Playoff Picture: Breaking down the quarterfinal round of high school football playoffs

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Late October means playoff football! The quarterfinal round of the high school football playoffs is upon us as 28 games will be played on Thursday, October 28 across the state.

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Of the 28 games this week, there are quite a few really good contests and here’s a breakdown of every game:

CLASS 11AAA

Click the video player to see the 11AAA quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

There are certainly some storylines in 11AAA including two games that will stream on KELOLAND.com from Howard Wood Field, but we start with the top-seed in 11AAA.

#1 Harrisburg vs. #8 Rapid City Stevens

Harrisburg will host Rapid City Stevens in a rematch of their October 1 meeting in Rapid City. That game was all offense as the Tigers earned a 49-25 win. Harrisburg is scoring 44 points per game this season, while the Raiders are scoring 24 per contest. When you look at their one prior matchup, that nearly meets the team’s averages perfectly.

The Tigers are not just the favorite in this game, but they’re also the favorite in 11AAA in general. Their 43-14 win over #2 Brandon Valley certainly turned some heads.

For Harrisburg, they don’t have to change much in this contest. Expect the Tigers to rely on that offense that can score so quickly and put pressure on their opponents.

On the flip side, Rapid City Stevens will need to find a way to create some stops and turnovers on defense, while not turning the ball over on offense. Harrisburg turned five Brandon Valley turnovers into 27 points. Stevens will need to limit turnovers and then try to find a way to limit Harrisburg to under 35 points. It won’t be easy, but that’s what the Raiders will need to do if they’re looking to upset the top-seeded Tigers.

#2 Brandon Valley vs. #7 Jefferson

Both Brandon Valley and Jefferson are coming off tough losses in week ten, but a playoff win would be the perfect way to rebound.

Brandon Valley’s turnovers were foreign for what we’re used to seeing from the Lynx. They are a team that likes to stay ahead of the chains and rely on their defense, but when you make turnovers and the defense is on the field a long time, that script can turn south quickly… that’s what happened last week. Coach Christensen and the Lynx will turn the page and learn from this loss. The first thing is continuing to expand what sophomore quarterback, Jack Thue, has been able to do. He showed some flashes of what the Lynx need.

Jefferson however, has battled through some injuries, but the most recent injury to quarterback Taylen Ashley, could be the breaking point. The Cavaliers have to go on the road, to face the top scoring defense in 11AAA and it appears without their QB. Ashley was injured against O’Gorman and was later spotted on crutches. When healthy, he’s one of the state’s best quarterbacks, however without him, it would leave a lot of questions around the offense.

#3 O’Gorman vs. #6 Roosevelt

It’s a Dakota Bowl rematch as Roosevelt will host O’Gorman in the first of two games that will stream on KELOLAND.com!

This year’s Dakota Bowl was the longest in the history of the game as it was rescheduled from Saturday to Monday. The first half was played and then the game was postponed to Tuesday where the second half was finally played.

Fast forward to the playoffs and the two teams enter as some of the hottest teams in 11AAA. The Knights started just 1-4, but have rattled off four straight wins to close out the season with a 5-4 overall record. Roosevelt had a rough start to the season as well. The Rough Riders lost their first three contests, but turned it around by winning five of their final six games of the season.

Thursday’s game will be a battle of seconds… as in Roosevelt’s second-best scoring offense (35.7 PPG) in 11AAA vs. O’Gorman’s second-best scoring defense (15.2 PPG).

Both teams have been a work in progress over the course of the season, as both teams lost talented seniors classes last year. However, that work appears to have paid off as they prepare for Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup.

Kick-off between the Rough Riders and Knights is set for 4 p.m. from Howard Wood Field. Pregame coverage will begin at 3:50 on Thursday.

#4 Washington vs. #5 Lincoln

The final 11AAA quarterfinal will feature a rematch of one of the most exciting finishes in the history of the high school football playoffs… and just like last year, the game will stream on KELOLAND.com!

