Seahawks, WiLdKats battling for top spot in Region 3Dale Taylor and Jeff VanLeur were both stumped when asked the same question Thursday, a day before their 9-man football teams collide in a game of high implications for the 9AA state playoffs.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Dale Taylor and Jeff VanLeur were both stumped when asked the same question Thursday, a day before their 9-man football teams collide in a game of high implications for the 9AA state playoffs.
When VanLeur’s No. 1-ranked Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan Seahawks (4-1) host Taylor’s No. 3-rated Kimball/White Lake WiLdKats (6-0) at 3 p.m. in Ethan, will there be a lot of points put up on the scoreboard?
Neither coach was sure of the answer, but they’re both highly anticipating today’s game to see the outcome.
“I like to think we can put some points on the board,” Taylor said. “Our defense has maybe not given up a lot of points but we’ve given up some yards. I don’t think I’m expecting a real high-scoring game.”
Kimball/White Lake is averaging 44.8 points per game this season, while Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan is averaging 42.4 points per game.
Last year, when these teams met in the 9AA state championship game at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, 60 points were tallied on the scoreboard in the Seahawks’ 36-24 victory.
Still, VanLeur agreed with Taylor after considering the question for a while.
“I guess I really don’t know for sure,” VanLeur said. “Looking at it on paper, I don’t think it’s going to be a real high-scoring game. I think every point is going to be hard to come by. At least that’s the way I hope it is.”
Whether it be high scoring or not, it’s clear every point will be extremely valuable in the Region 3 matchup. Kimball/White Lake is sitting as the top seed in the region, narrowly edging the Seahawks.
The WiLdKats have 55.500 power points, while Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan is in second in the region with 55.400 power points. While both teams are essentially playoff locks this season, seeding for the postseason is wide open. But after today’s game, the picture is going to become much clearer.
“If we lose, it looks to me like we’re going to drop down to that third or fourth spot in the region,” VanLeur said. “That means we’ll be traveling come playoff time, at least the first round and some after that. We want to host at our house if we can.”
If the Seahawks win today, they’ll hurdle Kimball/White Lake in the region standings and drop the WiLdKats to second. Only three teams in each region are guaranteed a berth in the playoffs, giving Gregory, Andes Central and Parker a chance to battle for the final definite spot.
Like VanLeur, Taylor was just as quick to answer about the implications today’s game possesses.
“If we lose, we’ll probably be the number two seed in the playoffs and they’ll be number one,” Taylor said. “We’d likely have to turn around and play Gregory again (in the playoffs), and they’re a real good football team.
“I think this game is really big. If we happen to win, we’d probably be home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.”
Last season when these teams met in the regular season the implications weren’t as high, but it was a meaningful victory for VanLeur. The coach, who now is in his 34th year of coaching, picked up his 200th career victory with a 42-14 win over Kimball/White Lake in Kimball. He now has 210 career wins and five state titles.
As VanLeur likes to call it, his team played “hard-nosed football” in both victories last year against the WiLdKats. He’s hoping to do the same today.
Anthony Huber is leading Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan with 569 rushing yards on the season with nine touchdowns. The senior tailback is averaging about 114 yards per game and has caught three passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns.
Quarterback Jace Connor has gained 203 yards rushing on 40 attempts with one touchdown and is 25-of-34 passing this season for 378 yards and eight touchdowns. Clayton Dye is Connor’s top receiving threat with 10 catches for 92 yards and four TDs and Kyelle Herrick has added to the run game numbers with 54 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
“If we keep them on defense and are able to move the football, that’s going to play a big part in the game,” VanLeur said. “We want to keep the ball out of their hands.”
Taylor, in his 24th year of coaching high school football with 142 wins and three state titles, also has a dominant run game this season. Kimball/White Lake’s passing game has been impressive, too.
The WiLdKats’ rushing attack has three weapons that have played major roles in helping put up big numbers offensively. Jacob Kirsch, Trevor Reinesch and Kyle Peters are all averaging at least 6 yards per carry. Kirsch has 568 yards and eight touchdowns, Reinesch has 723 yards and 13 scores and Peters has 279 yards and two TDs.
Quarterback Jesse Taylor has 19 rushes for 126 yards, four touchdowns and is 37-of-56 passing for 632 yards and 10 touchdowns in the air this season. Peters has hauled in 14 catches for 294 yards and four touchdowns and Eathan Gaulke has nine catches for 152 yards and four touchdowns.
“We’ve thrown the ball quite a bit and have had some success doing that this year,” Taylor said. “I’ve seen Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan hasn’t been afraid to do that either. … I’m expecting a fun, exciting football game and both teams doing what they need to get a win.”