Led by Joe Robbie MVP and Most Outstanding Back Mason Leighton, two-time Class 11A champion Madison dominated the All-State team.
The Bulldogs, who defeated Tea 39-0 in the 11A championship game, accounted for eight of the 28 roster spots. Their selections were distributed evenly between offense and defense.
Leighton, a senior, was named to the team as a receiver. He was joined by tailback Jadon Janke, tackle Austin Lohsandt and guard Nate Guthmiller. Defensively, end Marcus VandenBosch, linebacker Riley Janke and defensive backs Jaxon Janke and Noah Guse all earned nods for Madison.
It was a senior-heavy team, with just six underclassmen making the roster as either a first-teamer or honorable mention.
Dell Rapids was well-represented on the All-State team, particularly on defense where three of its four selections were.
Quarriers defensive end Seth Anderson, linebacker Nate McKee and defensive back Hunter Hansen all made the team, while fullback Tanner Heim served as their lone offensive representative.
Fresh off its first state championship game appearance in program history, Tea had three players selected to the team: quarterback Payton Conrad, running back Adam Heien and linebacker Jeremiah Maka.
Aside from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte, whose lone representative on the first team was long snapper Wyatt Jewett, the remainder of the 11A All-State team was composed of duos from various schools.
St. Thomas More had a pair of offensive players make the team: Jake Aanderud at receiver and Chase Thurness at center.
Canton had an offense-special teams pairing with tight end Alex DeJong and punter Jake Peterson, while Hot Springs went defense-special teams with defensive back Brice Harkless and kicker Trey Nachtigall.
Dakota Valley’s representatives were both in the trenches, offensive tackle Ryan Parker and defensive tackle Brennan Moran, and West Central’s pair came on defense: Christian Hackett (defensive tackle) and Aaron Mallinger (linebacker).
Belle Fourche rounded out the offense with guard Jake O’Byrne. The Broncs’ Zach Lange made the team as the special teams player.
Vermillion (Logan Peterson) and Sioux Falls Christian (Sawyer Prins) had their lone representatives make the squad as honorable mentions.
St. Thomas More had three honorable mentions, including junior Kobe Whipple.
Canton freshman Kayden Verley was the youngest player to make the team, he too was an honorable mention.
Here is a capsule look at each player on the All-State team:
Quarterback — Payton Conrad, sr., Tea: The 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback led the Titans to their first state championship appearance in program history, completing 98 of 172 passes for 1,854 yards and 21 touchdowns. He was a threat on the ground, as well, rushing it 119 times for a team-record 955 yards and 10 touchdowns. Conrad ends his career with 4,659 passing yards, 1,760 rushing yards and 70 touchdowns.
“This year was a record-breaking year for Payton both passing and rushing,” coach Craig Clayberg said. “He has a work ethic that you wish all your players had. He will play at the next level and wherever he goes, they are getting not only a great athlete, but a great student of the game.”
Fullback — Tanner Heim, sr., Dell Rapids: A versatile threat out of the backfield for the Quarriers, Heim rushed for 594 yards and eight touchdowns, and caught 10 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. He contributed defensively as well, logging 58 tackles and a pick.
“We used him in a lot of different ways,” coach Steve Hansen said. “He was a player we had to get involved.”
Running back — Jadon Janke, jr., Madison: Jadon Janke saw snaps at running back, fullback, receiver, tight end, linebacker, safety and kick returner. The 6-foot-3, 182-pound back ran 62 times for 557 yards, caught 26 passes for 456 yards and returned seven kickoffs for 199 yards. He finished the season with 16 total touchdowns.
“Jadon was explosive at every position we asked him to play,” coach Max Hodgen said. “He is a true playmaker that can change the game at any moment.”
Running back — Adam Heien, sr., Tea: Heien logged 586 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 97 carries. He also caught passes out of the backfield, with 11 receptions for 504 yards and six touchdowns. The senior team captain, who was an All-State honorable mention at receiver last season, ends his career with 1,483 rushing yards and 1,658 receiving yards.
“Adam gives 110 percent at whatever he does,” Clayberg said. “He has put in the time in the offseason to make himself one of the top athletes in our school and in Class 11A.”
Receiver — Mason Leighton, sr., Madison: The Bulldogs’ go-to receiver, Leighton caught 41 passes for 773 yards and 13 touchdowns. For those of you keeping count at home, that’s an average of 18.9 yards per catch. He averaged over 20 yards per catch for his career, logging 87 receptions for 1,798 yards. Leighton, who also returned kicks and punts, ends his career with 3,276 all-purpose yards.
