Jandy’s Top 5 in Class 11AA
The headline in Pierre is the opportunity to break the record for most consecutive football championships in the playoff era. Pierre has won six straight titles all under the guidance of Head Coach Steve Steele, “We will be very athletic, and have some real speed at some key positions,” said Steele. Cade Kaiser is taking snaps in this new-look Govs offense. Jett Zabel had a breakout junior season with 79 receptions for 1309 yards and 17 TDs. The future NDSU Bison is primed for another huge year. Sturgis transfer, Tyan Buus was an all-state performer at receiver and joins the Govs this year. Brock Moser will likely see more action as the starting running back this year with returning all-state lineman Matthew Coverdale leading the line. Several college football athletes pepper the defense. Trey Lewis, Emmit Andersen, Chance Carda, Spencer Easland and Spencer Skjonsberg all return to the starting lineup.
2. Tea Area
Tea Area continues to bring out several high-caliber athletes. This season they have four starters back from their runner-up team a year ago. There will be some new faces, but head coach Scott Frey isn’t using that as an excuse.
“It's do what we do,” said Frey. “We haven't changed anything in years and we added things here and there, but we're still the same team we've always been.”
Keegan DeYoung is one of the few big names coming back for Tea Area. He’ll be the bell cow fullback in this offense. Brenner Konrad is expected to take snaps. Tyler Rhead, Brock Ellington, Carter Turak and Jacob Jungeugd give the Titans some muscle up front. Jesse Weibenga, Sam Werdel and Ethan Vus are leaders on defense. The Titans will need some new faces to rise up to the challenge this year. They have a deep roster once again and Coach Frey is ready to saddle up with this group, “The bar is not going to be lowered, even though we lost a bunch of guys. We got a bunch of nice guys coming up. We still want to practice in November!”
The Bucks enjoyed improvement yet again last season going 6-5 and making it to the semis. This year with fewer than half of their starters returning they’ll look to make another deep playoff run. “If you look at the players that had measurable statistical impact on the field last year, many of those players have graduated our program,” said Coach Brady Muth. “That being said, there is a lot of potential in our position groups.”
Shaylor Platt and Matthew Sheldon return to the backfield. Both are capable of being the workhorse and could be a dynamic powerful combination. Tucker Gilmore and Austin Gobel are back at receiver. Gobel is a strong and tall target while Gobel can line up in the slot and move the chains. Lucas Kampshoff gets an opportunity to start at quarterback to try to keep these playmakers active. The offensive and defensive lines both will see new names and will be a focus for the Bucks as they continue to improve.
The Arrows bring back nine starters this season and look to be an improved team. “The 2023 Arrows have a very good core of experienced football players who have played together for a long time,” said Coach John Hodorff. “This season our biggest challenge will be creating depth on our team and becoming a team that does not play a ton of guys two ways will help us as the season goes on.”
Juven Hudson is the premier back in the class. He ran it 201 times for 1,236 yards last season. He’s got a very big and talented offensive line to run with this year. Quarterback Treyton Hemmrich is back with Owen Spartz, Spencer Wientjes and Austin Johnson returning to the offense as well. The defense will be better this year with leaders like Simon Hendricks, Austin Johnson, Spencer Wientjes, Owen Spartz, and Caden Beauchamp.
5. Aberdeen Central
The Golden Eagles finished 6-5 last season under head coach Justin Briese. This year they’ll continue to build with some fresh faces, “We have a lot of underclassmen that are eager to get on the field after a senior heavy Golden Eagles went 6-5 last season.”
Parker Lemer moves into the quarterback role this year with Austin Erickson, Avery Ligon and Kalen Larson moving the ball on the ground. The Golden Eagles have one of the top returning offensive lines in the class. Bryce Beitelspacher leads a group of four returning linemen. Jett Carlson and Lemer are set to start in the defensive backfield.
Brookings: The Bobcats had an up and down season a year and were eliminated in the quarterfinals. They return six offensive starters and four on defense as they try to get back into contention. “We are a young team this season, but during the off-season, and over the sum-mer, we have been excited as coaches seeing the commitment from our guys to get better in the weight room,” said Brady Clark. Three offensive linemen join Will Conrad, Cole Hockett and Dagi Thomas who return to the starting lineup on offense. Ethan Houtman, Charlie Bisgard, Cole Hockett and Luke Hanson are back starting on defense. Brookings could be a much better team by the end of the season if they continue to get stronger and see their young playmakers take a step forward.
Spearfish: The Spartans were competitive all season long and churned out four victories last year. Eight starters are back for coach Dalton Wademan. “The senior group this year, were freshmen when our coaching staff came in,” said Wademan. “They are the first group that has been through the program for four years with this coaching staff.” Four offensive linemen return to start this year. That will be a huge factor as Spearfish tries to establish the run with Hunter Walters and Mick Bosh in the backfield. Seth Hamilton threw for 1,418 yards and 15 TDs last season. He’ll lead a passing attack that has the luxury of having a three-year starter like Brayden Delahoyde catch his passes. Caden Langefeld and Dylon Doren are also back as receivers.
Huron: The Tigers welcome new head coach Dru Strand to the team. They return six starters and have some momentum as they reload for this season. Look for CJ Gainey to have a big senior year he gained 20 yards per catch last season in limited duty. Seven starters are back on defense, they are undersized but have an impressive linebacking unity including Cashton Caudell and Kolby Hofer. “Our senior group has been through it all from the winning side and the losing side of things,” said Coach Strand. “They walk around with a chip on their shoulder and want to prove to everyone they are capable of success.
Mitchell: The Kernels have four starters back on offense and five on defense. They will try to establish the run with Mick Dailey and Parker Denne in the backfield. Tyson Sabers, Connor Degen, Seth Foote, Dustin Kurtenbach and Connor Singrey all return as starters too. “I like the makeup of this year’s team a lot,” said new Head Coach Pat Larson who takes over for the retired Kent VanOverschelde. “I expect this team to work hard and compete every single day.”
Sturgis: Don’t sleep on Sturgis. They got to four wins last year and have several key pieces back this season. “Senior Leadership will a key this season along with our ability to play sound football on offense and defense,” said Coach Chris Koletzky. The Scoopers lost some of their premier athletes but hope to see some new names take over. One name to watch will be their new quarterback Aiden Hedderman. He is a star track athlete who has played receiver in the past. This year he takes snaps and will give the team a true dual threat quarterback. He has four offensive linemen returning in front of him. The defense is deep with seven returning starters.
Douglas: Will Velez takes over as the head coach at Douglas. Though they didn’t win any games last season they have confidence they can compete. “We are a young team trying to replace key positions,” said Velez. “Our goal is to compete until the last whistle. We will have players that need to be iron man players and play both sides of the ball.” Aiden Russell is expected to play quarterback and Matthew Denekamp will be a leader on defense.
Class 11AA Preseason Player of the Year
Jett Zabel, Pierre
Jett will be a third-year starter this season at tight end. His career numbers are at 79 receptions for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns. In the offseason he verballed to NDSU to continue his football career. Zabel is coming off an injury that plagued him at the end of last season and sidelined him for basketball. He is fully ready to go for a big senior season for the Govs.
Players to watch in Class 11AA
Bryce Beitelspacher, Aberdeen Central
Tyan Buus, Pierre
Matthew Coverdale, Pierre
Brayden Delahoyde, Spearfish
Keegan DeYoung, Tea Area
CJ Gainey, Huron
Juven Hudson, Watertown
Cade Kaiser, Pierre
Trey Lewis, Pierre
Shaylor Platt, Yankton