What we learned from the Quarterfinal Round of the playoffs

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 28 games were played across the state of South Dakota on Thursday and come Friday, there are just 28 teams remaining in playoffs. Here’s what we learned from this past week:



Harrisburg continues to be the favorite in 11AAA and they proved it on Thursday. I understand it was the eight seed, but Harrisburg’s offense and defense played nearly perfect in their 50-9 win. Harrisburg’s offense is just so talented. The Tigers are creating pressure and forcing other teams to press because they’re playing from behind. Also, people need to enjoy Jacob Knuth while he’s here. Big Ten caliber players don’t always come around, let alone a Big Ten caliber quarterback. He is truly something special.

Wow! That’s the word I would use to describe Lincoln’s quarterfinal performance. The Patriots stopped the Washington ground game and mixed in some lethal offense on their way to a 21 point win. Tate Schafer had his best game of the season, but I think the game plan was simplified. Early on, the Patriots established a balanced offense that mixed it up every play. Whether it was the run or quick passes or wheel routes, the Patriots had Washington guessing all night. The Lincoln coaching staff had a great game plan and the Patriot players executed it near perfect.

Brandon Valley plays defense. It probably sounds like a broken record, but the Lynx play good defense. They allowed just one touchdown and that came on the heels of a fake punt that got Jefferson down inside the five. The biggest goal is to find consistency on offense. If they can, they’ll be a tough out.

A lot of people questioned O’Gorman’s four game win streak, even coach Jayson Poppinga said we had a favorable schedule to end the season, but they’d have to perform against a big name team like Roosevelt. Well, I don’t think anyone is questioning the Knights now. They came out ready to roll as they raced to a 21-7 lead at the end of one. That loaded Roosevelt offense tried fighting back, but they just didn’t have enough time and the OG defense made it difficult. The duo of Rush Landry and David Alpers had pressure on Roosevelt’s quarterback all afternoon long. Alpers is heading to SDSU next year and he should make an impact. He played with a non-stop motor Thursday.



Titans roll again. When you talk about a broken record, it has to be this in 11AA. All season Tea Area has muscled past their opponents and the quarterfinals were no exception. The Titans rolled to a 47 point win, but they’ll have a tough test in the semifinals. They haven’t been in a close game all season, so if it comes down to the wire, can they close it out? It may not be necessary though if they continue to play at this level.

Yankton’s offense has been stellar this season and they showed that again on Thursday. The Bucks defense is playing solid as of late as well and that combo could make troubles for any team they could meet in the playoffs.

Looking at records alone, one would think Brookings would’ve beaten Aberdeen Central easily, but when you dive into the matchups, the Golden Eagles matchup well with many teams and they proved that. What an offensive performance by Aberdeen Central. They’ve played some solid offense as of late, but their 42 points against Brookings is their second highest total of the season. They also snapped a six game losing streak. Keep an eye on the Golden Eagles.

Pierre beat Watertown three weeks ago. There was 94 total points as the Govs won 52-42. I had a feeling there would be less points and there certainly was. Coach Steve Steele always has his team playing their best in October and November and that showed to be true Thursday. The Govs allowed just nine points which is the lowest they’ve allowed in the past four games. If that defense can play at this level and the offense continues to do its’ thing, the Governors could be primed to make, yet another state championship run.



Madison continued their dominance on Thursday. The Bulldogs are winning in all three phases of the game. Limiting mistakes on offense, defense and special teams is one thing, but to be able to find such success at all levels is another. The Bulldogs are a well rounded team and when you couple that with a coach that is as talented and creative as Max Hodgen, that’s a dangerous combination.

Dell Rapids suffered back-to-back losses to Vermillion and Madison. Since then, they’ve won three straight games in which they’ve allowed just 12 points per game defensively and scored 37 per game offensively. Coach Jordan Huska has the Quarriers peaking at the right time of the season. That offense is led by Austin Henry at quarterback and a host of weapons including Brayden Pankonen, Landon Ruesink, Braden Fersdahl and several others. They’ll need to be big next Friday in the semis.

Madison owns the top scoring defense in the state, but do you know who’s second? It’s Milbank. They’re allowing just 11 points per game this season, but they did way better than that in the quarterfinals. The Bulldogs limited a talented Canton offense to zero points. That’s right, a shutout. The Bulldogs aren’t the most potent offense in 11A, but with a defense like that, they just need to find a way to score points. They say defenses win championships and if that’s true, we could see Milbank in the DakotaDome.

Vermillion lost to Tri-Valley two weeks ago, but they got their revenge Thursday as they picked up a 21-7 win over the Mustangs. The Tanagers improvement on the defensive side of the ball was impressive. They allowed just 7 points, which is 10 points lower than their season average. That offense can score points in bunches, but that defense took the next step. They’ll be a tough out if they continue to win on both sides of the ball.



Winner’s rushing attack is just so good and that showed in the quarters. McCook Central/Montrose has a tough defense and they’ve proven that several times this season, yet Winner was still able to just power past that Cougar defense and put up a quarterfinal high of 66 points. The Warriors are scoring more than 52 points per game and it’s hard to see anyone upsetting the top-seeded Warriors with offensive production like that.