“When we get Mason involved in the game, it is always a good outcome,” Hodgen said. “He is electric with the ball in his hands, runs outstanding routes and catches virtually everything that is thrown his way. He has one of the quickest first steps I have ever seen.”
Receiver — Jake Aanderud, sr., St. Thomas More: Aanderud helped St. Thomas More to a 10-2 finish, catching 39 passes for 814 yards and 12 touchdowns (20.8 ypc), and rushing the ball 72 times for 480 yards and another 12 scores. Factoring in special teams yardage, Aanderud finished 2016 with 1,981 all-purpose yards. For his career, he had 5,008 all-purpose yards and 56 total touchdowns.
“Jake is once in a lifetime football player,” coach Wayne Sullivan said. “He will be playing on Saturdays and it was an honor to coach him the last four years.”
Tight end — Alex DeJong, sr., Canton: DeJong ended 2016 with 20 catches for 252 yards. He logged a few carries, as well, logging 34 yards and a TD on six touches. A two-year starter on defense, he caught 42 passes for 494 yards in his career.
Tackle — Ryan Parker, sr., Dakota Valley: A three-year starter on offense and defense, Parker, who also wrestles, runs track and plays rugby, helped Dakota Valley to a 6-3 finish in 2016.
“Ryan is a physical specimen and has great football intelligence,” coach Jeff VanDenHul said.
Tackle — Austin Lohsandt, sr., Madison: Lohsandt helped the team rack up over 2,500 yards through the air and 1,500 yards on the ground. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound senior started in all 36 games over the past three seasons and was an All-State pick in 2015.
“Austin has consistently been our best offensive lineman over the past three years,” Hodgen said. “He has great technique and understands blocking concepts really well. Austin is a big reason for all of our success over the last three years.”
Guard — Jake O’Byrne, sr., Belle Fourche: Though O’Byrne was tasked with defending the opposing team’s best offensive lineman every game, coach Scott Slotten had total confidence in him, running the ball to his side of the field 80 percent of the time. The end result? 1,500 rushing yards and a grand total of zero sacks.
“Jake is a dominant run blocker and an above-average pass blocker,” Slotten said. “He is a leader that every coach would ask for.”
Guard — Nate Guthmiller, sr., Madison: A two-time all-conference pick, Guthmiller started in 24 consecutive games, including all 11 in his senior year. He contributed defensively, as well, picking up 59 total tackles, 13 of which went for a loss. He also had 7.5 sacks.
“Nate has a motor that won’t quit,” Hodgen said. “He often doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he isn’t flashy. He just goes to work every day and does his job. He is a very important player for our team.”
Center — Chase Thurness, sr., St. Thomas More: Thurness was responsible for making the calls for the o-line at the line of scrimmage. He was flawless with his deliveries, even as the team ran 95 percent of its plays out of the shotgun.
“Chase is a tough, young athlete,” Sullivan said. “He is not only an incredible football player, but he is also an incredible young man.”
End — Marcus VandenBosch, sr., Madison: The majority of VandenBosch’s 87 tackles were solo efforts, and 24 of them went for a loss, totaling 152.8 yards. He also had 14 sacks for 126 yards and a fumble recovery. A two-time All-State selection, he finished his career with 315 total tackles and 32.5 sacks.
“Marcus was a team leader with a great work ethic,” Hodgen said. “He sets a good example for his teammates and younger athletes.”
End — Seth Anderson, sr., Dell Rapids: Anderson picked up 69 tackles off the edge for Dell Rapids in 2016, ending his career with 149 tackles and 12 sacks.
“His speed off the edge causes some serious problems,” Hansen said. “He has been a huge part of our defense the last three years and was a huge reason why we won the state championship two years ago.”
Tackle — Brennan Moran, jr., Dakota Valley: A two-year starter on both sides of the ball, Moran logged 27 unassisted tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Only a junior, he has 68 career tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks.
Tackle — Christian Hackett, sr., West Central: Hackett finished the season with 55 tackles, five sacks, seven tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery despite dealing with an ACL injury over the final four games of his high school career.
Linebacker — Jeremiah Maka, sr., Tea: Maka led the Titans in tackles for the third year in a row, picking up 105 total takedowns, eight of which were for a loss. A two-time All-State LB, he ends his career with 341 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, an interception and four pass breakups.
“Jeremiah has been our heart and soul on defense for the last three years,” Clayberg said. “He makes all our calls and checks and is just like having a coach on the field.”