A year ago, COVID-19 created some schedule changes and that meant the Warriors and Patriots met twice in the regular season. Well, as luck would have it, the two teams would meet yet again in the 11AAA quarterfinals and it appeared there would be overtime, until Tommy Thompson found Luke Smith on a game-winning touchdown.

Fast forward 364 days and it’s a rematch in this year’s quarterfinals! After starting 2-1, the Warriors suffered losses in three of their next four games, including narrow losses to #1 Harrisburg, #2 Brandon Valley and #3 Roosevelt. However, Washington earned the 34-24 win over Lincoln last week to grab the fourth seed in playoffs.

The Patriots got off to a 5-2 start with their lone losses coming to Harrisburg and Brandon Valley, each by just one possession. However, their loss to Roosevelt and Washington dropped them to 5-4, which pushed them back to fifth in the standings.

Last week’s game saw 58 combined points, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see even less this week. The Patriots and Warriors each have solid defenses and I think they’ll show up this week.

The two teams are quite similar on offense. They both want to create balance on offense, especially through the ground via Washington’s Elijah and Blessing Taniah and Lincoln’s Angel Jurshge. The ground game will open up the passing attack and that’s how both teams want to work.

Washington’s fast start was hard to overcome for Lincoln last week. They eventually tied the game at 17, but were outscored 17-7 over the rest of the contest. I think the start of the game will be key. Whichever team can jump out early will have the upper hand.


CLASS 11AA

Click the video player to see the 11AA quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Tea Area vs. #8 Sturgis Brown

I’m not sure if there is any better word than dominant when describing the regular season for Tea Area. They scored nearly 45 points per game and cruised to an undefeated, 9-0 season. They won by an average of 34 points per game.

The Titans will host Sturgis Brown in the first round of the playoffs. The Scoopers have shown some flashes on both sides of the ball, but they’ll need to find a way to slow the run on Thursday. The Titans run the ball as well as any team in the state and if they can run effectively, their offense will score 30-40 points.

The two teams met early in the season as Tea hosted Sturgis on September 3 and the Titans cruised to a 52-0 win.

#2 Brookings vs. #7 Aberdeen Central

What a week ten win for Brookings! The Bobcats earned a 21-14 win over Pierre to grab the second seed in the 11AA playoffs.

Thanks to the reclassification change in high school football, we get to see another chapter of the Brookings vs. Aberdeen Central rivalry. These two teams always have fun games, no matter which sport it is, but come Thursday, it’ll be a quarterfinal football matchup.

The two teams met back on September 17. The Bobcats earned the impressive 30-7 win over the Golden Eagles.

The big key in that win was Brookings’ defense. They own the second-best scoring defense in 11AA and they found a way to slow down an Aberdeen Central offense that is scoring nearly 24 points per game.

The Golden Eagles’ offense went through a dry spell and that Brookings game was part of it. In a three-game stretch, Aberdeen Central scored just 21 points in losses to Brookings, Huron and Watertown. However, they seem to be on a better pace in their last three contests as they’ve scored 69 points in losses to Tea Area, Pierre and Roosevelt.

If Aberdeen Central can keep that momentum and find a way to slow down the Bobcat offense, the Golden Eagles could play spoiler in Brookings.

#3 Pierre vs. #6 Watertown

It comes as no surprise that the Governors own the second-best scoring offense in 11AA at 35.8 points per game. Pierre always seems to have a talented QB and WR duo and this year is no exception. The combination of Lincoln Kienholz and Jack Merkwan has been lethal to opposing defenses.

Kienholz has thrown for 2,567 yards and 32 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 812 yards and eight more scores. 14 of those touchdown passes have gone the way of junior, Jack Mekwan who has 39 catches for 1,020 yards.

However, their opponent can score in bunches as well. Drew Norberg has been impressive at quarterback for Watertown and when he’s paired with one of the state’s top receivers in Cole Holden.

These two teams met just three weeks ago and in that game… there was 94 total points! I don’t expect that many points in this week’s quarterfinals game, however with these two offenses, anything is possible.

