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Former coach, fans focused on Reiff in Orange Bowl

PARKSTON -- Jon Mitchell won't be at today's Orange Bowl game in Miami, but he'll definitely be watching.

The Parkston resident and former head football coach at Parkston High School will be watching intently as one of his former high school standouts takes the field for Iowa against Georgia Tech.

Riley Reiff, a four-year starter and three-time all-state pick for Parkston's Trojans, will likely start for the Hawkeyes today in the 7 p.m. contest. Mitchell said that he always knew that Reiff -- who was the South Dakota Gatorade player of the year and an 11B All-American as a senior -- had the potential to make such an impact at the collegiate level.

"He always had, I felt, great potential, especially the way he developed," Mitchell said. "He started all the way through (high school), he was a three-time all-state football player and a great wrestler. He had size, speed, a great attitude and he was a great weight lifter.

"He had great potential to play at the Division I level."

Reiff has lived up to that potential thus far as a redshirt freshman for the Hawkeyes. He started at left tackle the second game of the season against Iowa State and also started the team's next two games against Arizona and Penn State.

He didn't start against Arkansas State, but after that moved to left guard where he started the remainder of the season.

Mitchell was there for Reiff's first collegiate start, and said he is already making plans to go back next season and watch him play again.

"I'm extremely proud I get to watch him," said Mitchell, who coached at Parkston for 34 years. "He called me before he started his first game and I was fortunate to get great seats down in the front.

"We've seen him four times or so and I'm already planning for next year. Watching him is really a thrill."

Reiff is a part of an offense that has accumulated 211 first downs, rushed for 1,313 yards and thrown for 2,656 more. Iowa is 10-2 heading into today's Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech, which is ranked No. 9 and won the Atlantic Coast Conference, is 11-2.

"(Reiff) could fill in really any place on the line," Mitchell said. "The fun thing about watching him offensively, is when I had him he'd block guys, and he's always known to get his man. He just gets his man. It's a thrill.

"To me, it was unbelievable to be fortunate enough to be able to have a young man like that. He's a great individual person."

While Mitchell was unable to make the trip to Miami to watch his former star play in the Orange Bowl, he'll definitely be watching tonight, and he won't be the only one.

"I try to make any games that we can, and we never miss watching," he said. "(Parkston residents) go to wherever they can to see him play. He has a big following, which is fantastic. There's a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of pride in what he's accomplished."