Linebacker — Aaron Mallinger, sr., West Central: An all-conference selection, Mallinger racked up 92 tackles, four sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries for the Trojans all in 2016. The 5-8, 170-pound senior also started along the offensive line for West Central.
Linebacker — Nate McKee, sr., Dell Rapids: McKee led the Quarriers in tackles for the second year in a row, recording 86 to push his career total to 178. He also had an interception for 8-3 Dell Rapids.
“Nate was the leader of our team. He got all the calls and got everyone in place,” Hansen said. “He has fought injuries his whole career and ended this season with a broken thumb.”
Linebacker — Riley Janke, sr., Madison: Riley Janke ended 2016 with 71 total tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Bulldogs. He finishes his career with 165 total tackles.
“Riley is a coach’s dream,” Hodgen said. “He is always willing to do whatever the team needs to be successful. He’s a true blue-collar player.”
Defensive back — Hunter Hansen, sr., Dell Rapids: Hansen was solid at QB for Dell Rapids, but it was his efforts on defense that landed him a spot on the All-State team. He tallied 50 tackles and a pair of interceptions in 2016, pushing his career totals to 70 tackles and three interceptions.
Defensive back — Jaxon Janke, jr., Madison: Jaxon Janke stuffed the stat sheet in 2016, finishing with 50 tackles (2.5 for a loss), 1.5 sacks, seven interceptions (returned for 142 yards, 1 TD), five pass breakups, two forced fumbles (1 fumble recovery) and a blocked punt.
“Jaxon is an exceptional athlete,” Hodgen said. “He has a knack for making the big play and plays with uncanny instinct and poise.”
Defensive back — Noah Guse, sr., Madison: 25 of Guse’s 38 tackles were solo efforts. He also had a pair of interceptions.
“Noah is a determined hard-hitter,” Hodgen said. “He does a great job holding teammates accountable with his focus and intensity. He even takes time to interact with the ball-boys and water-boys to make sure they feel like they are part of the team.”
Defensive back — Brice Harkless, sr., Hot Springs: Harkless did a bit of everything for Hot Springs on defense, logging 61 total tackles, returning an interception for a touchdown and recovering a pair of fumbles. He finished his career with 130 tackles, five interceptions and five fumble recoveries.
“Brice was a threat in all three phases of the game,” coach Ben Kramer said. “A 100 percent effort kid whose speed and toughness overshadowed his small stature.”
Kicker — Trey Nachtigall, sr., Hot Springs: While sidelined with a broken arm/wrist last season, Nachtigall taught himself how to kick. He returned to action late in the season as the team’s kicker and reprised that role again as a senior, hitting 36 of 41 PATs and six of eight field goals, including a career-long 41-yarder.
Punter — Jake Peterson, sr., Canton: Peterson was called upon to punt 16 times in 2016. He racked up 561 yards (35.1 yard per punt) and planted four inside the 20, with his longest boot traveling 53 yards. The MaxPreps Player of the Year in 2015, he averaged 32.6 yards over 66 punts. 14 ended up inside the 20.
“Jake was the heart of our team this year,” coach Rich Lundstrom said. “He has been a very solid player for us for three years.”
Special teams player — Zach Lange, sr., Belle Fourche: Lange made his name as a kick returner, returning 14 kicks for 425 yards and three touchdowns.
“Zach is one of those undersized kids that plays with a big man’s mentality,” Slotten said. “He is scrappy and very deceiving on the field.”
Long snapper — Wyatt Jewett, sr., Cheyenne-Eagle Butte: Cheyenne-Eagle Butte’s lone representative on the All-State team, Jewett played center on an offense that ran the ball for 2,640 yards and passed for 2,169 over the course of his career. He also contributed defensively at linebacker, finishing his career with 145 tackles, eight fumble recoveries, two sacks and two interceptions.
Preston Arity, sr., St. Thomas More; Cameron Fees, sr., St. Thomas More; Kobe Whipple, jr., St. Thomas More; Trevor Pulscher, sr., Dell Rapids; Dawson Kerzman, sr., Dell Rapids; Logan Peterson, sr., Vermillion; Brexton Traversie, sr., Cheyenne-Eagle Butte; Bennett Chesterman, sr., Dakota Valley; Evan Munkvold, sr., Tea; Caden Maciejewski, sr., Hot Springs; Sawyer Prins, sr., Sioux Falls Christian; Kayden Verley, fr., Canton; Devon Garry, jr., West Central.