#4 Yankton vs. #5 Mitchell

Yankton and Mitchell have had two interesting paths to their 4 vs. 5 quarterfinal matchup. Yankton started 2-3 this season, but finished the year by winning three of their final four contests.

Mitchell on the other hand opened the year with a 28-7 win over Spearfish… however they followed that up with six straight losses. However, wins over Watertown and Huron has given them momentum to close out the season.

The Kernels’ defense has been key in the last two games as they’ve allowed just 33 points in their last two wins. However, that defense will be put to the test. The Bucks are scoring nearly 34 points per game this season, that’s third-best in 11AA.

The two teams met back on October 1 and it was all Yankton. The Bucks earned a 45-0 win over Mitchell.


CLASS 11A

Click the video player to see the 11A quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Madison vs. #8 Sioux Falls Christian

Harrisburg and Tea Area have been very impressive in their respective classes as they finished the year undefeated, but the performance from Madison in 11A has been nothing short of pure dominance.

The Bulldogs are 9-0 and they are earning those wins by an average of 25 points per game. Their defense is allowing just 8.8 points per contest and that has been what has led them so far this year.

Sioux Falls Christian is 4-5 on the season and they’re looking to play spoiler. Their defense is allowing 21 points per game and that’ll need to improve if they want to earn that upset win. Madison’s defense doesn’t allow many points and so if Sioux Falls Christian wants the win, they’ll need to find a way to keep the Bulldog offense in check.

The two teams are quite familiar with each other as they crossed paths last week. The Chargers jumped out to an early 12-7 lead, but Madison scored the final 33 points on their way to a 40-12 victory.

#2 Canton vs. #7 Milbank

It’ll be Canton vs. Milbank in the 2 vs. 7 contest in 11A and that game will feature two of the top defenses in the class.

Milbank owns the second-best scoring defense in 11A at 13.1 points per game, while Canton has the third best scoring defense at 13.6 points per contest.

Those stats alone would indicate that Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup could see very few points on the scoreboard. I think a strong start could lead to a win. Points will be limited, so whichever team can get a strong start, should have the upper hand.

The C-Hawks and Bulldogs have not crossed paths this season.

#3 Vermillion vs. #6 Tri-Valley

There must be something with strong defenses in 11A, because the Vermillion vs. Tri-Valley contest will feature another group of talented defenses.

Both teams are allowing 19 points or less per game and that certainly indicates a potentially low-scoring game.

Tri-Valley has won four of their last six games this season and the key in that stretch was their defense. The Mustangs allowed just 27 points in those four wins.

After starting 2-2, Vermillion has won four of their last five games, but their lone loss in that stretch was to their quarterfinal opponent, Tri-Valley.

The Mustangs earned a narrow 20-13 win over the Tanagers on October 15. That game was played in Vermillion.

#4 Dell Rapids vs. #5 West Central

It’ll be Dell Rapids meeting West Central in the 11A quarterfinals. Does that sound familiar? It certainly should as the Quarriers and Trojans will meet for the third straight year in the quarterfinals.

The Quarriers were the top seed in 11A in 2019 as they entered the postseason with an undefeated record. However, West Central came to town and upset the top-seeded Quarriers 16-13.

A year later, it was West Central who was the higher seed and yet again, it was the Trojans walking away with the victory, 16-14.

Now the two will meet yet again in the quarterfinals, however, this year’s matchup has a couple of differences from the past two years.

The first difference is with the head coach for West Central. Chris Hernandez is the new coach for the Trojans this season.

The second and biggest difference is that the two teams have not met this season. In 2019, the Quarriers earned a 14-0 win. Two weeks later they suffered their loss to West Central. Then in 2020, the Trojans crushed the Quarriers 34-0 and two weeks later, West Central earned the playoff win, 16-14.

Despite being just 30 minutes apart, the two teams didn’t cross paths this season, which means film study will be key.

The matchup that everyone should look forward to has to be the Quarriers’ third-best scoring offense against West Central’s fourth-best scoring defense.


CLASS 11B

Click the video player to see the 11B quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Winner vs. #9 McCook Central/Montrose

Madison’s dominance in 11A is impressive, but Winner’s excellence in 11B maybe even more impressive.

