Leadership and versatility.
The combination of those two qualities helped Yankton capture its second straight Class 11AA state championship, with another overtime thriller decided on a defensive stand by the Bucks.
At one point this season, Yankton suffered three losses over a four-game span (including consecutive shutout defeats), but found a late-season spark thanks to versatile weapons like Sheldon Gant (FB), Tanner Frick (WR) and Rayden Terca (DB).
That senior trio, along with Bradey Sorenson (OG) and Colin Muth (LB), were rewarded for their efforts by being named to the Class 11AA All-State Football Team, as chosen by the South Dakota Football Coaches Association.
What role did those five seniors play in Yankton’s football resurgence?
“It’s their commitment,” head coach Arlin Likness said. “It was not only their only work ethic, but their desire to see it through.
“Even when things didn’t go our way this year with injuries and everything else, they got back at it even harder to get better.”
And those five players produced in a number of ways once they got on the field.
“This year was a really satisfying year, knowing that when you put the work in, success will come,” Likness said.
Part of it, the work ethic in the offseason, last year we had 20 seniors that committed to working out in the morning, and it was the same thing this year.
“I think they’re realizing that hard work like that creates success,” Likness said.
Pierre, which lost to Yankton in the 11AA state championship game, had a class-high eight players named to the all-state team.
The Governors put four players on the offensive list, four on the defense and another on the honorable mention category.
Douglas had four players recognized, followed by Mitchell (3), Brookings (3), Huron (1) and Spearfish (1).
Here is a capsule look at the players selected to the 11AA All-State team:
Brevin Kaiser, Pierre.
The 6-foot-4 mobile quarterback accounted for 2,500 yards of offense for the Governors. He rushed for 788 yards and nine touchdowns, and passes for 1,759 yards and 14 touchdowns. “Our best football player and leader,” head coach Jayson Poppinga said. “His stats speak for themselves.”
Sheldon Gant, Yankton.
A team captain for the two-time state champion Bucks, Gant rushed for 581 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season, and also caught 28 passes for 396 yards. He also averaged 37.2 yards per punt, and on defense recorded 51 tackles and three interceptions (one for a touchdown).
Gerald Maxwell, Brookings.
The speedster out of the backfield rushed for 1,321 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, and finished his career with 2,838 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Spencer Neugebauer, Mitchell.
Helping to spark a turnaround for the Kernels, Neugebauer rushed for 1,129 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, and caught 16 passes for 295 yards and three more scores.
Tanner Frick, Yankton.
The three-year letterwinner became a focal point of the Yankton offense following a mid-season switch from backup quarterback Rayden Terca to No. 3 quarterback Nate Stephenson. Frick rushed for 348 yards and nine touchdowns, had 16 receptions for 320 yards and three touchdowns, and also had a defensive touchdown.
Erin Severyn, Pierre.
The top target for Kaiser, Severyn led the Governors this season in receptions (34) and receiving yards (478), and scored five touchdowns. Over his career, Severyn rolled up 912 y ards and seven touchdowns.
Michael Chaffin, Spearfish.
The versatile athlete helped the Spartans finish the season with 2,742 total yards, and according to head coach Chad McCarty, he “never complained, just works hard.”
Bradey Sorenson, Yankton.
The four-star national recruit at long snapper was also a three-year starter at left guard for the Bucks, who tallied 2,302 rushing yards and 1,440 passing yards this season.
MarkJay Gutierrez, Pierre.
The two-year starter for the Governors immigrated with English as his second language, according to head coach Jayson Poppinga. “One of our hardest workers who plays both sides of the ball,” Poppinga said.
Max Reinke, Pierre.
Although he missed three games with a hand injury, Reinke is on this list because he helped spark a late-season surge for the Governors. Pierre averaged 450 yards of offense over the final four games, and Reinke allowed only one quarterback sack in that span.
Ethan Roth, Harrisburg.
The University of South Dakota commit (as a defensive lineman) was a three-year starter for the Tigers on the offensive line.
Brandon Kneebone, Douglas.
