Title time: Breaking down the seven state championships

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 12 weeks down and just one to go. The high school football season wraps up this weekend with seven state championships being played in the DakotaDome.

There are a lot of intriguing matchups in this year’s state championships including two rematches from last season. Plus six of the seven state champions make a return trip to Vermillion, along with three state runner-ups.

The 9-man games are first this year as they’ll be played on Thursday, November 11. 11B, 11A and 11AA will play on Friday, November 12 with the 11AAA game on Nov. 13.

CLASS 9B – Thursday, November 11 @ 10 a.m.

The defending 9B state runner-up will appear in this year’s state title game as Dell Rapids St. Mary stunned top-seeded Avon, 32-30. The Cardinals came up with a stop at the two yard line on the final play of the game.

Potter County made the trip to Faulkton Area and they upset the second-seeded Trojans, 22-12.

Dell Rapids St. Mary reached the dome a season ago, but suffered a loss to Wolsey-Wessington. They have now finished runner-up three times, but they are still looking for their first ever state championship.

The Battlers have reached the DakotaDome one time and that was in 2013. They claimed the 9A state championship that year with a 60-22 win over Leola/Frederick.

Potter County owns the fourth best scoring offense in 9B as they are posting 40 points per game, and that number has stayed consistent in the postseason. The Battlers are posting 40.67 points per contest in their three postseason contests.

Dell Rapids St. Mary on the other hand has relied on their talented defense that is allowing just 19 points a contest, which is fifth best in the class.

The Cardinals have allowed just 52 points in their three playoff contests. That is actually lower than their season average as they’re allowing 17 points per playoff contest. Two of those three playoff games came against Avon (top scoring offense) and Gayville-Volin (fourth best scoring offense).

The most impressive part for St. Mary has been the significant offensive improvement in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Cardinals were scoring just 31 points per game, eighth best in the class. However, they’ve added a whole touchdown to that average as they are scoring 38 points per game in their three postseason games.

The Cardinals aren’t the only team to see a significant improvement on one side of the ball. Potter County was allowing 17.6 points per game defensively during the regular season, but they’ve turned up the pressure. They’ve allowed just 26 points in their playoff contests (8.67 points per game).

Both teams are red hot as they enter the state championship, which means this year’s 9B state championship could be a fun one!

CLASS 9AA – Thursday, November 11 @ 1 p.m.

9A is one of just two classes that will not feature a defending state champion or state runner-up. However, it will feature two very talented teams!

Herreid/Selby Area picked up a narrow 16-14 win over De Smet. The Wolverines were able to outlast the Bulldogs to stay unbeaten and advance to the state championship.

Howard and Wall withstood a 50 minute power delay as a power line was hit in town, causing a power outage at the football field.

After that break, the Eagles and Tigers battled it out, but it was ultimately Howard who hung on to the narrow 21-17 win.

Both the Tigers and Wolverines have cruised past their competition this season. The two teams are both undefeated and averaging wins of more than 30 points per contest.

Top-seeded Herreid/Selby Area is scoring nearly 50 points per contest, which is the best in 9A. The Wolverines have rushed for 3,181 yards this season and they feature two one-thousand yard rushers.

Brenden Begeman has rushed for 1,720 yards, while Trey Sayler has gone for 1,110 yards. The duo has combined for 37 touchdowns.

The defensive side of the ball is where the Wolverines have been impressive this postseason. They’re allowing just 17 points per game is their three playoff contests, including a fourteen point performance against fourth-seeded De Smet.

The Wolverines reached the state championship in 2019, but lost to Colman-Egan. Then in 2020, they suffered a narrow semifinal loss to the eventual state champion, Wolsey-Wessington.

Howard also suffered a narrow semifinal loss a year ago as they fell 12-7 to eventual state champion Canistota/Freeman.

Despite playing a loaded schedule, Howard owns the third best scoring defense in 9A at 10 points per contest.

That defense has been just a step better in the postseason as they’ve allowed just 29 points in their three playoff contests. That’s just 9.67 points per contest.

The Tigers have been solid on the offensive side as well as they own the fourth best scoring offense at 41.7 points per game.

Thursday’s game could see a lot of points or it could see few points. With two of the top offenses and two of the top defense on the field, it’s anyone’s guess what type of game it will be.

CLASS 9AA – Thursday, November 11 @ 7:30 p.m.

In 9AA, it’ll be a battle of defending state champions as 9AA state champion Platte-Geddes meets 9A defending champ Canistota/Freeman.

Platte-Geddes advanced to the state championship with upset wins over #8 Chester Area, #1 Hanson and #5 Timber Lake.

