defense, Drew Van Regenmorter and Cody Schultz are two outstanding linemen, and Coby Maeschen leads a big group of linebackers. The Quarriers have junior Colin Rentz and sophomore Austin Henry competing at quarterback. Coach Huska wants to see how fall camp ends before naming a starter.
The Quarriers had a down year and still finished over .500. Now that Coach Huska has a year of experience under his belt at head coach and has a deep group of players competing for playing time, Dell Rapids should be back toward the top of the class.
Others to Watch
The Trojans will be right on the cusp of being ranked. Head Coach Vince Benedetto moves from an assistant at Roosevelt and takes over for longtime Head Coach Kent Mueller. There are six starters back on offense and four on defense for West Central. The strength of this team is up front where Josh Livermore, along with seniors Connor Swanson and Truman Dick, give West Central an advantage. Cooper Maras and Caden Farmer are solid linebackers on D. “We have lots of young talented players that need to prove themselves on the football field. If they improve throughout the year we will be competitive in our class,” said Benedetto.
Sioux Falls Christian
Another Sioux Falls assistant takes over as a head coach in 11A. Jarrod Smith coached at Roosevelt and Lincoln and now takes over for two-time defending champions from Sioux Falls Christian after Jake Pettengill stepped down. There’s no doubt that the talent pool isn’t what it was, but there is a lot of potential in this group. Zach Witte has established himself as one of the top tight ends in the class. The Chargers may struggle out of the gate but could be among the best by year’s end.
Top 11 Players in Class 11A
- Kayden Verley, Canton
- Tyler Tappe, Madison
- Caden Ellingson, Tea Area
- Zach Witte, SF Christian
- Tadd Green, Dakota Valley
- Jacob Unterbrunner, Madison
- Mason Avery, Madison
- Caleb Metcalf, Lennox
- Logan Ellingson, Dell Rapids
- PJ Parmalee, Tea Area
- Kelby Olson, Belle Fourche
Others to Watch
- Truman Dick, West Central
- Jack Kratz, Vermillion
- Kaden Krause, Milbank
- Tyler Lundborg, West Central
- Coby Maeschen, Dells
- Cooper Maras, West Central
- Ashaun Roach-Valandra, Todd County
- Zion Robinson, Dakota Valley
- Connor Swanson, West Central
- Daniel Swenson, Madison
- Lancer White Feather, Todd County