Elk Point-Jefferson has found a lot of offensive success this year as well and they kept that ball rolling against Wagner. The Red Raiders were looking to play spoiler, but EP-J was just too much. They’ll need to keep that offense is high gear if they want to upset Winner.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan has their style of play. Run the football, control the time of possession and play good defense. That was how they won Thursday. Their opening drive went 70 yards and took the entire first quarter. A 12 minute drive! The Sioux Valley offense is good, but the Seahawks beat them by keeping them off the field. Thursday’s win can be credited to the players for sure, but the game plan by coach Jeff VanLeur and staff was near flawless.

The Watchdogs continue their Cinderella story! A game winning touchdown in the first round and now a two point conversion stop in overtime in the quarterfinals and Beresford is headed to the semifinals. The Watchdogs hadn’t won a playoff game in 22 years and now they’re looking to end a 34 year state championship drought.



Down goes number one! Hanson has played in so many close games this year, but unfortunately, this one went the way of Platte-Geddes. Many assumed the Panthers defense could help them win ball games and that is exactly what has happened so far. Holding Hanson to 24 points (10 below their average) and then Chester Area to 12 in the first round, the Black Panthers have proven their defense is legit. With that offense finding some rhythm as well, look out for the defending 9AA state champs. They’re getting hot at the right time.

Timber Lake’s game winning touchdown was impressive as the two offenses kind of struggled on Thursday. However, Timber Lake’s defense was strong in their win as they held the Lyman offense to just 18 points, which is 21 points lower than their season average. Now Timber Lake gets the defending 9AA champs at home. Should be a fun semifinal. Timber Lake is in search of their first state championship appearance since 1999.

Parkston suffered a 35-20 loss to Garretson back on September 3. They’ve won seven straight since that point, including a convincing 34-7 win over the Blue Dragons in the quarterfinals. Parkston’s defense has been key down the stretch and in the playoffs for them so far. The Trojans won the 2014 11B state championship and they’re looking to get back to the DakotaDome this year.

When the calendar turns to late October and nears November, coach James Strang and the Canistota/Freeman football team find their brand of football. The Pride haven’t had the most dominating regular seasons over the past few seasons, but when it comes to postseason football, they just know how to win. As a co-op, Canistota/Freeman has won three straight state championships in 9A. They had to move up to 9AA and while they found themselves as the 11 seed, they now find themselves a win from playing for yet another state title.



Herreid/Selby Area has reached the semifinals three seasons in a row, with just one state championship appearance to show for it. Could this be the year they return to the DakotaDome? The Wolverines are scoring nearly 53 points per game and that offense is a game changer. We saw that in the quarters when they posted 48 points.

De Smet got just about all they could handle from Warner on Thursday, but they were able to pull away late to earn the win. Kalen Garry is known as one of the best basketball players in the state, however he can play football too! He rushed just 11 times on Thursday for 252 yards and four touchdowns. That’s 23 yards per carry. The Monarchs have a solid defense and they still couldn’t slow down the Bulldogs. Keep that in mind for any team going forward.

Howard is just rolling right now. I’m not sure if there is a favorite in 9A, but if there is, I would say that is Howard. Their regular season finale win over Hanson, 26-0, was certainly impressive. Then in the playoffs they’re scoring 40 points per game and allowing just 6. That combination of high powered offense and lockdown defense is nearly unbelievable and that’s why they would be a favorite in 9A. They’ll get the test we’ve all been waiting to see when Wall comes to town.

The Wall Eagles reached the semifinals a year ago, but suffered a loss to Warner. Now they’re looking to get back to the DakotaDome for the first time in ten years. The Eagles are similar to the other 9A undefeated teams, they play solid defense and really, really good offense. Wall will be tested in the semifinals like they were last year, but that’s November football.



Avon was tied at 14 in the third quarter. Then they outscored their opponent by 16 to pick up he 30-14 win. The Pirates top-scoring offense in 9B was put to the test in the quarterfinals. They are scoring more than 50 points per game, but Alcester-Hudson kept them off-balance enough to hold them to 30 points. One a more positive note, Avon held the Cubs to just 14 points. That’s a solid effort that will give the Avon defense some confidence.

The Cardinals weren’t a favorite to make the dome last year, but they got hot at the right time and found themselves in the state championship. Fast forward a year and it seems like a bit of Deja vu. Dell Rapids St. Mary is posting 41 points per contest over their two playoff games and that will come in handy when they play the high powered offense from Avon. Can the Cardinals make their march to the dome again?

Faulkton Area reached the DakotaDome in 2014, but they’re still in search of their first ever state championship. The Trojans were tested by Harding County on Thursday and they answered the test with a really solid offensive performance. The Trojans are just one win away from a return trip to the dome and they’ll look to stay red hot on offense to do so.

Potter County earned a narrow 44-38 win over Hitchcock-Tulare in the regular season, back on September 10. Many thought Hitchcock-Tulare could play spoiler, but the Battlers controlled this one. They got down 8-0 early, but then rattled off 48 unanswered on their way to a blowout win. The Battlers have been in one state championship and that was in 2013. They won the 9A state title that year.

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