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Avon lands 3 on 9B all-state team

By James D. Cimburek

Yankton Press & Dakotan 

YANKTON — The all-state football team is often a nod to the champion, or the teams playing in the championship game. This year’s Class 9B all-state team does that, but also recognizes talent from across the state.

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Players from 12 programs were honored in the selection of the Class 9B all-state team, as selected by the South Dakota Football Coaches Association and announced today. Four more programs had players on the honorable mention list.

“I think there were quite a few good football players in our class. In past years, I have seen the state champion get four or five all-staters, but this year we only received three,” said Avon head coach Tom Culver. “Part of that is the number of good football players on teams around the state.”

State runner-up Hamlin led the way with four selections to the all-state team, while state champions Avon and semifinal qualifier Harding County each had three selections. Burke/South Central, Wall and Hitchcock-Tulare had two selections each, with Kadoka, Dell Rapids St. Mary, Faulkton, Castlewood, Langford and Canistota each boasting one.

There were only 22 players honored, as no player was nominated at kicker.

Avon’s Brandon Kocmich was one of the top rushers in the state, posting 1,895 yards and 28 touchdowns on the season. The senior averaged just under 12 carries a game, posting 13.3 yards per carry.

“If he’d have had the carries some of the other kids had, he might have rushed for 2,500 yards,” Culver said. “There were some games where he only played into the second quarter on offense.”

One of the factors in Kocmich’s success was his speed.

“Once he got to the second level he was gone, even against some pretty good teams,” Culver said. “There were times when a defender would have the angle on him, and he’d outrun that angle.

“You’d like to have at least one athlete like him every year.”

Defensive end Jacob Knodel was a power on the Pirate defense, recording 27 solo and 26 assisted stops, including 9.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Knodel’s presence on the line was something that could be noticed in the title game, according to Culver.

“Hamlin had run a lot behind (all-state tight end) Tristen Leiseth. So whatever side he would go to, we’d send Jacob to that side,” Culver said. “After the first series or two, they started running away from him.”

Knodel’s domination up front also helped clear the way for linebacker Devin Tolsma, who was in on a whopping 102 solo and 101 assisted stops, including 19 tackles for loss.

“Jacob and our line were able to keep the blockers off of Devin, which allowed him to run free,” Culver said. “Devin’s not just quick, but he’s also tough.”

Tolsma was also a quick learner on the field, Culver said.

“If Devin saw something in a practice or in a game, he would mention it to us,” he said. “On that extra point that won us the championship, he said that they’d been shading us to the outside, and if we ran up the middle we could score.

“As a coach, that’s a great thing to have. The kids see things better, they have better angles.”

Leiseth finished with just 11 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns, but his value and the value of all-state center Alex Holzwarth were proven as blockers for a running game that generated nearly 3,300 yards on the season.

“Those two were a big part of it,” said Hamlin head coach Jeff Sheehan. “Tristen was good on the outside and, if we ran inside, it was typically behind Alex.”

Holzwarth also executed his ball-handling abilities to perfection.

“I don’t remember a snap in shotgun (formation) that he missed,” Sheehan said. “He was also one of the few centers that pulls. He gets there quick.”

Linebacker Brody Grantham was a disruptive force in all phases of the game for Hamlin. Besides his 99 tackles — including 12 for loss and four sacks — he also picked off two passes and recovered five fumbles.

Defensive back Dustin Quiram was also a disruptive force, picking off five passes and recovering two fumbles. He finished with 39 tackles on the season. Quiram also helped solidify the interior defense during the state championship game.

Reece Jensen helped plow the way for a Harding County running game that averaged 215.5 yards per game. He was also a solid receiver, ranking second on the team with 12 catches for 177 yards and two scores.

Defensively for Harding County, linebacker Steven Koch posted a team-best 134 tackles (52 solo), three sacks and two fumble recoveries, while defensive back Harley Mollman had 57 tackles (28 solo) and five interceptions.

Wall’s quarterback-receiver duo of quarterback Lane Blasius and receiver Trevor Anderson were selected. Blasius passed for 1,859 yards and 23 touchdowns, including 63 for 1,123 yards and 17 touchdowns to Anderson.

Guard Sam Hazel helped clear the way for a Burke/South Central running game that averaged 7.2 yards per attempt and scored 39 touchdowns in 10 games. Punter Turner Serr averaged 40 yards per attempt, putting five of his 16 attempts inside the 20-yard line.

Guard Leon Maxwell helped clear the way for Dell Rapids St. Mary to rush for 3,310 yards on the season. He recorded 30 pancake blocks, as well as another 20 “de-cleaters” on plays where he was a pulling blocker.

Running back Chandlier Sudbeck rushed for 1,782 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season, averaging 8.9 yards per carry. He also caught 18 passes for 466 yards and seven touchdowns, and was 3-for-8 passing for 47 yards. He finished his career with 5,460 all-purpose yards and 53 touchdowns.

Langford Area’s Drew Planteen was an all-purpose offensive weapon at receiver for the Lions, finishing with 26 catches for 436 yards and five scores, and rushing for 673 yards and eight scores on the season.

Defensive tackle Eli Hofer and linebacker Cole Chaplin were key members of a Hitchcock-Tulare defense that allowed 17.8 points per game. Hofer posted 51 tackles, including two sacks. Chaplin had 63 tackles.

Faulkton defensive tackle Lane Meyer finished with a team-best 95 tackles (17 solo), including three sacks.

Castlewood defensive end Lucas Ching recorded 68 tackles, including nine sacks, and two interceptions.

Canistota’s Nick Hofer averaged 17.9 yards per kickoff return and 24 yards per punt return on the season.

Honorable Mention

Logan Mudder, Avon; Austin Niemann, Hamlin; Bo Fries, Langford Area; Logan Ammons, Kadoka; Chase Bronson, Wilmot; Elton Schmeling, Waverly-South Shore; Ridge Sandal, Wall; Zach Price, Faulkton; Josh Brown, Dell Rapids St. Mary; Darin Wieseler, Faulkton; Jaden Denison, Lake Preston and Mason Ostenson, Edgemont.