Jandy’s Top 5
Lincoln has finished strong the last three seasons but not strong enough to make it to the championship game. This season they feature 8 returning starters on offense and 5 on defense as they try to take that next step. “They seem to understand that having a couple of good players isn't going to be enough to achieve the goals they have set for themselves,” said Head Coach Jared Fredenburg. “It takes the whole team together, and our best players are happy when others on the team succeed.”
Those ‘good players’ are a great starting point. The Pats return Tate Schafer at quarterback for his third year starting. He threw for over 3100 yards and 35 touchdowns. Jack Smith is back as a three year starter as well at receiver. Isaac Jarovski and Dawson Siem join Smith to make one of the toughest receiver groups in the state. Dreavin Hodge is the feature back, he rushed for 610 yards and 6 touchdowns as a junior last season. Four offensive linemen return to the starting lineup including Tim Nunn, Adam Behrend, Bo Bosler and Ben Heiberger.
Defense may be the question for Lincoln. They have the talent but have a lot of new players to fit it. Brycen Mitchell is an all-state returner who sets the tone on the d-line. Sawyer Tolk is a leader in the secondary.
Lincoln has a tough schedule in the middle of the season, if they can stay injury free and find solid play on defense they should be in position at the end of the season to play for a title.
2. Brandon Valley
Injuries hampered the Lynx all season long last year. Head Coach Matt Christensen expects challenges every year, “Facing challenges is what we always seek. That’s the reason to play football: forge yourself to withstand oncoming adversity, then come out a better version of yourself in all respects.”
This year they should be a better version of the Lynx in the standings.
It all starts up front. The Lynx won’t have an offensive linemen under 6’4”. Navarro Schunke missed the entire season last year due to injury, he comes in as the top college prospect in the state as a senior. He leads this line that should be able to move the running game. Del’voun Spears-Witte will be out the early part of the season but is expected to assume a big role running the ball again this year. Quarterback Jack Thue has made huge strides as a leader and a passer. Thue has seen playing time as a sophomore and a junior but will be handed the keys as a senior. He has some big-time weapons in the passing game. Dveyoun Bonwell-Witte had a great freshman year last season and returns as one of the top targets. Landon Dulaney is a freak athlete who missed last season due to injury but should make a noticeable impact as a junior this season.
Defensively the Lynx return 8 starters. Greyson Bortnem is their leading returning tackler and sophomore Hudson Parliament is a budding superstar on the line.
The Tigers continue to have the most players on the roster in the class. That depth has made them especially tough in the playoffs. They earned a spot at the dome the last two seasons and hope to get back again with 6 starters on offense and 3 back on defense.
“We’re excited to bring back some big-time receivers,” said Coach Brandon White. They have Max Carlson, Tyton Tryon and Cale Morton back. They all have all-state potential and bring different strengths to the receiving corps. Tryon led the Tigers with 1,222 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, Carlson ended the season as one of the most dynamic weapons in the state. He can line up all over the field and excel. Sam Knuth will be delivering the football to those targets. The junior QB is mobile and has a strong arm. “He’s very mobile already, experience is all he lacks right now. His stock is risen quite fast over the summer and he’s in a good spot.” The offensive line is good once again. Max Elros, Connor Fizgerald and Rizg Osman all are back as starters and they have some long athletic players ready to step in.
On defense Sam Just, Coen Cook and Logan O’Connor are back in the starting lineup. If they can find some pieces to hit the ground running, they should be stout on that side of the ball again.
The Cavaliers enjoyed a 12-0 season on their way to a 11AAA championship. That success will be hard to sustain, but coach Vince Benedetto is still excited. "We have had a good offseason, kids have worked hard but we will be a work in progress.” Just two starters return on offense and three on defense. Look for junior Ethan Swenson to lead at quarterback. Swenson has really shown improvement and throws a good ball, however inexperience and fewer known weapons in the offense could hinder the cohesion at the beginning of the season. They have Evan Haug back at receiver and Carson Hughes on the offensive line back. Thomas Heiberger may be the most impactful player in the class. Heiberger verballed to Wisconsin in the offseason. He is a 6-4 beast with enough versatility to play several positions on both defense and offense. The Cavs were hoping to have Dashawn Rohlik at defensive end but lost him due to injury.”He had a season ending injury this summer unfortunately- I think would have been one of the best defensive lineman in the state this year. Really bummed for him, I do think we have a handful of you DL that can make an impact,” said Benedetto. Dawson Sechser is an all-state caliber defensive back who plays more like a linebacker. Kaiden Johnson will be another force on defense for the Cavs.
