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No. 3 Trojans aim to knock off Cavaliers

PARKSTON — There is a lot on the table for Parkston and St. Thomas More as neither team has won a state football championship.

Today, one team gets a step closer as the No. 3 Trojans travel to take on the No. 2 Cavaliers in a Class 11B semifinal playoff game at 5 p.m. Mountain time in Rapid City.

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This is Parkston’s first return to the semifinals since 2005 — a year when Riley Reiff, starting left tackle for the Detroit Lions, was a sophomore.

“This is an exciting time and I’m happy for the guys,” Parkston football coach Eric Norden said. “It’s a great thing for them and I hope to make it further.”

After missing the playoffs for four straight years, the Trojans have experienced success in the last two seasons. Parkston made the quarterfinals last year before being knocked out by Aberdeen Roncalli. The Trojans have made the state title game twice, falling to Hamlin 38-6 in 1991 and Clark 27-18 in 2002.

The Cavaliers also dropped out of the playoff race in the quarterfinals last season but have made the state championship game five times in the last nine years, falling in all five.

“They’re a storied program out there and we hope we can stay with them,” Norden said.

This year, both teams have suffered their only loss to top-ranked Winner. All three teams are playing for a spot in the Class 11B championship game Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Norden said his players can stay with the Cavaliers by doing what they’ve been all season — playing as a team.

“I think we’re balanced and everybody is playing together,” the sixth-year coach said. “When people get injured, others are stepping up, and we’re playing as a unit. That’s the best thing we’ve got.”

The Trojans, who have outscored their opponents 246-54 this year, are led by senior running back Mitch Heisinger. He has recorded 94 carries for 634 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Junior running back Miles Semmler and junior quarterback Wes Dvorak have also had heavy contributions to the ground game. Semmler has 99 carries for 601 yards and nine touchdowns, while Dvorak has 63 carries for 336 yards and eight touchdowns.

Through the air, Dvorak has completed 17 of 37 passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Senior quarterback Zach Scott has also seen time behind center, completing 17 of 33 passes for 230 yards and one score. Dvorak is a triple threat as he also leads the Trojan receiving corps with six receptions for 116 yards and one touchdown.

“If you talk to teams we’ve played, they have a tough time deciding where to key on because we have a bunch of options,” Norden said. “Both sides have been playing tough.”

Defensively, Parkston has made 18 interceptions with Dvorak leading the way with four. Senior cornerback Andrew Semmler has returned two of his three interceptions for scores. Heisinger has a team-high 98 tackles, followed by junior linebacker Brady Reiff with 57 and junior lineman Austin Bertram with 48.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.