This week’s high school football slate features an 11AA school getting another shot at the 11AAA giants, two undefeated 11A squads trying to extend their runs, and a new face coaching his first game after an abrupt coaching change.
Lincoln (2-2) at Aberdeen Central (2-2), 5 p.m.
An sudden change Thursday afternoon has rattled the Class 11AAA landscape. Aaron Beavers is no longer Lincoln’s head coach, and defensive coordinator Brian Bechard has assumed the head coaching duties. The Patriots were not expected to be a top contender in the class and hadn’t been performing as one, with a 2-2 record and losses by double-digit margins against Washington and Roosevelt, but Beavers’ departure was still unexpected. The coaching change throws more turmoil into a season that has already been marked by a loss of a starting quarterback, as Preston Eisenbraun got hurt in the Patriots’ season opener against Rapid City Stevens and Cole DeBerg has been filling in since then. Aberdeen Central is coming off a 24-20 win against a 1-3 Yankton team, but the Golden Eagles have solid physicality on the offensive and defensive line and should be a challenge for Lincoln’s rushing-heavy offense.
IAN’S PICK: Lincoln
Washington (4-0) vs. Rapid City Central (1-3), 6 p.m.
All three of the Rapid City Central’s losses have been close ones, with the biggest being a 19-0 defeat to O’Gorman to open the season. The Warriors should have no problem, though, especially at home. One factor to watch is how Washington uses tight end Zach Heins. The 6-foot-6 Heins has attracted ample recruiting attention, but he was scarcely utilized on offense in Washington’s first three games. He had a strong showing against O’Gorman, though, with four receptions, and getting the most out of him makes the Warriors’ dangerous offense even more so.
IAN’S PICK: Washington
Brandon Valley (2-2) vs. Harrisburg (3-1), 7 p.m.
The Tigers, the top undisputed top team in Class 11A, took their first loss of the season last week to Roosevelt, but they gave the Rough Riders what might have been their toughest challenge of the season. The 21 points Harrisburg scored marked the first time Roosevelt had give up more than 10 this season, and Harrisburg gained 200 yards of total offense in the first half. The Tigers have another shot at a Class 11AAA opponent on Friday, and Brandon Valley, who has lost close games to Washington and O’Gorman, will try to notch a signature win.
IAN’S PICK: Harrisburg
Roosevelt (4-0) at Rapid City Stevens (1-3), 7 p.m.
Roosevelt was seriously pushed against Harrisburg, but the Rough Riders’ experience and talent, especially on offense, gave them another double-digit win by the time the night was over. The Raiders have had a fairly leaky defense this season, giving up 40 points to Lincoln and 49 to Brandon Valley, and the Rough Riders should be able to get an easy win on the road.
IAN’S PICK: Roosevelt
O’Gorman (2-2) at Watertown (2-2), 7 p.m.
The Knights’ 35-14 loss to Washington last week was closer than the score would indicate. O’Gorman challenged the Warriors on both sides of the ball, and the teams were tied heading into halftime. Senior quarterback Hunter Thompson’s confidence and accuracy seemed to further improve, as he found a strong target in receiver Nick Billion. The Arrows don’t look to be among the top contenders in the class, with their two wins, against Pierre T.F. Riggs and Rapid City Central coming before a 40-0 drubbing by Brandon Valley and after a 17-7 loss to Mitchell.
IAN’S PICK: O’Gorman
Tea Area (4-0) at Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (2-2), 7 p.m.
The Titans get a Class 11B opponent on Friday, their first smaller opponent since getting Parkston to open the year. The Seahawks have held strong against bigger schools, though, falling 14-0 to Sioux Falls Christian and 20-7 to West Central, both in road games. The Titans haven’t shown many signs of deviating from their current success, though, and B-E/E isn’t necessarily a powerhouse.
IAN’S PICK: Tea Area
Canton (3-1) at Dakota Valley (2-2), 7 p.m.
The top of Class 11A is crowded, with four teams sitting at 4-0 and four more at 3-1, and the C-Hawks have reached that mark in fairly convincing fashion. Dakota Valley is probably their toughest opponent this year, though, and the Panthers’ two losses have come to Tea Area and Madison, possibly the two best teams in the class.
IAN’S PICK: Dakota Valley
Sioux Falls Christian (4-0) vs. Flandreau (1-3), 7 p.m.
Flandreau’s highest single-game point total this season is 20, so Sioux Falls Christian’s stout defense likely won’t be challenged significantly at Bob Young Field. It will be intriguing to see whether Chargers quarterback Sawyer Prins throws the ball as much as he did in last week’s 26-13 win over Sioux Valley, where Prins completed 14 of 19 passes. Such a change would be a departure from the Chargers’ veer/double-wing offensive strategy.
IAN’S PICK: Sioux Falls Christian
Dell Rapids (2-2) vs. West Central (2-2), 7 p.m.
This matchup of the 2013 state champion (the Trojans) and the 2014 state champion (the Quarriers) comes with both programs falling on harder times. Dell Rapids seems to have a bit more offensive power, though, and stayed competitive with Tea Area last week after giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff.
IAN’S PICK: Dell Rapids
Madison (4-0) vs. Vermillion (0-4), 7 p.m.
The Tanagers, whose closest defeat this season has been a 36-14 loss to Parkston, won’t pose any major barrier to the Bulldogs’ continued rein over Class 11A. It might be difficult, for however, for Madison quarterback Josh Giles to improve on last week’s showing — he was 12-for-12 and threw for 277 yards in the Bulldogs’ 53-7 win over Lennox.
IAN’S PICK: Madison
Tri-Valley (2-2) vs. Lennox (0-4), 7 p.m.
The Orioles topped the Mustangs in a thrilling 23-21 win on homecoming last year. Both teams are down from last year in terms of quality, but Lennox is a bit a more so than Tri-Valley. The Orioles are 0-4, having give up more than 40 points and scored in single digits in every game this year.
IAN’S PICK: Tri-Valley
Follow Ian Frazer on Twitter at @IanMcFrazer .