The last week of the high school football season has arrived, with games taking place on Thursday so that schools in Class 11B, whose playoffs start next Tuesday, have an extra day to rest and prepare. A few top seeds remain to be decided, and multiple area schools are still on the cusp of making of missing out on the playoffs.
Lincoln (2-6) vs. O’Gorman (6-2), 5 p.m.
These two teams with seemingly similar preseason situations have seen their fortunes diverge in the regular season, with the Patriots struggle with injuries, lose their head coach and skid towards the finish after an acceptable start. The Knights, in turn, have stayed healthy, seen multiple young contributors step up and have only lost to Washington and Roosevelt, undoubtedly the two best teams in the state. The Patriots now have their playoff fortunes at stake, as they sit in ninth place in Class 11AAA, a spot away from making the postseason. The outlook is bleak: If Lincoln uses to O’Gorman, Watertown beats Brookings and the rest of the day’s matchups finish as expected, the Patriots will still trail the Arrows in power points. To make the playoffs, Lincoln would need to Rapid City Central to lose as well. The 2-6 Cobblers play 3-5 Rapid City Stevens on Thursday.
IAN’S PICK: O’Gorman
Brandon Valley (5-3) vs. Aberdeen Central (4-4), 5 p.m.
The Lynx’s mid-season surge has carried them to a guaranteed playoff berth and home field advantage in the first round. They’re close to O’Gorman, who would be the No. 3 seed to Brandon Valley’s No. 4 were the season to end today, as well as if both teams were to win on Thursday.
IAN’S PICK: Brandon Valley
Dell Rapids (6-2) vs. Lennox (0-8), 7 p.m.
The Quarriers’ season began with a discouraging loss to Madison, but they’ve consistently been one of the better teams in the class since then, with their only loss coming to Tea Area, who will likely be the top seed in Class 11A. Any result but a win against Lennox would be an absolute shock.
IAN’S PICK: Dell Rapids
Madison (7-1) at Milbank Area (6-2), 7 p.m.
Madison was widely favored over Tea Area last Friday, but the Titans scored 28 unanswered points to hand Madison its first loss since 2014. This isn’t a “sky-is-falling” scenario, though: While Tea Area did outplay them in some aspects, a number of turnovers hurt Madison, and head coach Max Hodgen expressed general bewilderment after the game. The stunning 25-0 lead Madison jumped out to in the first half showed that they’re still a giant in the class, and they should be one of the biggest threats in the playoffs.
IAN’S PICK: Madison
Tea Area (8-0) vs. Canton (4-4), 7 p.m.
The Titans are having the best season in head coach Craig Clayberg’s tenure and possibly the best in school history. They’re assured of a No. 1 seed in the playoffs with a win over the C-Hawks on Friday, which seems likely, as the Titans have beaten each school that Canton has lost to.
IAN’S PICK: Tea Area
Tri-Valley (4-3) vs. Sioux Falls Christian (7-1), 7 p.m.
The Chargers look to be in position for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as they’ll have a better seed point average than Dell Rapids, whom they currently trail, if they beat Tri-Valley and the rest of Class 11A doesn’t devolve into chaos. The Mustangs should put up a good fight, but Sioux Falls Christian looks to have the experience and talent to come out on top this week. Tri-Valley, currently second in Region 2 of Class 11B, could theoretically spring into first with an upset win over the Chargers and a loss by Sioux Valley.
IAN’S PICK: Sioux Falls Christian.
West Central (4-4) vs. Vermillion (1-7), 7 p.m.
The Trojans currently sit eighth in Class 11A and are in a shaky spot, with multiple teams on their heels. A win over Vermillion would also only hurt their current seed average of 41.875, and Cheyenne-Eagle Butte is close behind, with a matchup against 5-2 Chamberlain giving them an opportunity to possibly leapfrog West Central.
IAN’S PICK: West Central
Harrisburg (6-2) at Yankton (3-5), 7 p.m.
The Tigers are already in line for the top seed in Class 11AA, even with one more loss than Mitchell, and a win over Yankton would clinch that. The Bucks are a fairly favorable matchup for the Tigers, having lost to three teams that Harrisburg has beaten.
IAN’S PICK: Harrisburg
Washington (8-0) vs. Roosevelt (8-0), 8 p.m.
Last year’s regular season-ending matchup between the Warriors and Rough Riders saw both teams sitting at 7-1; in 2016, they’re undefeated and clearly the two best teams in the state, and the game will decide the top two seeds in the Class 11AAA playoffs. It’s a compelling matchup for the reason that it assembles the best collection of talent in the state, but also for the contrast in the two teams, with Roosevelt being an experienced, senior-dependent team and the Warriors getting most of their contributions from juniors and sophomores.
IAN’S PICK: Roosevelt