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Leadership to carry Trojan football team

Parkston's Jordan McKean catches a ball in between a goal post during a catching drill at practice Monday in Parkston. (Eric Mayer/Republic)

PARKSTON -- Coming seven points shy of a state title in 2013, the Parkston Trojan football team will count on 17 returners to lead it back to the DakotaDome.

"Leadership," Trojan head coach Eric Norden said about his team's strengths. "We've got a lot of experience coming back."

The Trojans return eight starters on offense and nine on defense from a team that went 10-2 last season. Parkston fell to Canton 20-14 in the Class 11B championship game.

"Returners are always important for any team. They give you that base, pull you through some rough times and they help the younger ones learn," Norden said. "These guys are all great young men and we're happy to have them back. They will be a big key to what we can get done this year."

Some of the noteable returning players include seniors Wes Dvorak, Tanner Lindeman, Miles Semmler, Ethan Murtha, Dillon Stadlman, Caleb Horstman, Jeff Kyke, Lane Konrad, Austin Bertram and Brady Reiff, a University of Iowa commit. Juniors Wesley Genant and David Voorhees also return having seen action for the Trojans in 2013.

"I think you have to go with Wes (Dvorak) and Brady (Reiff)," said Norden about who he will count on to have big seasons for the Trojans. "Miles Semmler is going be real good for us. We're excited for what we have coming through. I could go up and down, we've got a lot of guys, so it's hard to just single out one or two."

Last year, Dvorak threw 19 of 40 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 81 times for 387 yards and nine touchdowns. Dvorak also hauled in seven receptions for 209 yards and two touchdowns.

Reiff rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries and caught nine passes for 218 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown in the state title game against Canton.

Semmler, who rushed 112 times for 656 yards and nine touchdowns last year, said the team has been preparing for the coming season with hopes of winning the state title.

"We just need to keep working hard," Semmler said. "We will definitely have to come together as a team. Our linemen will need to be on the same page, picking up their blocks. We need to hold on to the ball, that really hurt us in the Dome last year."

To make it back to the state title game, Norden said the team will have to play physical and stay healthy.

"You can't really get anywhere if you have a bunch of guys beat up," said Norden, who has a career record of 24-30 as Parkston's head coach. "We're going to have to stay healthy and do the little things right."

Having just started holding organized practices on Thursday, Norden said his Trojans need to get back to the basics before taking the field against Groton Area in the season opener at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 in Parkston.

The Trojans follow the first game of the season with a rematch of the Class 11B state championship game. Parkston faces the Canton C-Hawks on Sept. 5 in Canton.

"We've got a tough schedule this year," Norden said. "If you start worrying about one team over the next, you're going be in trouble."