The Warriors are 8-0 and their closest game was a 28-8 win over Mount Vernon/Plankinton who has already been eliminated from playoff contention.

Winner is beating their opponents by an average of 45 points per game. That’s even more impressive when you consider they’ve played five teams that made the playoffs.

Now the high-powered Winner offense, which is scoring 51 points per game, will meet the talented defense from McCook Central/Montrose.

The Cougars played four playoff opponents during the regular season and allowed just 15.6 points per contest. That defense will be tested as they look to play spoiler against defending state champion Winner.

#2 Sioux Valley vs. #7 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan

The Seahawks and Cossacks met back on August 20 and it was Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan earning the narrow 20-16 win.

The Seahawks would run with that early season momentum getting off to a 4-1 start, however, they closed the regular season with three losses, dropping them to the seven seed. B-E/E powered past Hot Springs 48-6 in the first round, setting up their rematch with Sioux Valley.

The Cossacks suffered that loss in week one and haven’t looked back. They’ve now won eight straight contests including their 54-20 rout of Deuel in the first round of the playoffs.

The Seahawks have reached four straight 11B state championships, but the second-seeded Cossacks will look to put an end to that streak and reach their second consecutive state semifinals.

#14 Beresford vs. #5 Aberdeen Roncalli

Fourteenth-seeded Beresford needed a game-winning, 24-yard touchdown to upset Mount Vernon/Plankinton and reach the quarterfinals.

Now the Watchdogs will travel north for a meeting with Aberdeen Roncalli.

Thursday’s game should be a defensive showdown as both teams are allowing just 14 points per game.

Roncalli has won three of their last four, while Beresford has won four of their past five.

Both teams are coming into the quarterfinals with some momentum, so it’ll be fun to see which team can use that momentum to carry them to the semifinals.

#13 Wagner vs. #5 Elk Point-Jefferson

The final 11B matchup features Elk Point-Jefferson and Wagner.

The Red Raiders marched into the quarterfinals with an upset win over one of the top teams in the state, Groton Area,

The Huskies own the second-best scoring offense in the state at 41 points per contest and that could give Wagner some problems.

The Red Raiders are allowing 22 points per game defensively, but they’ve relied on their offense which is scoring nearly 28 points per game. If Wagner’s defense can find a way to slow down the Huskies’ offense, then the Red Raiders should have a shot.

Wagner is a team to watch. They found a way to score 28 points against a talented Groton Area defense and they’ve got momentum.


CLASS 9AA

Click the video player to see the 9AA quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Hanson vs. #9 Platte-Geddes

It’ll be the 9AA top-seed Hanson, facing off against the defending state champions, Platte-Geddes.

The Black Panthers cruised to an upset win over eighth-seeded Chester in the first round of the playoffs, 35-12.

Hanson also picked up a big first-round win as they put up an impressive seventy points on Elkton-Lake Benton, in a 70-22 victory.

The two teams have not played each other this season, however, they did meet a year ago in the same spot.

In 2020, fourth-seeded Platte-Geddes earned a 17-8 win over Hanson to eliminate the Beavers in the quarterfinals.

This one could be a defensive battle as both teams are allowing 15 points or less per game to their opponents. This means a fast start could be the difference.

#2 Parkston vs. #10 Garretson

Garretson and Parkston is a fun game that everyone will want to keep their eyes on.

#2 Parkston earned a narrow 20-15 win over #15 Bon Homme in the first round of the playoffs, while #10 Garretson earned the 28-7, upset win over Hamlin.

The Blue Dragons are a team that are much better than their tenth seed would indicate and they proved that in the first round of the playoffs.

Garretson went 4-4 this season, but they played five teams that reached the playoffs, including Parkston. The Blue Dragons handed Parkston one of their two losses this season with a 35-20 win, back on September 3.

That must have been a spark for the Trojans, because they have rattled off five straight wins, with all of them coming against opponents that would make the playoffs. (Platte-Geddes, Gregory, Bon Homme, Kimball/White lake, Wolsey-Wessington and Bon Homme- Playoffs)

Both teams have a high-powered offense as they are each scoring more than 34 points per contest, but can the Blue Dragon offense repeat what they did in September.