Canistota/Freeman took a similar path. The Pride earned upset wins over #6 Florence/Henry, #3 Ipswich and #2 Parkston. Canistota/Freeman is the three time defending 9A state champions, but they moved up to 9AA this season with the new classification rules.

Both teams are battle tested as they get ready to meet for the 9AA state championship.

Platte-Geddes’ defense has been stellar this season, allowing just 14 points per contest. That defense allowed 18 points per game in the postseason, but that came against three talented offenses in Chester Area, Hanson and Timber Lake.

The Black Panther offense has been steady through the postseason, scoring 28 points per contest. They’ll look to continue that success, but it won’t be easy as they’ll meet a Canistota/Freeman defense that is rolling.

The Pride has allowed just 40 points (13.3 PPG) in their three playoff contests and that has come against the strong offenses of Florence/Henry, Ipswich and Parkston. Defense is a common trait for most Canistota/Freeman teams as they always seem to play strong defense in the postseason.

The offensive production has been a balanced attack for the Pride this season.

Quarterback Tage Ortman threw for 1,828 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for 171 yards and five more scores.

Isiah Robertson and Noah Kleinsasser have led the rushing attack. The duo has combined for 1,410 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.

The two teams met once already this season, though it came all the way back on August 20.

The Black Panthers picked up the narrow 16-8 win over Canistota/Freeman.

With both defenses playing some really good football, I’d expect this game to be a low scoring affair. The first to 20 points could be the winner.

CLASS 11B – Friday, November 12 @ 10 a.m.

The 11B state championship is a rematch of last year’s title match as Winner is set to play Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan.

The Warriors claimed the title a year ago, 18-14 as Winner was able to stop Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan’s last second touchdown drive.

Winner advanced to the state title game with an impressive 52-14 win over Elk Point-Jefferson.

The Seahawks on the other hand picked up a narrow win. They put an end to Beresford’s cinderella run, 28-21.

Winner has been near flawless the entire season. They own an undefeated record and have powered past their opponents by an average of 43 points per contest.

Their defense has been strong through the postseason, but their offense has been elite. They’re scoring nearly 60 points per contest in their three postseason games. The ground game has been their source of scoring as they’re rushing for a staggering 328.7 yards per contest.

The Winner defense is allowing just 14 points per game in the playoffs. Similar to their offense, the Warriors are absolutely dominating the rush game allowing just 49 rushing yards per game.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan has focused on time of possession and strong defense.

The Seahawks have battled to keep their offense on the field, while constantly hoping to put pressure on the opposing defense.

That has really helped their defense as they allowed just 35 points in their three playoff contests.

Their offense hasn’t been as potent as Winner, but the Seahawks have found a way to do enough on that side of the ball to win. Their time of possession drives may not lead to a lot of points, but it sure helps keep the opponent’s score low.

Winner will look to continue to pressure via the offensive side of the ball, while Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan will look to slow down the game and play at their pace.

The team that can control the pace of the game will have the upper hand in this one.

CLASS 11A – Friday, November 12 @ 2 p.m.

11A is a battle of the Bulldogs as Milbank makes its’ first return to the DakotaDome in 12 years to face 11A powerhouse Madison.

Madison was given a tough run in the semifinals, but the Bulldogs were able to fight off Dell Rapids to earn a 38-28 win.

Milbank had to battle for every inch in their quarterfinal win over Canton, 6-0. However their semifinal win was a little different. Milbank powered past Vermillion 24-0 as the Bulldogs picked up their third straight shutout.

Madison has been tremendous this season. They enter the state title game with an unbeaten record, while outscoring their opponents by an average of 34 points per game.

The Bulldogs own one of the top quarterbacks in the state in Nate Ricke. He has thrown for 1,926 yards and fourteen touchdowns. He rushed for 775 yards and another fourteen scores.

Ricke has plenty of weapons which help make the offense move. Four players have 20 or more receptions this season including Mike Peters, Dillon Bickett, Peyton Wolf and Mickale Dorher. Those four have combined for 13 touchdowns.

Defensively, Madison has been solid this season. They’ve allowed just 11 points per game this season, which is second best in 11A.

Madison’s defense is second only to Milbank.

Milbank is allowing just 10.6 points per contest this season, including three straight shutouts.

They held Canton and Vermillion, two of the top offenses in the state, to zero points. The defense has been led by Karson Weber who has a team high 47 tackles. Jayden Johnson has a team high four interceptions.

Milbank relies on their rushing attack to score. They’ve passed for just 828 yards this season, but have rushed for 2,082 yards.

Three players have led the ground game for Milbank as Marshall Voeltz, Kaden Krause, and Bennett Schwen have rushed for a combined 1,394 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.

