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Rivalry renewed: Old nine-man foes revive series in 11B semifinals

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Jamin Arend (2) takes a handoff from Brady Hawkins on a touchdown run in a Class 11B quarterfinal football game against Mobridge-Pollock last Thursday in Bridgewater. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)

BRIDGEWATER—Two old friends are about to get reacquainted.

Former nine-man foes—Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (9-1) and Mount Vernon/Plankinton (9-1)—play at 7 p.m. in a Class 11B semifinal clash in Bridgewater.

They haven't faced each other on the gridiron since 2014 when they were in the Cornbelt Conference, but the programs are familiar given the proximity of the towns.

"I think that helps a lot and the closeness between the two teams is a factor, too," BEE coach Jeff Van Leur said. "We've had some history over the years from the nine-man ranks and that kind of stuff. (MVP) coach (Brent) Olson and myself have coached against each other. So that's a big help for both teams."

They had three common opponents in Beresford, Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central and Flandreau and both defeated Flandreau and WWSSC, while MVP lost to Beresford. Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's lone defeat came against Canton, which plays Sioux Falls Christian in the other Class 11B semifinal.

While scouting other teams, the coaches watched glimpses of each other throughout the season.

"We followed them, just like I am sure they followed us and we've seen some tape on them and back and forth," Van Leur said. "We had a chance to scout them a couple games and go from there. So we are not completely unfamiliar with what they do."

The Seahawks and Titans are almost mirror images of each other. They both rely on their rushing attacks and neutralizing that will be key in the matchup.

"You have to take the run game away," Olson said. "But that's every high school football game that's ever been played in South Dakota—stop the run game first and you will be all right. Easier said than done obviously."

MVP's running game is powered by bruising junior tailback Jesse Hastings, who has rushed for 1,441 yards and 25 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 230-pound Hastings has been slowed by a shoulder injury that occured in the regular-season finale against Beresford. However, he's played each of the past two playoff games, including nine carries for 218 yards and four touchdowns last week against Lead-Deadwood.

Olson said they've remained cautious with the injury and Hastings has adapted his playing style because of it.

"He's put up big run numbers on it," Olson said. "Not that he hasn't run over a couple of guys on his way, but knowing that he has to protect his shoulder, he's really kind of kicked it into an extra gear of speed knowing he doesn't want to get that thing hit. So he's really turned the jets on and showed his speed the last few games."

But the Titans have some other capable offensive weapons and Van Leur is aware of them all. Senior running backs Weston Tobin (648 rushing yards/nine touchdowns) and Colton Tobin (473 rushing yards/five touchdowns) are also dangerous out of the backfield. Quarterback Hayden Haak has thrown for 451 yards and seven touchdowns, while rushing for 297 yards and five scores.

"They just have a nice nucleus of kids that do a great job for them and so you can't completely concentrate on Jesse and let everything else go because those other kids can hurt you, too." Van Leur said.

On the other side, the Seahawks are just as dynamic offensively. They'll also depend on the running game, which is paced by senior speedster Jamin Arend (1,112 rushing yards/20 touchdowns). The passing attack of junior quarterback Brady Hawkins (1,096 passing yards/12 touchdowns) and senior wide receiver Sawyer Schultz (413 receiving yards/four touchdowns) complement the ground game.

"They have a 6-2, 6-3, 200-pound quarterback that can throw it a country mile and a receiver in Schultz that's a college basketball player that will jump up and get it," Olson said. "So on top of their really good running game that they always have, now they have this great passing threat on top of it."

Notes: Defensively, MVP junior linebacker Hunter Pranger has 69.5 tackles and two interceptions. BEE senior defensive lineman Carter Dye has 100 tackles and eight sacks.