Canton did what no other team was able to do in Class 11A last year: get through the playoffs playing consistently great football. There are a load of good teams in this class, but it’s going to take a consistent effort for the C-Hawks or any other contender to pull out a championship in this stocked class.
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Jandy's Preseason Top 5 for 11A Football
1. Dell Rapids
Last season, Dell Rapids went 9-0 in the regular season before exiting the playoffs to West Central. Four of those games were one-point wins, so Dell Rapids is confident in tight matchups.
The Quarriers are back with fire to get back to the top of 11A. Despite just three starters returning on offense and nine on defense, Dells has athletes ready to fill in. Colin Rentz is back at quarterback, but they also have Austin Henry available at QB too. Coby Maeschen could be the strongest player in the class and is back at fullback. They have some new linemen but have Zach Schreier up front to lead. Dells will need to find some big playmakers, but they definitely have the core and the depth to go a long way.
2. Tea Area
The Titans have earned their spot as a perennial power in this class. Last year, they worked in some new faces on offense, and that should benefit them this year. Austin Lake is back at quarterback with Garrett Kolbeck and Kaden Johnson, among others, who are set to make big plays. Watch out for Kade Schentzel, who could come into his own at receiver this year.
Defensively, the Titans have to replace some big-time tacklers, but they have two All-State caliber players up front in Luke Rettedal and Caden Ellingson. They also have Conner Mulder as a leader in the secondary. Look for Tea Area to get off to a great start.
It’s not often that a state champion returns a solid offensive line, their quarterback and an all-state linebacker and isn’t at preseason number one in my book, but the loss of Kayden Verley is such a gaping hole, it will be tough for the C-Hawks to get back in such a tough class.
They will have their share of playmakers however. Zach Richardson is the All-State linebacker returning. Zander Elling will be busting plays behind one of the top O-Lines in the class. Seth Peterson returns at QB and should bring more balance to the offensive attack this year with more opportunities to pass.
4. West Central
The Trojans had to adjust to a new coaching style last year, but the message was received loud and clear by the playoffs. West Central hit their peak when they knocked off previously unbeaten Dell Rapids, then lost by a single point to runner-up Lennox.
This year, they will be able to pick up where they left off. Justin Zirpel showed a lot of promise in multiple positions last year and is even stronger as a sophomore now. Ryan Healy and Derek Eidsness are legit playmakers and should take off this season. They get the luxury of running behind Josh Livermore and company on the line. If this team puts it together, their three-win season a year ago will be a faded memory.
The Bulldogs will be a dangerous team this year, with seven starters back on offense and five on defense. They have one of the best receivers in the state — Carter Bergheim — as the main threat on the outside, and Trey Smith at running back will bowl his way down the field next to Chris Reece who has an extra gear. Zach Whitlock leads a talented group on defense as well. Look for Nathan Ricke to pick up the tradition of fine quarterbacks at Madison. The junior has a live arm and is a confident player.
Coach Max Hodgen likes the qualities of this team. “We have a lot of young talent that is hungry to get back to playing sports," he said. "I also see great potential in those players to become great leaders.”
Dakota Valley - Six starters return from the 6-4 Panther team last year. Kobey June was a big play guy last year and should be a more consistent playmaker this year. They also get Chayce Montagne back from injury at quarterback, which should help their offensive consistency. DV will line up a huge front to run behind, and they have a quick defense too.
Lennox - Last season’s runners-up graduated a lot of key players, but they do have five starters back on offense and seven on defense. Coach Matthew Luze has some experience but still a very young team. "We will be young this year, so our young players need to play fast, learn from their mistakes, and work very hard to get better every day," he said.
Sioux Falls Christian - The second year under a new head coach usually goes better. Head Coach Jared Smith should see dividends with seven starters back. “Our biggest challenge in year two will be the continual clarity and understanding of our offense and defense so our kids can play faster," he said.
The offensive line is pretty much intact from last year, which will help that speed on offense. Isaiah Young, Carter VanDonge and Brooks Nelson will provide that speed. Going into camp, the Chargers have three guys competing for QB: juniors Brooks Nelson and Jayden Witte, as well as sophomore Tate Snyder.
Preseason 11A Player of the Year - Coby Maeschen, Dell Rapids
The 6’3”, 215-pound senior made a huge impact last year, and he’s ready to do the same this season. Division I college scouts see a strong, smart and versatile linebacker who will fit right in at the next level. Maeschen is an All-State linebacker but can also tote the ball and block as a fullback.
10 More Top Prospects in 11A
- Carter Bergheim, Madison
- Zach Brady, Vermillion
- Derek Eidsness, West Central
- Caden Ellingson, Tea Area
- Evan Foster, Dakota Valley
- Logan Goeders, Belle Fourche
- Kobey June, Dakota Valley
- Luke Rettedal, Tea Area
- Zach Richardson, Canton
- Cody Schultz, Dell Rapids