Madison has scored 27 or more points in every game this season except once, when they tallied just nine points against the team they’re playing for the title, Milbank.

Madison still picked up the 9-0 win over Milbank in the regular season.

Friday’s game should be determined by what type of game occurs on the field. If the game sees more offense and points, then Madison could have the upper hand, however if the contest stays on the defensive side, then it could play into the hands of Milbank.

CLASS 11AA – Friday, November 12 @ 7:30 p.m.

The 11AA state championship features a pair of reigning state champions.

Tea Area is the defending 11A state champ. They were moved up to 11AA this season. Pierre enters the title game as the four-time defending 11AA state champions.

Both teams earned a one possession win in the semifinals. The Titans earned a narrow 35-28 win over Yankton as they turned away the Bucks on the final play of the game.

Pierre had to overcome a 21-7 deficit to Aberdeen Central to advance to the state championship. The Governors scored the games final 21 points to earn a 28-21 win.

Tea Area is back in the DakotaDome for the fourth time in the past six seasons, but for the first time in school history, they’ll be playing for the 11AA state crown.

The Titans have impressed in their first season in AA going undefeated and winning by an average of 32 points per game this season.

The Titans have overcome some injuries at running back, but have still been able to create a very balanced offense. That offense leads the class in scoring at 45 points per contest.

Their defense has been stout as well allowing just 12 points per game. The Titans have allowed more than 14 points in just three games this season.

They’ll meet Pierre in the state championship, a team they have yet to play this season.

The drive for five state titles in a row remains alive for the Pierre Governors after their comeback win in the semifinals.

The Governors had to replace most of their title team from a year ago with just three starters back, but one of those starters is quarterback Lincoln Keinholz. He has been sensational throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 35 touchdowns while adding another 975 yards and ten scores on the ground.

The Pierre defense is allowing more than 20 points per game, which is fourth best in 11AA. They’ve found a way to improve that number in the playoffs as they’ve allowed just 30 points in two games.

This game could see a lot of points on the scoreboard as the top two offenses in 11AA square off.

CLASS 11AAA – Saturday, November 13 @ 7:30 p.m.

In 11AAA, it’ll be a rematch of last year’s state championship as Harrisburg meets Brandon Valley.

Harrisburg rolled past Rapid City Stevens 50-8 in the quarterfinals, before punching their ticket last week with a hard fought 17-10 victory over Lincoln in the semifinals.

Class 11AAA defending champion, Brandon Valley knocked off Jefferson 24-9 in the quarterfinals and then used a pair of 4th quarter touchdowns to earn the eight point win over O’Gorman in the semifinals.

The top-seeded Tigers have turned last year’s state runner-up into fuel for this season. Harrisburg enters the title game with a perfect 11-0 record.

The Tigers have checked off a lot of boxes in the past two seasons, but this year they’re looking to check the final box, an 11AAA state championship.

Click the video player above to watch the full game from Harrisburg and Lincoln’s semifinal matchup.

Harrisburg owns the top scoring offense in the class as they are posting more than 40 points per contest. They’ve been led by senior quarterback and Minnesota Golden Gopher commit, Jacob Knuth. He’s thrown for more than twenty-three-hundred yards, while finding the end zone 38 times.

However, it’s been the Tiger defense that has been very impressive as of late, allowing just 13 points per contest over the last five games.

Brandon Valley has reached the 11AAA state championship five times in the past six seasons, while being crowned as state champions in 2018 and 2020.

The Lynx have relied on the top scoring defense in 11AAA this season. Brandon Valley is allowing just 14 points per game.

On the offensive side of the ball, Brandon Valley has been relying on their rushing attack. Jordan Johnson has been stellar this season as he has established himself as one of the top running backs in the state. He has rushed for 1,179 yards and 14 touchdowns.

They’ve also had extra motivation to play for head coach Chad Garrow, who has been sidelined this season due to a cancer diagnosis. He wrote a note to the team in the semifinals that helped fuel them to a win over O’Gorman.

Brandon Valley hadn’t lost to Harrisburg in 11AAA play until this season. The Lynx lost 43-14 three weeks ago in the regular season finale to the Tigers.

Brandon Valley turned over the ball five times in the contest, which led to 27 points off turnovers for Harrisburg.

The Lynx are a ball control team that loves to stay ahead of the chains, sustain long drives and then play strong defense. Harrisburg was able to force those turnovers which is what led to the 29 points margin of victory.

Brandon Valley usually takes care of the football and I suspect they will do so better on Saturday, but the turnover battle will be huge.

If the Lynx can force turnovers, it will play right into their offense and the plan to control the clock. On the other hand, if Harrisburg forces turnovers, that’ll give their high powered offense more chances to score.

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