SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota saw a small dose of playoff football last week as 11B and 9-man played their first round games.
Now, the state’s three largest classes join in on the fun with a full 28 quarterfinal games set to begin on Thursday, October 21.
Here’s a look at each class as the final eight teams battle for a spot in their respective semifinal games.
Jefferson is the defending state champion, following their dominant run to the state championship. The Cavs were just the latest team to run the table and look dominant in the proccess.
Harrisburg rolled their competition in 2021, then Jefferson in 2022. This year, that team is Lincoln who enters as the top seed.
#1 LINCOLN PATRIOTS
Lincoln finished the season with a perfect 9-0 record. The Patriots averaged a 42 point win over their opponents, with their closest outcome being a 15 point win over Harrisburg. That win was the only time they didn’t score as least 43 points in a game.
Lincoln’s offense has several players headed to play at the next level, including the standout duo of quarterback Tate Schafer (USF) and wide receiver Jack Smith (SDSU).
The Pats are scoring nearly 53 points per game, best in 11AAA by more than two touchdowns.
And to go with that offense, Lincoln also owns the best defense in the class, allowing just 10 points per game.
Lincoln has had a run of tough luck over the past three seasons. All of those years ended with semifinal losses, which came at the hands of the eventual state champions (Brandon Valley 2020, Harrisburg 2021, Jefferson 2022).
#2 HARRISBURG TIGERS
Harrisburg enters the playoffs as the second seed, following their 19-17 win over O’Gorman last week.
The Tigers are nearly identical statically with O’Gorman. Harrisburg is scoring 38.3 points per game, second best in 11AAA, while the Knights sit just .3 back.
Defensively, Harrisburg is fifth best allowing 18.3 points per contest, while O’Gorman is giving up 18.
The Tigers have been led by a loaded offensive receiving core. Max Carlson and Tyton Tryon are one of the top duos in the state.
They also have a very fast defense which has made them a tough team to score on this year.
#3 O’GORMAN KNIGHTS
As mentioned above, the Knights are nearly the same statistically with Harrisburg. The two teams are tied for the second best scoring differential at +20.
The Knights are as deep when it comes to offensive weapons as any team in 11AAA.
Quarterback Hayden Groos leads the crew of running back Maverick Jones, fullback and NDSU commit Ryland Satter, wide receiver and North Dakota commit Henry Theobald, wide receivers Jack Hove and Dawson Bauer, plus tight end Sullivan Schlimgen.
Coach Jayson Poppinga finds a way to incorporate all them.
The theme of high powered offenses is strong in 11AAA, but can any of them hang with Lincoln? We’ll certainly have to see.
TEAM TO WATCH:
There’s a red hot team right now and that’s Brandon Valley. The Lynx have won six of their last seven games. While their opponents record over that time add up to 21-33, they’ve found a way to cruise past those teams.
In their six wins, Brandon Valley has outscored their opponents 223-20… a pretty impressive stretch.
The Lynx own the second best defense in 11AAA and they’ll see if that defense can make some noise in the postseason. A win Thursday would most likely set up a matchup with #1 Lincoln. The Lynx lost to them 55-13 on October 6.
To say 11AA has been dominated by one team would be an understatement. Pierre has won a state record tying six straight state championships and they’ve looked the part to get back to the dome and maybe set the record.
#1 PIERRE GOVERNORS
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Pierre is the top-seed entering the 11AA playoffs. They own the top scoring offense, top scoring defense and top scoring differential in 11AA.
Lincoln Kienholz left due to graduation, but his replacement has been quite good.
Senior Cade Kaiser has thrown for 1,768 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also has 745 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
The Govs did suffer one setback this season, though that came at the hands of 11AAA Brandon Valley.
#2 YANKTON BUCKS
Yankton is the other 8-1 team in 11AA. The Bucks have played well in every game this season, though their lone loss of the year came at the hands of #1 Pierre.
Similar to Pierre as the top seed, second seeded Yankton owns the second best scoring offense, second best scoring defense and second best scoring margin.
The Bucks have leaned on that offense which is producing more than 36 points per game as they hope to return to the DakotaDome for the first time since 2015.
#3 TEA AREA TITANS
Tea Area has been stellar since making the climb to 11AA. The Titans are 21-3 in the past two seasons, that included a win over Pierre in 2021.
The Titans three losses have still come at the hands of Pierre, with two of them being in the 11AA state championship.
Tea Area is 6-3 this year, doubling their total losses in 11AA. Those losses came at the hands of 11AAA O’Gorman, Yankton and Pierre.
The Titans are scoring 34 points per game, third best in the state and they’ll hope to lean on their offense, which relies on ball possession in the playoffs.
Class 11A features one unbeaten team and they happen to be the defending state champions.
#1 DELL RAPIDS QUARRIERS
Dell Rapids has now won 21 straight games, following a 9-0 year this season.
The Quarriers have been led by an offense which is scoring a class high 44 points per game.
