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Parkston aims for first-ever football title

Parkston’s Andrew Semmler runs the ball during a Class 11B semifinal game against St. Thomas More Saturday in Rapid City. (Benjamin Brayfield/Rapid City Journal)

PARKSTON —The Parkston Trojans are riding high emotion through the football playoffs and have one more challenge in their way.

No. 3 Parkston (10-1) must get past No. 5 Canton (10-1) in the Class 11B title game today to earn its first-ever football championship. Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

This is the Trojans’ first return to the Dome since 2002 when it fell to Clark 27-18.

“We’re excited to be where we’re at and looking forward to playing at the Dome, and we’re relaxed and focused,” Parkston coach Eric Norden said, adding his team doesn’t feel any pressure to win its first title. “We’re not taking it as this could be our first state title in football. We’re approaching it as the first time this year making it to the state championship game.”

The Trojans and the C-Hawks met in the second week of the regular season in Parkston. Parkston won the contest 21-14, giving Canton its only loss of the season. Parkston’s only loss came to Winner.

In the first meeting of the season, The Trojans scored two second-half touchdowns to pull ahead and claim the victory. Canton head coach Rich Lundstrom said big plays were the difference in the game and today’s outcome could come down to the same.

“Both teams played very well,” said Lundstrom, whose team has won two state titles in 2006 and 1986. “Whichever team makes the fewest mistakes is going to win. This is an even-matched game.”

Lundstrom said his defense will have to stop Parkston’s greatest offensive threats in junior quarterback Wes Dvorak and junior tight end Brady Reiff.

“We’ve got to shut them down,” he said. “Their other running backs are solid but the offense runs through those two. We’ve got to stop the most important guys to their offense.”

Dvorak has completed 19 of 40 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 75 times for 321 yards and nine touchdowns. Reiff has rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries and has hauled in seven catches for 147 yards, including a one-handed catch from backup quarterback Zach Scott against St. Thomas More.

Scott has thrown for 406 yards and two touchdowns on 19-of-39 passing in seven games. Leading the receiving corps is Dvorak with 209 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.

The Trojans’ passing game has come up with big plays in the past several weeks, yet Parkston is led by its ground game. Leading the rush attack is senior running back Mitch Heisinger with 112 carries for 689 yards and seven touchdowns. Junior running back Miles Semmler follows Heisinger with 105 carries for 617 yards and nine touchdowns.

Leading the way for Canton’s offense is senior quarterback Cody Majeres. He has thrown for 576 yards and five touchdowns on 30-of-49 passing and rushed for 725 yards and 18 scores on 106 carries.

“We have to contain the quarterback and make sure he doesn’t get to the outside edge,” Norden said. “He’s a good player and we’ve got to stop him.”

Alongside Majeres, the C-Hawks have several other key offensive players. Senior running back Gabe Dolen has 128 carries for a team-leading 882 yards and 10 touchdowns, while senior fullback Tanner Broughton has 90 carries for 565 yards and eight scores. Canton’s leading receiver is senior wide receiver Eli Ripley, who has hauled in 15 receptions for 286 yards and two touchdowns.

Parkston and Canton have strong defenses this season and have each played in several defensive battles. The Trojans are led by Heisinger with 111 tackles, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Reiff is second with 65 tackles, while Semmler and Dvorak have each intercepted four passes for Parkston.

Dolen leads the C-Hawks in tackles with 90, while Ripley and Broughton follow with 60 apiece. Senior defensive end Tyler Lems has recorded three fumble recoveries, while senior safety Bryce Schroedermeier has made five interceptions.

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