Once again O’Gorman figures to be a contender. The Knights continually put up competitors despite their small school size, “Overcoming our small school size and roster size to compete at the AAA level [is a big challenge]. We would be the smallest school in AA football,” said Coach Jayson Poppinga.
They have several all-state caliber players on offense starting with Ryland Satter. The future NDSU Bison has lined up at several positions on offense including fullback, tight end and receiver. He is a threat every time he touches the ball. Maverick Jones is another three-year starter for the Knights. Jones is one of the most dangerous ball carriers in the class. Sullivan Schlimgen had a breakout sophomore season and should emerge as a dominant tight end this year. Hayden Groos was a great defensive back last year and will take over at quarterback this season. He takes over for one of the most successful quarterbacks in school history, Bennett Dannenbring. Henry Theobald is one of the top cornerbacks in the state. He verballed to UND this summer and is one of five returning starters on D. Hayden Groos, Sam Marsh, Sully Schlimgen and Ryland Satter will all be back on defense.
Stevens: Six starters return for the Raiders and head coach Michael Scott has the pieces to improve on last season’s 3-7 mark. Tate Crosswait, Cael Meisman and Thomas Martian will all be among the best players at their position in the state.
Look for Meisman, and Beck Morgan to shine at receiver. They opened the camp with Jacob Johnston, Bryce Flack and Colton Morlans taking snaps at QB. Thomas Martian and Elias anchor a big and athletic line. Tate Crosswait, Bryce Swanson, Kaiden Strong, Carson Fielder and Carter Gilbert are back on defense.
Roosevelt: The Riders have nine starters back after last season’s 3-win aberration. Quarterback Jackson Brouwer goes into his third year as a starter. He is one of the strongest and most experienced players in the state. Jaxsen Grevengoed is the top weapon in this offense. Grevengoed lined up at back and receiver last season and is primed for a big senior year. Tayden Nave is an all-state caliber tight end/linebacker too. The line was a sore spot last year but with everyone back they should be much improved. On defense the Riders are undersized but improved.
Washington: “We are very inexperienced at many positions on both sides of the ball. We will experience a learning curve on Friday nights,” said Coach Ryan Evans. Tommy Hoffman will take the quarterback position with confidence this season. He threw for 1,835 yards as a sophomore last year and will see improvement this season. Spencer Bartling, Hudson Arback and Gavin Kucera all return up front. On defense they have one of the top leaders in the state in Mason Wilson. He has started since the second game of his freshman season. Berthieu Mwenentanda is at defensive tackle again and Dontai Smith and Lane Knutson are emerging talents in the defensive backfield. Look for the sophomore class to make an impact this season as well.
RC Central: Brandon Colpitts is the new head coach at Rapid City Central. “Our motto is Win the Day for a reason,” said Colpitts. “We want our kids to take that approach not only to what they do in practice and games, but also to every component of their lives. We do that, and we will be successful as players and as human beings.”
They have nine starters back from last year with Ryan Wetch taking snaps, Zack Soderlin running the ball and Gideon Waldrop starting as a premier linebacker.
Class 11AAA Preseason Player of the Year
Navarro Schunke, Brandon Valley
After missing his entire junior season due to injury, the top lineman in the state is back on the field in Brandon. No one features the combination of size, power, agility, and stamina at the tackle position in the state. The 4-time heavyweight wrestling state champ has already earned 13 D1 offers to play football including two SEC offers (Auburn and Tennessee). Navarro has been up in the air about wrestling or football for his college career, but he recently announced that he’s going to focus on football for college. He is beyond excited to get back on the field this year, “Sitting on the sideline was worse than anything, I found a way to help but it was worse,” said Schunke. “I feel so much better being out here. Just being able to practice is so much better.”
Players to watch in Class 11AA
Max Carlson, Harrisburg
Jaxsen Grevengoed, Roosevelt
Thomas Heiberger, Jefferson
Maverick Jones, O’Gorman
Cael Meisman, Stevens
Ryland Satter, O’Gorman
Tate Schafer, Lincoln
Jack Smith, Lincoln
Tytan Tryon, Harrisburg
Mason Wilson, Washington
MORE All-State Caliber Players
Jackson Brouwer, Roosevelt
Tate Crosswait, Stevens
Max Elrod, Harrisburg
Thomas Martian, Stevens
Brycen Mitchell, Lincoln
Tayden Nave, Roosevelt
Dawson Sechser, Jefferson
Dawson Siem, Lincoln
Zack Soderlin, RC Central
Henry Theobald, O’Gorman
Gideon Waldrop, RC Central