Five local teams begin their quests to play in the DakotaDome in Vermillion as the high school football playoffs open this week.
The first round for classes 11B, 9AA, 9A and 9B is Thursday, Oct. 19 with all games played at the home of the higher seed. Visit aberdeeninsider.com for results Thursday night and Friday, Oct. 20.
A preview of the opening-round games involving local teams follows.
Roncalli roughed up but ready for Wagner
- Class 11B: No. 9 Aberdeen Roncalli (6-2) at No. 8 Wagner (6-2), 6 p.m., Wagner High School
This is the time of season coaches want their team to be as healthy as possible. Aberdeen Roncalli is not in that position.
The Cavaliers will be without three starters as they travel to Wagner. Quarterback/linebacker Zane Backous, running back/linebacker Brody Weinmeister and lineman Carter Samson are all out with injuries.
“We felt depth was going to be an issue at some positions going into the season,” said Roncalli head coach Billy Young. “We’ve brought some guys along and tried to get them used to different positions if (injuries) did come up. It’s just a next-man-up mentality for us right now.”
Roncalli will stay true to its bread-and-butter on offense — running the football.
“We just need to be able to sustain drives and maintain ball control. If we can get those 10-, 12-play drives, that will certainly help us,” Young said.
Defensively, the Cavaliers will try to contain Red Raider quarterback Gannon Knebel.
“He is a very quick, athletic quarterback,” Young said. “He’s more of a runner than a passer, but does a very good job at some read plays and can find space for some big plays.”
An eight-vs.-nine seed game usually means there’s not much separation between the teams. Young feels that is the case and believes one possession could make the difference between winning and losing.
“I’m sure they are excited to be hosting a playoff game,” he said of Wagner. “Based on our personnel, this will probably be a game that comes down to one score.”
Groton confident it can compete with defending 11B champs
- Class 11B: No. 14 Groton Area (5-3) at No. 4 Elk Point-Jefferson (7-1), 6 p.m., Elk Point-Jefferson High School in Elk Point.
Groton will be traveling to the defending Class 11B champion Elk Point-Jefferson. The Huskies average more than 31 points a game.
“Hey, we know we’re facing a really good football program,” said Groton head coach Shaun Wanner. “Coach (Jake) Terry has done a very good job building that team. They’ve had a very successful stretch over the past few seasons, and they believe they can compete with anyone.”
While challenging the Huskies is a daunting task, Wanner thinks his squad is up to it.
“Really, we’re one of the better teams they’ll probably have faced,” he said. “We can run the ball, and we can throw it. We’re right near 1,000 yards passing and rushing. That’s worked for us this season, and Elk Point-Jefferson may not be used to that.”
One thing Wanner is used to is playing football this time of season. The 37-year coaching veteran has seen his fair share of playoff games.
The playoffs “never get old, no”, Wanner said, “But it’s really more about the opportunity for our kids. Hey, we as a staff always tell them, ‘You’re a good football team, now go out and prove it.’ It’s all part of the process.”
Top seed Warner taking nothing for granted
- Class 9A: No. 16 Colman-Egan (2-6) at No. 1 Warner (8-0), Warner High School.
Warner wrapped up its regular season with a perfect record and enters the postseason as the top 9A seed. Battle-tested is one description head coach Kerwin Hoellein feels applies to his team.
“We’re excited where we are and excited to be home,” he said. “We went through a stretch of games this season — Castlewood, Faulkton, Hamlin — they were all on the road. Faulkton and Hamlin were undefeated, and those type of games prepare you for this time of the year.”
Colman-Egan enters the game at 2-6, but Hoellein doesn’t think records mean much once the playoffs begin.
“We’ve got to respect every team that we play. Colman-Egan is 2-6, but when you really look at their schedule, they’ve played five monster teams on there. They’ve won a couple state championships, Coach (Chad) Williamson does a great job. They’re going to be ready to play. Right now, the biggest game on our schedule is Colman-Egan,” he said.
As for pressure being the top seed, Hoellein acknowledges it can be a factor. He also knows it presents an opportunity for the opponent.
“They’re playing a team that’s No. 1. So they don’t have a lot to lose. So is there a little more pressure on us? I don’t know if there is compared to any other team playing at home. We know we have to play disciplined football this week, and we have a group of kids who have played that way throughout the season,” he said.
Leola/Frederick regular season schedule should help in playoffs
- Class 9AA: No. 9 Hanson (6-2) at No. 8 Leola/Frederick (5-3), Leola School.
Leola/Frederick enters its game against Hanson having won two of its past three games. The only loss was by seven points to Faulkton, which is ranked first in the Class 9B media poll.
“We played a really solid game against Faulkton,” Leola/Frederick head coach Jeff Kosters said. “If you had told me we’d hold them to 14 points, I would have taken it. We had some opportunities toward the end of the game that we just didn’t cash in.”
One advantage Kosters feels his squad has is the quality of teams the Titans have played this season.
“You know, only Bon Homme has had a tougher schedule in 9AA than we’ve had,” he said. “It’s why a 5-3 team is hosting a 6-2 team. Now, I know we’re the higher seed, but it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily the favorite. We know we’re going to get a heck of a game from them.”
A major focus for the Titans will be trying to slow down Hanson’s running attack led by senior fullback Brock Tuttle.
“He is a load, no question. He’s 5-11 and 215 pounds who can make you miss or run right over you. If you tackle above his waist or up near his shoulder pads, well, that’s not a good idea. We’ll need to get as many kids to him as we can,” Kosters said.
Leola/Frederick will be mixing up its offensive schemes.
“I don’t think we’re a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type of offense,” he said. “We will probably look at running some more spreads and throwing the ball to utilize our speed and try to get some of our skill guys in space.”