The 285-pound Kneebone never missed a game in his four seasons of high school football, and according to head coach Dan Maciejczak is “a great athlete for his size.”
Seth Neal, Pierre.
The Governors relied on Neal’s big-play capability on the line, and he responded with 45 tackles, six sacks and 13 tackles for loss this season. Over his career, Neal had 80 tackles, four fumble recoveries, 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
Jacob Headlee, Harrisburg.
One of those two-way players on both sides of the ball, Headlee was perhaps more dangerous on defense, where he finished the season with 46 tackles, six sacks and five forced fumbles. “Great player, but better human being,” said head coach Brandon White, who believes Headlee could be a Division I recruit.
Austin Barrett, Douglas.
The senior recorded 26 tackles and three sacks this season, and according to head coach Dan Maciejczak, “looks like a DE.”
Austin Kelly, Pierre.
According to head coach Jayson Poppinga, Kelly “epitomizes a true teammate who doesn’t have big statistics, but creates opportunities for his teammates.” Kelly finished his senior season with 20 tackles.
Aaron Eggebrecht, Brookings.
The 290-pound lineman recorded 49 tackles, with three sacks and nine tackles for loss this season for the Bobcats. He “showed great improvement to become our best defensive lineman,” head coach Lee Schmidt said.
Jeremiah Harmon, Spearfish.
The 275-pound senior (who is also a heavyweight wrestler) finished the season second on the team with 57 tackles.
Colin Muth, Yankton.
The leading tackler each of the past two seasons for the Bucks, Muth recorded an eye-popping 116 tackles this season along with one interception. He finished his career with 282 tackles. The senior “drives everyone to get better,” according to head coach Arlin Likness.
Jacob Klemme, Harrisburg.
Head coach Brandon White said that Klemme, a two-year starter, watched more film than he did. Klemme finished his senior season with 78 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks. Over his career, he recorded 192 tackles, four interceptions and six sacks.
Layne Hohn, Pierre.
The “heart” of the Pierre defense, Hohn led the Governors in tackles (82) and also added two sacks and two interceptions. He was the only senior this season to have started on the 2013 state championship squad.
Preston Tetzlaff, Brookings.
The first two-time team captain in Bobcats history, Tetzlaff finished his career with 273 tackles (18 for loss) and two interceptions. “The greatest student-athlete our staff has had the honor of coaching,” head coach Lee Schmidt said.
Rayden Terca, Yankton.
The final statistics for the senior show exactly how versatile he was this season for the champion Bucks. At times a quarterback, running back and receiver, Terca was perhaps most valuable on defense where he had 42 total tackles, two interceptions (one for a touchdown) and 10 pass breakups.
Nick Wiebe, Pierre.
The two-year starter finished his senior season with 64 tackles and two fumble recoveries. “He is one of the best tacklers in space who can play in the box due to his toughness,” head coach Jayson Poppinga said.
Sam Michels, Mitchell.
Another offensive weapon, Michels finished his junior season with 38 tackles. He was also a kick return weapon for the Kernels, who won seven games.
Trey Moeding, Huron.
Another versatile player, Moeding recorded 48 tackles and two interceptions this season, in addition to his offensive production. The senior finished his career with 80 tackles and two interceptions.
Kanin Nelson, Mitchell. A South Dakota State recruit, Nelson added to his offensive numbers by averaging 33.2 yards per punt and 43.4 yards per kickoff. He was also 32-of-35 on extra points.
Coltin Hitshew, Douglas.
The senior averaged 40.2 yards per punt and only had one punt blocked during his career. “Coltin will be missed because of his ability to turn fourth down into a dangerous down,” head coach Dan Maciejczak said.
Adam Voss, Douglas.
The all-conference selection is a “great young man that did great things for us and will continue to do great things in the future,” head coach Dan Maciejczak said.
Brookings – Kurt Reed; Mitchell – Reed Overweg, Bryce Geraets, Spencer Mohr; Pierre – Isaiah Watson; Spearfish – Sean Warnock, Dylan Reiners