SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The defending champions in class 11AAA will open the season on Saturday when Harrisburg travels to Howard Wood Field for a matchup with Jefferson.

Saturday’s game will livestream on KELOLAND.com, with kick-off set for 6 p.m.

It’s a clash of two of the top teams in 11AAA on Saturday. Harrisburg sits second in the rankings, with Jefferson at third.

The two teams have been vastly different over the past year. In 2021, Harrisburg had 23 seniors and plenty of depth, while Jefferson had just two seniors.

Fast forward to 2022 and the teams are still opposites. Harrisburg graduated a large class and they return about seven starters. Jefferson, on the other hand, returns all 22 starters and 31 seniors.


HARRISBURG TIGERS

Harrisburg Tigers – 2021

As mentioned, Harrisburg returns just a few starters, after having graduated 23 seniors.

The Tigers had one of the top scoring offenses in 11AAA last season, but that could change in 2022. They return one of the state’s top running backs in Gavin Ross, but will have a completely new offensive line.

They’ll also have to replace standout quarterback and Minnesota commit, Jacob Knuth. It appears they’ll call on senior, Dylan Elrod, to be the new play caller.

While the Tigers will have plenty of holes to fill, they’ll have numbers on their side. Harrisburg has well over 100 kids that came out for football this fall. That should help give plenty of competition to try and fill the gaps left behind.

Defensively, Harrisburg has some pieces returning, but they’ll be challenged trying to fill the holes left behind by Jordan Larsen, Ayden Viox, Skyler Wodzinski, Cade Larson, Tyman Long, Quinn Wessel, Nick Chan and Carter Bahrenfuss.

That’s eight extremely talented players that made the Tiger defense one of the best in South Dakota last season.


JEFFERSON CAVALIERS

Harrisburg Tigers – 2021

Jefferson was a team that was very inexperienced in 2021, but this year they return every single starter and there are very few teams that can say that.

A key for the Cavs is their ability to add size and experience to this year’s team. They’ll also look to run the ball more effectively.

That was a problem in 2021, as their running struggles, forced pressure onto the passing game.

Through the air, the Cavs may have the most potent duo in the entire state, with quarterback Taylen Ashley and wide receiver, Griffin Wilde.

These two will help lead an offense that returns all of their starters.

“I think this offense is going to be explosive. I think you’re going to see a little bit of a run game. Last year we struggled with the run game but the run game, with Nelson Wright, Gabo back there, they’re going to be good for us this year,” Wilde said.

Defense will be an area of focus for the Cavs, as they struggled last season, but a big key to having their first offseason is the ability to add some size.

Many football teams are able to build strong and faster players through offseason workouts and training. That’s what the Cavaliers hope to have accomplished this offseason.

Now, Jefferson turns their aim towards Harrisburg, the defending champions. While the Tigers will be less experienced than they were last year, the Cavs know they’ll need to be ready for Saturday.

“It’s kind of hard to not focus on the big picture, but we’re focusing on just the small things, going 1-0. So, right now we’re all dialed in against Harrisburg and we just want to come out more ready than ever and hopefully go out there and show everyone that we’re improved and we’re better now and we’ll be a problem this year,” Ashley said.


SATURDAY’S GAME

Saturday’s game gets underway at 6 p.m. from Howard Wood Field. You can stream the contest on KELOLAND.com.

Play-by-play will be provided by KELOLAND’s Grant Sweeter.