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Area football teams set to battle today

Today, football players across the state will strap on their helmets and play the game they love for the first time this year competitively.

The first weekend of football provides teams the opportunity to stop hitting each other and finally knock heads with another team. The opening weekend of football also gives a fresh start and new hope to teams who have their minds set on reaching glory at the end of the season.

“The first week is always fun,” Winner coach Dan Aaker said. “Just the fact that we are playing an actual game and lining up against someone new is really exciting. I think we are ready and excited to get the season going.”

The 11th-year head coach and the Warriors are kicking their season off against Chamberlain, a team Winner has had on the schedule for the last 30 years. The Cubs — who have a new head coach in Jerry Rhodes — and Winner play at 8 tonight in Chamberlain.The Warriors are the third-ranked team in Class 11B, according to the South Dakota Sportswriters Association preseason football poll.

“Playing Chamberlain the first game makes it tough,” Aaker said. “The first game is always tough because you have no idea what the other team is going to do and when you add in the fact that they have a new coach, it makes it even tougher.”

Also taking the field against each other today are Cornbelt Conference foes Hanson and Canistota. The teams will meet at 7 p.m. in Canistota.

Last year, Canistota claimed the Class 9A state championship and are riding a 36-game win streak. The Hawks moved down to Class 9B and were voted the No. 1 ranked team in the preseason poll. Hanson finished last year 4-5, but received votes in the state 9A rankings.

“I am sure every team in the state is anxious to get going and excited to start the new season,” Hanson head football coach Jim Haskamp said. “If you love football, this is a great time of the year because everything is fresh and new. Everybody knows what Canistota has accomplished the last three years.

“They are a well-coached football team, and they have some good young athletes. We are going to have to be really sound fundamentally and physical for all four quarters.”

Haskamp said his squad is looking at the game just like any other and are not focused on the Hawks’ win streak.

There are two other matchups this weekend which feature teams in the area that are ranked or have received votes in the first sportswriters poll of the year. Tonight, Gregory, which is ranked second in Class 9AA, faces off against Colome, which is the top-ranked team in Class 9A.

Last season, the Gorillas won the matchup 48-20. Class 11B’s fourth-ranked Parkston kicks off the season with a matchup against Groton Area, which received votes in the state poll. The game starts at 7 p.m. in Groton.