That group has been led by one of the state’s best quarterbacks Jack Henry and star running back Mason Stubbe. The RB is coming off a 12 carry, 272 yard and four touchdown performance a week ago.
When you mix in Cole Ruesink and Sutton Williams for depth, plus a defense allowing just 14 points per contest, you’ve got another dangerous Dell Rapids team.
#2 WEST CENTRAL TROJANS
Dell Rapids has the classes’ top scoring offense, but the top scoring defense belongs to the team from Hartford.
West Central is allowing just 12.7 points per game defensively. The other side of the ball is posting 32.4 points per contest.
The Trojan offense relies on a strong rush attack, which feeds into plenty time of possession.
Chet Carda and Jesse Jost have been solid in the rush attack, while quarterback Caden Alfson adds a threat in the passing game.
West Central enters the playoffs at 8-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of 11B #1 Winner.
#3 CANTON C-HAWKS
Canton finished the 2023 regular season with a 7-2 record, suffering losses to #1 Dell Rapids and #2 West Central.
The C-Hawks possess the second best offense in terms of scoring, posting more than 36 points per game.
Canton’s one thing they’ll look to sure up is their defense. That unit is allowing nearly 21 points per game as four of their final seven games saw them give up 20 or more points.
The stage is set for the 11B quarterfinals. The top six seeds all advanced, while the seven and eight seeds suffered upset losses.
#1 Winner vs. #9 Aberdeen Roncalli
Aberdeen Roncalli will have quite the trip to play top seed Winner in the quarters. Despite playing two different schedules, the pair has played two common opponents.
Both teams have played Webster Area and Wagner, in which both squads earn wins.
Winner outscored the duo by 70 points, while Roncalli outscored their common opponents by 26 points.
The Warriors own the state’s best defense and the Cavaliers haven’t been a slouch either. If it stays a low scoring battle, it’ll give Aberdeen Roncalli a familiar type of contest.
#2 Deuel vs. #10 Rapid City Christian
Deuel and Rapid City Christian are in very opposite corners of the state, which is the reason why they have no common opponents.
The Cardinals are fresh off a 20-14 win over Webster Area, while Rapid City Christian is coming off their win at Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central.
Similar to the first quarterfinal, Thursday’s matchup in Clear Lake promises to be a defensive battle, especially considering it’s the second best scoring defense against the third best scoring defense.
#3 Sioux Valley vs. #6 Hot Springs
One of the best playoff matchups in any class features Hot Springs at Sioux Valley.
Both teams took care of business by scoring more than 50 points and holding their opponent to just one score.
Now, the two squads, who have cruised past their opponents by the top two scoring margins in 11B are set to cross paths.
There are only two teams posting 40 points per game offensively and that’s Sioux Valley and Hot Springs.
One may wonder if the two defenses will show up and slow down the high powered offenses, or if we’re in store for a ton of points.
#4 Elk Point-Jefferson vs. #5 Tri-Valley
The defending state champion is set to continue their 11B title defense. They muscled past Groton Area 48-13, setting up their matchup with Tri-Valley.
The Mustangs played one tough schedule. They’re the only team in the top six seeds that had more than one loss, as they went 6-3 on the season.
Tri-Valley’s lone losses came to #1 Winner, 11A #2 West Central and… Elk Point-Jefferson.
The two teams played back on October 6 and it was Tri-Valley who jumped out to a 14-0 lead. EPJ responded with 24 unanswered points to steal a 24-14 win.
Thursday’s rematch will certainly be quite the contest.
#1 Parkston vs. #9 Hanson
Parkston has been as dominant as any other top seeds in the other classes, but yet their matchup with nine seed Hanson is set to be a thriller.
The Trojans are outscoring their opponents by 45 points per game, best in 9AA. However, their closest contest came on September 8, when Parkston edged Hanson 16-6.
Their second closest game was a 42 point game.
The Trojans and Beavers are quite the rivalry and there’s no doubt Thursday’s contest will be a high quality affair in Parkston.
#2 Platte-Geddes vs. #10 Freeman/Marion/Freeman Academy
The Phoenix relied on their high powered offense to get to the 9AA quarterfinals. Freeman/Marion/Freeman Academy is scoring 43 points per game, fourth best in the class.
Now, they’ll play Platte-Geddes, a team who has found their groove over the past couple games. It’s been eight straight wins for the Panthers, all of which were victories over playoff teams.
Platte-Geddes has allowed just 28 points over the past four games. That defense is what got them to this point.
Now we get to see that defense against the Phoenix offense in the quarterfinals.
#3 Howard vs. #6 Elkton-Lake Benton
A battle of 8-1 teams in the 9AA quarterfinals doesn’t get any better. It’s just part of a loaded round in the class.
Both teams are scoring at least 39.7 points per game, while also allowing less than 12 points per game.
Something certainly has to give on Thursday, but the big question is can the Elks knock off the annual powerhouse?
Elkton-Lake Benton went 10-1 last season, with their first loss coming in the semifinals. Now, they’re looking to get back to that round, but they have the annual power Howard still standing in front of them.
