There was a trend when the Sioux Falls public schools started piling up championships when this class was formed. In fact, the first five titles from 2013 to 2017 went to a Sioux Falls Public school. However, the tide is changing. The last four years have gone to Brandon Valley, O’Gorman or Harrisburg. Will that trend continue? Let’s take a closer look.
Last season Recap:
- Harrisburg won their first state championship in Class 11AAA
- Brandon Valley runner up
- Lincoln and O’Gorman semifinalists
- Stevens, Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt lost in the quarterfinals
This season’s storylines:
- Harrisburg replaces 5 O-Linemen and Big Ten quarterback.
- Brandon Valley has just one starter back on defense as they strive for five championship games in a row.
- Jefferson has a full senior class for the first time, can they claim the spot as best in the city?
- Traditional powers Roosevelt, and Washington need to rebuild after quarterfinal losses.
- Can a Rapid City school crack the rankings?
Jandy’s Preseason Rankings
1. BRANDON VALLEY LYNX
Head Coach: Matt Christensen
Starters Returning: 5 OFFENSE / 1 DEFENSE
Impact Players: Lucas Slack, Navarro Schunke, Andrew Bunkers, Nate Andresen, Dylan Langerock, Delvoun Spears-Witte, Micah Nelson, Tristan Bisbee, Nathan Vandeberg, Tristan Niewenhuis, Jack Thue, Payton Egan
The Lynx are in a unique spot this season, they don’t return a ton of starters but expectations remain super-high. “We have tons of confidence, opportunities open up for young guys when you have a lot of graduating seniors,” said Coach Matt Christensen. One of the reasons the Lynx have such high expectations is their strength. Brandon Valley won the state power-lifting competition last year and they have a lot of power on the football team because of it. Navarro Schunke may be the most powerful lineman in the state. He may miss a little time at the beginning of the year because of a lingering wrestling injury but when he and Andrew Bunkers team up they provide a very strong core on the offensive line. Lucas Slack and Jack Thue saw time at quarterback last year. Slack comes into his senior year with much more confidence and comfort running the offense. The Lynx will look to Delvoun Spears-Witte to take a larger chunk of the carries at running back and they have good options with Nate Andresen and Dylan Langerock at receiver. On defense they will have a lot of new faces. Tristan Bisbee is the lone returning starter but look for Nathan Vandeberg and Tristan Niewenhuis to step up as leaders on D.
2. LINCOLN PATRIOTS
Head Coach: Jared Fredenburg
Starters Returning: 8 OFFENSE / 6 DEFENSE
Impact Players: Tate Schafer, Jack Smith, Isaac Jarovski, Trenton Peterson, Sam Hindbjorgen, Elliot Renville, Gabe Gutierrez, Sawyer Tolk, Taven Clapper
Some might be surprised I have so much confidence in Lincoln this year. The Patriots will hit the ground running this year with a strong senior and junior class. They lost to the eventual champs twice last year by one score each time. Head Coach Jared Fredenburg likes the team this year, “We played a ton of underclassmen last year. Nine sophomores played significant minutes for us.” Sam Hindbjorgen and Gabe Gutierrez lead a nasty defense as third-year starters in their senior year. Elliot Renville leads a solid offensive line with Adam Behrend and Tim Nunn returning up front. Quarterback Tate Schafer had a great sophomore season but looks to be more consistent as a junior signal caller this year. The weapons in the passing game are ridiculous with Jack Smith, Trenton Peterson, Isaac Jarovski and Sam Hindbjorgen at tight end. Look for Mose Mohammad to take a lot of the carries as he comes across town from Roosevelt.
3. HARRISBURG TIGERS
Head Coach: Brandon White
Starters Returning: 3 OFFENSE / 4 DEFENSE
Impact Players: Dylan Elrod, Gavin Ross, Tytan Tryon, Aidan Foley, Jack Detert, Rich Benenge, Tim Bishop, Nick Chan
The Tigers climbed to the top of 11AAA in a hurry. Just a couple of seasons into the state’s largest class and they won a state title. This season they’ll have to replace a Big Ten quarterback and five starting offensive linemen. But the Tigers are not focused on what they are replacing, they are focused on what they have. Their resource is their depth, they have over 150 kids in high school that are out for football, and several of them have been waiting their turn to show what they can do. “They want that starting role and they want to fill in and create their own legacy,” said Head Coach Brandon White. Dylan Elrod is one of those players. Elrod has been fantastic in camp this year. Coach White has noticed the speed of the game slowing down for him. He has Tytan Tryon as one of his top targets in the passing game and the all-state running back Gavin Ross to shoulder the load running the ball. The real strength of this team could be their defense. Aidan Foley, Jack Detert, Rich Benenge, Nick Chan and Tim Bishop are the core of what could be a dominant defense.