Ipswich ready for physical matchup in Howard
- Class 9AA: No. 14 Ipswich (4-4) vs. No. 3 Howard (7-1), Howard High School
Ipswich has lost two of its last three games as it gets ready to travel to No. 3 Howard for a opening-round playoff challenge.
“We lost one of our starters that morning (Sept. 29) before we played Britton-Hecla, so we had to make some adjustments on the fly, which are never easy,” said Ipswich head coach Brian Hogie. “That loss did hurt, but our kids have bounced back. We were facing a win-and-get-in game against Dupree (on Oct. 6). We really weren’t sure if we lost whether we would have made it or not. Our kids just played a very good football game, and now it’s on to one of the best teams in the state.”
As for what to expect from Howard, Hogie doesn’t have to delve too deeply into any video.
“They play a very physical brand of football in Howard,” he said. “It really is all about physicality. We have to try and match it. They run hard on offense. They’re not overly big, but they take the ball and go. They also get to ballcarriers quickly on defense. We need to protect our second level and try not to turn the ball over and give them extra possessions.”
It’s safe to call Howard the favorite, especially playing at home.
“Look, there’s really no pressure on us. They have been one of the top two, three teams in the state the entire year. I really expect our kids to come out and play loose and just enjoy the experience. I always thought we played well enough this season to be in the playoffs even though I feel we left a couple wins on the table. Our team has exceeded expectations,” Hogie said.
Faulkton, Britton/Hecla, Webster, Herreid/Selby, Hitchcock/Tulare also in playoff field
Other teams from the region in the playoffs include Faulkton, the No. 2 seed in Class 9B; Britton/Hecla, the No. 11 team in Class 9AA; Webster, the No. 15 team in Class 11B; Herreid/Selby, the No. 5 team in Class 9B and Hitchcock/Tulare, the No. 8 seeded team in Class 9B.
Complete first-round pairings follow. The second round of the playoffs will be on Thursday, Oct. 16. That’s the date of the opening round of playoffs for class 11A, 11AA and 11AAA teams.
The state championship games are Nov. 9-11.
Class 11B playoff pairings
- No. 16 Parker (5-3) at No. 1 Winner (8-0), 6:30 p.m.
- No. 15 Webster Area (4-4) at No. 2 Deuel (8-0), 7 p.m.
- No. 14 Mount Vernon/Plankinton (3-5) at No. 3 Sioux Valley (8-0), 7 p.m.
- No. 13 Groton Area (5-3) at No. 4 Elk Point-Jefferson (7-1), 6 p.m.
- No. 12 Rapid City St. Thomas More (4-4) at No. 5 Tri-Valley (5-3), 5:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Bridgewater-Ethan/Emery (5-3) at No. 6 Hot Springs (7-1), 5:30 p.m. MT
- No. 10 Rapid City Christian (6-2) at No. 7 Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central (7-1), 5 p.m.
- No. 9 Aberdeen Roncalli (6-2) at No. 8 Wagner (6-2), 6 p.m.
Class 9AA playoff pairings
- No. 16 Viborg-Hurley (3-5) at No. 1 Parkston (8-0) 7 p.m.
- No. 15 Great Plains Lutheran (4-4) at No. 2 Platte/Geddes (7-1), 6 p.m.
- No. 14 Ipswich (4-4) at No. 3 Howard (7-1), 6 p.m.
- No. 13 Bon Homme (3-5) at No. 4 Hamlin (7-1), 7 p.m.
- No. 12 Kimball/White (5-4) Lake at No. 5 Wall (7-1), 5:30 p.m. MT
- No. 11 Britton-Hecla (5-3) at No. 6 Elkton/Lake Benton (7-1), 6 p.m.
- No. 10 Freeman/Marion/Freeman Academy (6-2) at No. 7 Stanley County (7-1), 7 p.m.
- No. 9 Hanson (6-2) at No. 8 Leola/Frederick (5-3), 7 p.m.
Class 9A playoff pairings
- No. 16 Colman/Egan (2-5) at No. 1 Warner (8-0), 7 p.m.
- No. 15 Burke (2-6) at No. 2 Alcester/Hudson (8-0), 6 p.m.
- No. 14 Timber Lake (4-4) at No. 3 Philip (8-0), 6 p.m. MT
- No. 13 Centerville (4-4) at No. 4 Canistota (6-2), 7 p.m.
- No. 12 Gregory (4-4) at No. 5 Harding County/Bison (7-1), 5:30 p.m. MT
- No. 11 Chester (4-4) at No. 6 Wolsey-Wessington (4-4), 6 p.m.
- No. 10 Estelline/Hendricks (4-4) at No. 7 Deubrook Area (5-3), 7 p.m.
- No. 9 Castlewood (4-4) at No. 8 Lyman (6-2), 7 p.m.
Class 9B playoff pairings
- No. 16 Faith (1-7) at No. 1 Avon (6-2), 5:30 p.m.
- No. 15 Jones County (2-6) at No. 2 Faulkton (7-1), 7 p.m.
- No. 14 New Underwood (1-7) at No. 3 Corsica/Stickney (6-2), 6 p.m.
- No. 13 Colome (2-6) at No. 4 De Smet (6-2), 7 p.m.
- No. 12 Gayville-Volin (2-6) at No. 5 Herreid/Selby (7-2), 6 p.m.
- No. 11 Potter County (3-5) No. 6 Dell Rapids St. Mary (5-3), 6 p.m.
- No. 10 Kadoka (3-5) at No. 7 Sully Buttes (3-5), 7 p.m.
- No. 9 Lemmon/McIntosh (3-5) at No. 8 Hitchcock-Tulare (4-4), 6 p.m.