The 2017 high school football season will begin tonight for our area teams. Throughout the week, we have been previewing the area leagues, and today, we will finish with the area teams from the Northern Plains League that compete in the eastern half of the state in 8-Man DII.
All five of the teams from the east compete in 8-Man DII District 4. The top ranked team coming into the season out of those five is Pike Valley. The Panthers are ranked #2 in the state to start the season after they went 10-2 last year, with their only losses coming to each of the 8-Man State Champions, Osborne (DI) and Hanover (DII). The Panthers bring back five starters on each side, led by their speedy backfield. Lane Peters, the 1A 100m Dash state champion in the spring, is back after running for just under 1,500 yards and 28 TD last season. He also had 85 tackles on defense. Cole Strickler, another state qualifying sprinter is back as well. He was the leading receiver with 690 yards and 13 TD last year and had a team high 86 tackles on defense. One of the most important returnees is the QB Davante Hammer. The veteran has been starting since his freshman year and last season, threw for 1,189 yards, 22 TD and just four interceptions. Pike Valley does need to replace 8-Man All-Stars Blaze Payeur and Mason Runft, who were great leaders a season ago. Don Melby, who enters his 37th season as the Panthers’ head coach, talked about his team coming into this season.
Pike Valley opens their season tonight at Lakeside. That game can be heard on KD Country 94 and online at kdcountry94.com as Chad Hallack has the call.
Elsewhere in District 4, the St. John’s/Tipton Blujays, last year’s District runner-up, will need to replace many of their starters from last year. In fact, they return only two players with starting experience, as they lost seven seniors from last year’s team that finished 7-3. Most notably, 8-Man All-Stars Davis Dubbert and Aaron Henke. Dubbert threw for 1,604 yards and 16 TD last season and had 70 tackles on defense, while Henke was the leading tackler with 123 stops and led the Jays with 638 yards and eight touchdowns receiving. They also lost Eddie Koenigsman (92 tackles) and Mason Eilert (71 tackles) at the DE positions. The top returner for St. John’s/Tipton is Ty Brummer, as he led the team in rushing a season ago with 857 yards and 13 TD and also had 98 tackles on defense. Kail Dubbert is the only other returning starter for St. John’s/Tipton this season. Coach Keith Kresin gave his thoughts on how his team has come along so far with their inexperience.
St. John’s/Tipton opens their season tonight at home in Tipton against Chase. Fans can hear that game on Z 96.3 “The Lake” and kdcountry94.com with pregame coverage at 6:30 and kickoff at 7:00. Dusty Deines and Todd Clover call the action.
Unlike St. John’s/Tipton, the Rock Hills Grizzlies have plenty of experience coming back. Rock Hills missed the playoffs in 2016 because of a two-point loss to St. John’s/Tipton in the last game of the season. They have five starters back on offense and six on defense, led by Zane Colson, who had 773 yards and 11 TD rushing on offense and his 88 tackles were the second most for the Grizzly defense. Tycen Higer returns at FB and LB, as he had 65 tackles and 11 TFL last year. Rock Hills will need to replace Drew Beam, who was an 8-Man All-Star and the leading tackler with 89 stops, as well as their QB Luke Broeckelman, who threw for 844 yards and 15 TD. With a lot of experience coming back, Rock Hills head coach Brock McMillan said that his team is more advanced at this point in the season.
Rock Hills opens their season tonight against Wilson in Mankato.
The other two teams that compete in 8-Man DII District 4 are Southern Cloud and Tescott. The Warriors bring back five starters on both sides from a team that went 0-9 last season. They do have a new head coach, as Rick Hatfield steps up from the junior high ranks to take over the high school program from Tyler Williams who stepped away after last year. Southern Cloud opens their season at home against Sylvan-Lucas tonight.
Tescott went 2-7 in 2016. They have experience returning with six starters back on offense and seven on defense. They will need to replace their QB Casey Brown, as Zach Perry is expected to take over the position. The Trojans do have most of their other skill players returning, including their leading receiver from last season, Daniel Torres. Tescott opens the season tonight at home against Lincoln.