4. JEFFERSON CAVALIERS
Head Coach: Vince Benedetto
Starters Returning: 11 OFFENSE / 11 DEFENSE
Impact Players: Taylen Ashley, Griffin Wilde, Robert Hutchinson, Nelson Wright, Gabo Yohana, Sam Siegfried, Beau Giblin, London Kolb, Dawson Sechser, David Grabow, Ethan Koltz, DaShawn Rohlik, Sawyer Huntimer, Tyler Horner, Tayten Sanow, Cohen Henry, Evan Haug, Thomas Heiberger, Kaiden Johnson, Antuan Duran
No other team in this class returns as much as the Cavaliers do. Coach Vince Benedetto is ready to run, “In a lot better place than we were a year ago. We have a year in our weight room, a year of learning our system and our kids,” said Benedetto. The Cavs won some games early in the season and finished with four wins. The same kids are back to build on that. No one in the class affects their team’s offense as much as Taylen Ashley does. Ashley threw for 1,850 yards and 15 TDs last year while running for 413 yards and 7 TDs. He comes into the season as my preseason player of the year in the class because of his exceptional playmaking ability. He has a pair of outstanding receivers to throw to in Griffin Wilde and Robert Hutchinson. Wilde grabbed 54 catches for 912 yards and 12 TDs, Hutchinson was hampered a bit physically last year but has the potential to be one of the top receivers in the class. Nelson Wright is another big addition to the team; he comes from Roosevelt where he ran for 1,088 yards and 12 TDs as a junior last year. I could gush about several other impact guys on both sides of the ball, but the fact is that the athletes are there across the field to make Jefferson a title contender.
5. O’GORMAN KNIGHTS
Head Coach: Jayson Poppinga
Starters Returning: 4 OFFENSE / 4 DEFENSE
Impact Players: Bennett Dannenbring, Peyton Hage, Maverick Jones, Ryland Satter, Aden Scott, Nate Ratzlaff, Gabe Tschetter, Sam Jacobsen, Henry Theobald
The Knights always seem to find a way to compete with the big boys even though they are outsized up front. This year they can match up with anyone in the state at the skill positions. Bennett Dannenbring could be ready to set passing records. He came into his own in the second half of last season and finished with 2,475 yards and 22 TDs passing plus he is a threat to run the ball with 540 yards and 7TDs. I believe Bennett has a shot at putting up the best numbers in the state this year with Peyton Hage and Ryland Satter to throw the ball to and Maverick Jones to hand it off to. O’Gorman has the smallest class of seniors of anyone in the state. Just 15 seniors are on the team, so contributions from a big and athletic junior class are necessary. Despite a small group of seniors, Poppinga thinks they need to get off to a better start, “Last year we didn’t figure out our starting lineup until week 6 when we kept the same lineup the remainder of the year and went 5-1 with a tough loss in the semifinals. This year’s team must have a better start and win close games.”
The Warriors return three offensive starters and six on defense after a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals. They bring back one of the most dynamic rushers in the state with Elijah Taniah who ran for 936 yards and 13TDs a year ago. On defense, Abraham Myers, Mandala Mohamed, Chase Gunderson, Mason Wilson, Ryan Nesheim and Kaden Schmidt fill out a very stout group. If Washington can solidify the offensive line with Kael Miedema leading the way and make some plays with a new quarterback, the Warriors will be in the hunt once again. “We need to make up for our lack of experience with great execution and selfless play,” said Coach Ryan Evans. “We want to enter each game with confidence and be ready to capitalize on every opportunity.”
ROOSEVELT ROUGH RIDERS
Roosevelt lost a huge senior class last year and will have to rebuild with several underclassmen this year. However, the cupboard isn’t bare. Their quarterback Jackson Brouwer is back to lead the offense. He has a much better grasp of leading the team as a junior this year. Jaxsen Grevengoed showed what he can do on the field last year as a sophomore as well. Grevengoed was a threat to take it the distance every time he touched the ball. Ty Naaktgeboren leads the defense after an outstanding year as a junior.
RAPID CITY STEVENS RAIDERS
This will be the third year under head coach Michael Scott, each year they’ve seen some type of improvement. This will also be the third year with Jed Jensen at quarterback. Jensen threw for 1,785 yards and 16 TDs last season. Look for Julian Scott and Central transfer Cael Meisman to see the bulk of Jensen’s targets.
RAPID CITY CENTRAL COBBLERS
Central welcomes back four starters as they prepare to improve this season. Neal Cruce and the Cobblers have worked hard to build a foundation for the team going forward. Quarterback Ryan Wetch returns after surviving his sophomore year at the varsity level. This season you should see Wetch make strides. Look for Sawyer Saucerman, Zack Soderlin, Jace Johnson, Jaxon Fairchild to be impact players on offense. The defense will be led by future D1 lineman Will Paepke and Ryland Lamke, Jace Johnson, and Jaxon Fairchild.
TOP PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 11AA
Preseason Player of the year: Taylen Ashley, Jefferson
Bennett Danenbring, O’Gorman
Gabe Gutierrez, Lincoln
Sam Hindbjorgen, Lincoln
Ty Naaktgeboren, Roosevelt
Abraham Myers, Washington
Will Paepke, RC Central
Gavin Ross, Harrisburg
Navarro Schunke, Brandon Valley
Elijah Taniah, Washington
Griffin Wilde, Jefferson
More Outstanding 11AAA Players to watch
Tim Bishop, Harrisburg
Jackson Brouwer, Roosevelt
Andrew Bunkers, Brandon Valley
Beau Giblin, Jefferson
Jaxsen Grevengoed, Roosevelt
Jed Jensen, Stevens
Maverick Jones, O’Gorman
London Kolb, Jefferson
Kael Miedema, Washington
Elliot Renville, Lincoln
Ryland Satter, O’Gorman
Tate Schafer, Lincoln
Julian Scott, Stevens
Lucas Slack, Brandon Valley
Jack Smith, Lincoln
Mason Wilson, Washington
Nelson Wright, Jefferson