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Class 11B semifinals: Blackhawks, Seahawks close in on title dreams

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Jamin Arend (2) attempts to run away from Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central's Eric Ruml during a Class 11B football game Aug. 26 in Wessington Springs. Both BEE and WWSSC are in the state semifinals Friday, seeking a trip to the DakotaDome. (Republic file photo)

WOONSOCKET — The Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central football program has been a winning program for the better part of the decade.

With a win on Friday over Sioux Falls Christian (9-1), the Blackhawks (9-1) can advance to the state championship for the third time in four years, and for the first time in Class 11B. WWSSC is completing its first season of 11-man football and it’s been nothing short of a success, as the Blackhawks have won their last eight games in a row.

“I think it’s an accomplishment in any class,” WWSSC head coach Jason Kolousek said of reaching the state semifinals. “That says something about your program. But as the season wore along, we became very acclimated (to 11B) and now it’s all about the next game at hand and getting to the championship.”

The Blackhawks will meet the Chargers at the University of Sioux Falls’ Bob Young Field at 7 p.m. Friday and SFC only lost to No. 1-seeded Sioux Valley this year by seven points at the midway mark of the season.

“They just execute very well,” Kolousek said. “They have a very good line and they don’t make a lot of mistakes.”

It’s also a battle of big-time running backs on each team. A speedster in track, Parker Nelson ran for 211 yards in the playoff opening win for SFC over Canton and then 211 yards in a quarterfinal victory over Groton Area.  

John Witte is the primary back for the Blackhawks and has shouldered a big season for WWSSC, rushing 217 times for 1,705 yards and 25 touchdowns. Kolousek said his team will have to limit negative plays and be diverse on offense, while executing near its best, something the Blackhawks have done down the stretch this season.

“I think we’re playing some of our best football of the year,” he said. “We executing at a high level and just really want to refine what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing our assignments in each aspect of the game.”

Seahawks seek to make good on second shot at Sioux Valley

BRIDGEWATER — The Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football team believes it didn’t play its best game on Oct. 13 to close the regular season against Sioux Valley.

Now with the top-seeded Cossacks (10-0) standing in their way of a trip to the Class 11B championship, the Seahawks (8-2) will have another chance to prove they are worthy of the trip to the DakotaDome in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday in Volga.

In that 27-15 Cossacks win between Big East Conference rivals, Sioux Valley jumped to a 21-0 lead and ran for 241 yards. BEE had its chances early in the game but had three turnovers and struggled to keep pace after the early deficit.

“We might not have played real well but you have to give Sioux Valley credit,” BEE coach Jeff VanLeur said. “Part of it is because they are a real good football team. I thought our kids battled and learned from that game. We kept ourselves alive and now we’ve got another chance to play them.”

BEE and Sioux Valley met in the Class 11B quarterfinals a year ago, with BEE winning memorably by a 6-2 score. The Cossacks have been the cream of Class 11B all season but have not made the state championship game since 1988. BEE seeks its first trip to the Dome since the 2013 Class 9AA championship.

Sioux Valley is averaging seven yards per carry and 364.5 yards per game on the ground. Daymein Lucas is the standout back, rushing for 1,783 yards and 26 touchdowns, with Tyler Schwartz and Dalton Hanson both over 600 yards for the season, as well.

For No. 5-seed BEE, Jamin Arend stands with 1,126 yards rushing on the season on 137 carries and 16 touchdowns. Dustin Weber has 10 touchdowns and 570 rushing yards for BEE, which has ran for 274 yards per game this year and 40 touchdowns as a team. Quarterback Brady Hawkins has thrown for 451 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 335 yards and four more scores.

VanLeur said BEE will have to be the better team up front in order to advance to Vermillion on Friday night.

“We have to win the line of scrimmage,” he said. “(Sioux Valley) is well coached and it’s great competition. With it being a conference team, it’s a great rivalry.”