Many of Class 11AAA’s heavyweights have only one week remaining of the regular season, but Friday’s games still are bubbling with playoff implications.
The marquee matchup is Roosevelt, No. 2 in Class 11AAA, vs. No. 4 O’Gorman at 7 p.m. at McEneaney Field.
Of course, Friday’s game is about much more than a slot in the polls. Roosevelt is second and O’Gorman fourth in a three-team race with Brandon Valley for the second seed in the playoffs. The three teams are separated by fewer than 2.5 power points.
“This game is big. We’re 5-2 and have lost to two teams who are undefeated in the state,” said O’Gorman coach Steve Kueter. “You’re going to have to beat Roosevelt if you want to win the state title, there is no doubt about that. We have our chance now and a chance to get a good spot in the playoffs.”
Incentive that goes beyond a city rivalry
As more than a dress rehearsal for the playoffs, Friday’s game could play to the advantage of both Roosevelt and O’Gorman. With so much at stake, the two teams have had no choice but to keep their intensity levels high.
“It’s not good to know ahead of time where you’re going to be seeded,” Roosevelt coach Kim Nelson said. “It’s always good to have a little bit of a question mark, and it helps to make this game even bigger than it is. That’s helped us be very motivated this week.”
Roosevelt’s road to claiming the potential second seed has been a rocky one in some ways, but the Rough Riders have weathered a couple of key injuries.
Roosevelt endures injuries to top players
The Rough Riders lost the services of lineman Grant Schmidt, an Ohio State commit, and quarterback Taryn Christion, a South Dakota State recruit, for spells this season. Yet the Riders are 6-1 entering Friday’s game.
“We had two of our top players go down early in the season, but we are still in it,” Nelson said. “We lost to Lincoln in a close game, and since then we have won four or five wins in a row.
“We’ve had the kids to get away with those injuries. Now, Grant is going at full speed and Jett (Thune) is playing well at quarterback.”
Thune has stabilized the Rough Riders since Christion’s injury, but the junior will face his stiffest test Friday. It’s safe to say that O’Gorman presents a greater challenge than Rapid City Central, Aberdeen Central, Mitchell and Rapid City Stevens, the teams Roosevelt has topped during its winning streak.
“We’ve played four games in a row now in which we’ve been heavily favored,” Nelson said. “Now we are a little more evenly matched, so we can find out if we’ve improved in the last month or not.”
O’Gorman ‘in pretty good shape right now’
O’Gorman has also had to go through a clip of injuries. The Knights saw running back Dodi Makwinja and others sidelined at times, but the Knights have bounced back nicely from an overtime loss to Yankton with blowout wins against Rapid City Central and Watertown.
“It helped getting some kids back who were injured, and we are also starting to come together in terms of figuring out what we can and can’t do,” Kueter said. “Every high school football team looks to get better as the year goes on, and I think we’ve done that. We’re in pretty good shape right now.”
Lincoln strivesfor perfection again
Lincoln simply has kept doing what it did in winning last year’s state title and has seized the top spot in the biggest class again. A win over Washington would mean a second consecutive undefeated regular season.
The Patriots go into Friday’s tilt at Howard Wood Field with an 18-game winning streak and a stranglehold on the top seed for the playoffs. Despite probably playing host to the eighth seed no matter Friday’s outcome, Lincoln is intent on a strong finish.
“(Finishing the season perfect) isn’t really something that we’ve talked about,” Coach Aaron Beavers said. “We’ve just tried to always have the mentality that we’re 0-0 every week. If they accomplish that when the season’s done, that’s great, but there is still a whole second half of the season to come.”
Beavers look to balance the need to keep his players fresh with the need to stay sharp. The Patriots (7-0) will be without starting offensive lineman Drew Peters. He is out the remainder of the season with an MCL injury, and the hope is to avoid any additional injuries.
“We’ve played a lot of younger kids this week. We are a bit beat up, but we also want to give the kids some experience and build some depth,” Beavers said.
“We’re trying to keep everyone fresh mentally and physically while giving some new guys some reps.”
Washington aimsto build on big victories
Washington stands in the way of a second consecutive unblemished regular season, and the Warriors have shown improvement late in the season.
Washington defeated Huron and Rapid City Central by a combined score of 113-13 the past two weeks.
“We’re playing much faster in terms of understanding our schemes,” said Washington coach Chad Stadem, whose team implemented new offensive and defensive systems. “The kids have identified their roles in the offense and defense. Things are going well for us right now.”
While the wins against the Tigers and Cobblers have served as evidence of improvement, the Warriors want to take stock against the state’s best.
“I know our kids want to know where we stand after our progression, and we can find out this week,” Stadem said. “Lincoln has an amazing football team once again, and our kids are excited for the challenge.”
Washington (3-4) is the seventh seed, but a win against Lincoln could shoot the Warriors up the ladder. Washington is less than a point behind Rapid City Stevens for the sixth seed.
“We aren’t too worried about winning or losing the football game – we are more worried about how we play,” Stadem said. “Obviously, a win would shake up the power points and it would be big for us to win a traditional rivalry.”
Washington and Lincoln always have had a knack for rising to the challenge of their rivalry, making anything possible Friday night.
“This has kind of always been a big game. I think both teams seem to play better against each other,” Beavers said. “Washington has a long tradition, and we’d like to say that we have a recent tradition. I think it will be two well-coached teams full great athletes on the field.”
More PREPS INSIDE
STATS: Area leaders in passing, rushing, receiving.
STARS: Top efforts recognized in Aces of the Week
STANDINGS: Metro and ESD breakdowns.
SCHEDULE: No. 2 Roosevelt vs. No. 4 O’Gorman at McEneaney Field at 7 p.m. Friday. No. 1 Lincoln tries to cap a second straight perfect regular season, 7 p.m. Friday vs. Washington at Howard Wood Field.
INSIDE: Postscript for the South Dakota high school soccer season: Page 3D
ONLINE: Watch live video of Roosevelt facing O’Gorman and Lincoln vs. Washington, and join
the live chat starting at 7 p.m. Friday
SPORTS WEB LIVE
1 P.M. TODAY: Join Sports Editor Stu Whitney and Craig Mattick of KWSN 1230-AM live this afternoon to talk about this Friday’s matchups of Sioux Falls powers. Whitney and Mattick also will preview the high school football playoffs