Garretson was able to score 35 against Parkston’s ninth-best scoring offense in 9AA (18.3 PPG). If Garretson can find that success, they’ll give Parkston some trouble.

#3 Ipswich vs. #11 Canistota/Freeman

Canistota/Freeman has won three straight 9A state championships, but if they want to win a 9AA state championship, they’ll need to upset Ipswich in the quarterfinals.

That task won’t be easy as Ipswich owns the state’s top-scoring offense at 42.9 points per game and the third-best scoring defense at 9.6 points per contest.

Canistota/Freeman finished the season 4-4, suffering losses to Platte-Geddes, Howard, Chester Area and Hanson. Three of those four teams are in the quarterfinal round.

The Pride has allowed 27.6 points per game defensively, but they just seem to find a different level come playoff time. We saw that when they held the potent Florence/Henry offense (39.1 PPG) to just 20 points.

Both teams reached the 9A quarterfinals a year ago, but it was the Pride that went on to win the 9A title. They both had to move up to 9AA, but that hasn’t slowed either team down as they back in the quarterfinal round.

#4 Lyman vs. #5 Timber Lake

Neither Lyman nor Timber Lake have reached the dome since the 1990s. Lyman and Timber Lake both reached the playoffs a year ago, however, Timber Lake was eliminated in the first round and Lyman in the quarterfinals. Now both teams have been moved to 9AA and one of them is hoping to reach the semifinals.

This game is almost impossible to predict what type of game it will be. Lyman owns the state’s top-scoring defense as they’re allowing just 8 points per game, but Timber Lake is right on their heels. The Panthers own the state’s second-best scoring defense at 8.7 points per contest.

So it’ll be a defensive contest right? Probably not.

Lyman owns the state’s second-best scoring offense (41.8 PPG) while Timber Lake owns the state’s third-best scoring offense (41.6 PPG).

It’ll be a battle of high-powered West River teams when the Raiders and Panthers cross paths Thursday… and it should be a fun one to watch!


CLASS 9A

Click the video player to see the 9A quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Herreid/Selby Area vs. #9 Castlewood

The top seed Herreid/Selby Area is looking to get back to the semifinals, but they’ll meet a tough Castlewood team first.

The Wolverines reached the 9B semifinals last year, but came up short of the dome following a 20-14 loss to Wolsey-Wessington. Herreid/Selby Area did reach the 9B state title game in 2019.

Castlewood picked up the only upset in Class 9A as they earned a 42-20 win over Kadoka Area. The Warriors strong offensive showing against Kadoka Area was no surprise as they are scoring nearly 31 points per contest, but they’ll need all of that come Thursday.

Top-seeded Herreid/Selby Area is 10-0 this season and they’ve been crushing their opponents, by an average of 40 points per game. The Wolverines own the state’s top-scoring offense (53.2 PPG) and fifth-best scoring defense.

Castlewood’s offense has been impressive, but they’ll need to find a way to slow down the Wolverines or score with them on Thursday.

#2 Howard vs. #7 Wolsey-Wessington

Second-seeded Howard has been just as impressive as any other team in 9A, especially considering they played five playoff teams in the regular season.

This game has the makings to be a shootout as the Tigers are scoring more than 43 points per game, while Wolsey-Wessington is scoring nearly 40 per contest.

However, there is one outlier in that theory, the Howard defense. The Tigers own the third-best scoring defense in 9A as they’re somehow allowing just 9.9 points per game, despite playing a loaded schedule.

Can the Wolsey-Wessington defense step up? They’ve shown some strong flashes and they’re only allowing 18 points per game, but they’ll need to play their best football if they want to play spoiler Thursday.

#3 Wall vs. #6 Gregory

Wall and Gregory are back in the quarterfinals. Gregory was eliminated in the first round of the 9A playoffs last year, while Wall is seeking a return trip to the semifinals.