#4 Hamlin vs. #5 Wall
The fourth and final quarterfinal in 9AA is just as incredible as any other game in the class.
Defending 9AA state champion Wall is looking to keep their title defense alive, but now they have to do it on the road.
Hamlin finished runner-up in 2020, suffering a state title loss to Platte-Geddes. Since then, the Chargers have gone 24-6.
The Chargers own the top scoring offense in the class at 47.7 points per game.
Wall will have their hands full trying to slow down that offense, though both squads are allowing eight points or less defensively.
#1 Warner vs. #9 Castlewood
Warner has finished state runner-up each of the past three seasons and they’re trying to change that this year.
The Monarchs quarterfinal matchup pits them against Castlewood, where Warner is hoping the regular season shows true as well.
The two teams met on September 15 and it was all Monarchs. They cruised past Castlewood 67-16.
Warner owns the third best scoring offense and second best scoring defense, making them a tough battle all season long.
Castlewood is putting up 30 points per game and they’ll need that to show up on Thursday.
#2 Alcester-Hudson vs. #7 Deubrook Area
Alcester-Hudson has been on quite the roll. The Cubs have outscored their opponents by 34 points per game, the third best scoring margin in the state.
Now, the Cubs go into battle with a talented Deubrook Area team, who is scoring the sixth most points per game this season.
The two teams haven’t met this year and also haven’t played any common opponents.
That’ll add to the excitement of Thursday’s quarterfinal as the two teams aren’t too familiar with each other.
#3 Philip vs. #11 Chester
The last two quarterfinals featured some upset teams as Chester is fresh off their narrow win over Wolsey-Wessington.
Now, the Flyers have their hands full, playing a loaded Philip squad.
The Scotties went 8-0 this season, with their closest victory coming against Wall in the first week, 22-12.
Philip owns the top scoring offense and defense in the class.
Chester will be challenged, but they’ll look to lean on their offense, which is scoring more than 30 points per game.
#4 Canistota vs. #12 Gregory
One of the top matchups in the 9A quarterfinals could be Canistota vs. Gregory.
The Hawks have seen plenty of success over the past several seasons. They won the state championship when they were combined with Freeman in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Since then, Canistota has been 12-10, but haven’t been able to reach the DakotaDome.
Their opponent, Gregory is looking to defend their state championship, setting up quite the quarterfinal battle.
Both teams have been solid offensively as they’re both scoring at least 30 points per game.
The key difference has been defensively as Gregory is allowing more than ten points more per contest than Canistota.
#1 Avon vs. #8 Hitchcock-Tulare
The defending 9B state champs are 5-4 and they’ll now play the top seed, Avon.
The two teams have already played once this season. Avon edged Hitchcock-Tulare 32-28 on September 15.
The two teams match up quite similar and that was obvious in September.
That win for the Pirates was part of a strong stretch where they won five of six to get to the quarterfinals.
The Avon loss was followed by two wins and two losses for the Patriots.
Both squads are scoring at least 34 points per game, while allowing at least 24 points per game. Those similar numbers should make for another quite interesting matchup between he Pirates and Patriots.
#2 Faulkton Area vs. #10 Kadoka Area
Faulkton Area has been on the rise over the past few seasons and this year, they finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, best in 9B.
The Trojans only loss was a 27-20 defeat to 9A number one and unbeaten Warner.
Kadoka Area is scoring 30 points per game, one of the top scoring offenses in the class, but they’ll have to do that and then some to hang with the top scoring offense.
Faulkton Area is scoring 40 points per game, while allowing just seven points per contest.
#3 Corsica-Stickney vs. #11 Potter County
Potter County knocked off Dell Rapids St. Mary and now they’ll travel to play Corsica-Stickney.
The Jaguars played quite the loaded schedule this season. Half of their regular season opponents are still in the playoffs including Gayville-Volin, Alcester-Hudson, Avon and Freeman/Marion/Freeman Academy. They went 2-2 against those teams.
Potter County has also played two teams against other quarterfinal teams, though they lost both to Faulkton Area and Warner.
Both teams have strong offenses, but the biggest difference is on the other side of the ball.
The Battlers are allowing 39 points per game defensively, while the Jaguars are giving up just 15.
#4 De Smet vs. #12 Gayville-Volin
Gayville-Volin is just another team to get an upset win and advance to the quarterfinals.
The Raiders are scoring 29 points per game, but De Smet hasn’t allowed much defensively at just 11 points per game, second best in the class.
That defense showed up in the first round as they allowed just eight points in their win over Colome.
Gayville-Volin will have their hands full also trying to slow down the second best scoring offense in 9B. The Bulldogs are scoring 37.6 points per game.
KELOLAND Media Group will have plenty of coverage of Thursday’s quarterfinal playoff action.
You can see highlights from 15 games on the KELOLAND SportsZone, which airs Thursday at 10:15 p.m.
Scores, highlights and updated brackets can be found on KELOLAND.com following Thursday’s action.