VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) — Harrisburg broke a 22 year state title drought with an impressive win over Brandon Valley in the 11AAA State Championship.
Harrisburg suffered a loss to Brandon Valley in last year’s 11AAA State Championship. The Tigers used that as motivation, which helped lead them to this year’s state title game, in which they won, 27-0.
“Last year was a tight one at half and then we just couldn’t get it done. This group has been special from day one from last year at this time, 35-14,” Harrisburg head coach Brandon White said. “They were hungry. You can get rid of all the award and the stats, they don’t care about that. They were playing for the name on their front and that showed tonight.”
“I think a lot of it was last years state championship. I think the 35-14 game was a huge reminder throughout the whole season of where we could go with the program and I think we really took that to the next step by using that as fuel,” Harrisburg junior Gavin Ross said.
“That was our motivation all off season and then once we got to the season, we had it in the back of our mind, but we took it week by week and man, dream come true,” Harrisburg senior Jacob Knuth said.
The Tiger defense was stellar in the win as they held Brandon Valley to zero points, nine first downs and just 182 total yards.
“Our defense played lights out. At the start of the year, I think a lot of people slept on them and I think a lot of people had their doubts, but I think that games like this and games towards later in our season, they really showed off what they were able to do once they came together,” Ross said.
“I can’t give enough credit to our defensive staff. The coaching staff has been with me from the get go. We’ve added a few pieces here and there, but what a game plan,” White said. “They just had the guys playing extremely hard and extremely physical. We rallied to the football and that was definitely a win on the defensive side.”
Harrisburg’s offense was fueled by their ground game. The Tigers rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns, led by the game’s outstanding back, Gavin Ross, who ran for 224 yards himself.
“We knew we had to run the football tonight. They did a good job. That’s a great coaching staff and they were reading Jacob a lot. When he would pull the football to throw it, they would rally to the football and that’s just being well coached,” White said. “We knew we had to do some things earlier. Our staff talked going into halftime that we had to run the football.”
“It all goes out to the offensive line, everything starts with them,” Ross said. “They really got going, they had high motors throughout the game and they really got us a good push, so we could just do our thing and play our offense.”
Following the win, Harrisburg head coach Brandon White shared a moment with his quarterback Jacob Knuth, as the two celebrated their state championship win.
“With meetings and I’m the quarterbacks coach, he becomes my other son at home. I have two fortunate sons at home, but he became my son with meetings and text messaging back and forth about game plans and stuff,” White said. “When you build a relationship with somebody like that, that’s so solid and what he believes in and what we believe in is really special. We’re going to miss him, I know that, but he’s put this program in the right direction.”
“This program and my experience in Tiger football has been special and it’s something I’ll never forget and I love coach White,” Knuth said.
Knuth was named the Joe Robbie MVP of the game in his final game as a Tiger, making this the perfect ending to his high school career.
“This is it. High school football has come to an end and I wouldn’t trade any second of it for the world,” Knuth said. “Just going through this whole season, really since seventh grade with these seniors, it’s a special feeling.”
Harrisburg has now won five state championship in their school’s history.