Wall suffered a 26-0 loss to Warner in last year’s semifinals.

The Eagles are another one of those teams that has just dominated in 9A. They went 9-0 and averaged 38 point wins this season. Wall owns the third-best scoring offense (45.8 PPG) and the second-best scoring defense (7.6 PPG) in the class.

Gregory on the other hand, had to work their way to a 6-3 schedule as they relied on a defense that allowed just 16 points per game.

That defense will have its’ hands full on Thursday as they try to slow down the explosive offense from Wall, led by sophomore quarterback, Burk Blasius.

The two teams have met this season as Wall earned a narrow 19-6 win back in week one.

#4 De Smet vs. #5 Warner

It’ll be De Smet against the defending 9A runner-up, Warner in the 4 vs. 5 matchup.

De Smet is 9-0 on the season, following their 62-12 win over Britton-Hecla in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulldogs have powered through their opponents this season as they are scoring nearly 50 points per contest, while allowing just 6 points to their opponent.

Warner is 6-3 this season and have won their last four games including a 54-0 win over Phillip in the first round of the playoffs. Like several other seasons, Warner’s go-to has been their defense this season. They’re allowing just 13 points per game this season.

The two teams will meet for the first time this season.


CLASS 9B

Click the video player to see the 9B quarterfinals preview from SportsZone Saturday

#1 Avon vs. #8 Alcester-Hudson

Top-seeded Avon appears to be the favorite in 9B, but they’ll have to make their way through Alcester-Hudson in the quarterfinals first.

Both the Cubs and Pirates have relied on their talented offenses this season. Alcester-Hudson is scoring 34 points per contest, but they’ll need a few more points if they want to hang with Avon’s top-scoring offense (53.1 PPG).

Avon powered past Avon 60-24 back on September 10. However, the Cubs have been impressive since then.

Alcester-Hudson has rattled off five straight wins since starting 0-3. In that stretch, they’ve put up a lot of points with 46 points per game.

It could be a shootout on Thursday in Avon.

#2 Faulkton Area vs. #7 Harding County

From a potential shootout in Avon to a potential defensive game in Faulkton.

The Ranchers and Trojans are each allowing 15 points or less per game this season. Both teams have had no problem scoring as well as they are both scoring 37 points per game.

Playoff games usually are led by defense, but that isn’t always true.

Faulkton Area has won six of their last seven games, including their 52-0 win over Colome in the first round of the playoffs.

On the other side, Harding County/Bison has won three straight games. That includes their 26-12 win over New Underwood in the playoffs.

The two teams have not met this season.

#3 Potter County vs. #6 Hitchcock-Tulare

It’ll be a rematch of their week four matchup as Potter County hosts Hitchcock-Tulare.

The Battlers and Patriots crossed paths back on September 10 and 82 points were scored. However, Potter County came out on top, 44-38.

These two offenses have been stellar all season long and I don’t think that will change on Thursday.

Potter County has scored 102 points in their last two games with wins over Sully Buttes and then Jones County in the first round of the playoffs.

On the other side, the Patriots have won four of their last five games and they’ve scored an impressive 44.8 points per game in that stretch.

Their lone loss in that stretch, a 30-28 loss to #1 Avon.

This will be a fun game to follow and there sure could be a lot of points.

#4 Gayville-Volin vs. #5 Dell Rapids St. Mary

Gayville-Volin took down preseason number 1 Dell Rapids St. Mary in the opening week and looked impressive while doing so.

The Raiders started the season off with three straight wins before a four-point setback to Avon.

Gayville-Volin also dropped its regular-season finale, a 40-34 loss to Burke but returned to form in the quarterfinals with a 22 point win over Langford Area.

Dell Rapids St. Mary is starting to find its form. The Cardinals dropped two of their first three games to the Raiders and Avon, but have since won four of their last five games, with that lone loss coming to De Smet.

The Cardinals defense has played a big part giving up just 48 points in their last five games with 34 of those coming against De Smet. Can they slow down a Raiders offense that’s averaged nearly 42 points per game this season? That will be the key in this matchup.

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