SCOTLAND - The Scotland High School football team's defensive unit was stout all season in 2015, holding opponents to 12.4 points per game.
As a dividend for the team's defensive leaders' work, two standout Highlanders will be playing college football. Linebacker Tanner Iwan will play at Division II Northern State in Aberdeen and defensive end Kreg Kepplinger will move on to play at Morningside College. Both students signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday to make the moves official during a ceremony at Scotland High School.
A 5-foot-11, 185-pound linebacker, Iwan was a three-year starter for the Highlanders and recorded 162.5 tackles, 10 fumble recoveries, five interceptions and five sacks in his high school career. He was an all-Great Plains Conference selection and all-state player in 2015 for Scotland. Iwan said that Northern State was in the hunt to recruit him from the start.
"I went up there for a visit and it just seemed like a nice area to live in," he said. "I got along up there with some of the players and it seemed like a nice community and I gelled there quite a bit."
Iwan, who was the team's starting quarterback, will focus on linebacker in college.
"I'm good with playing either way," he said. "I just love playing football but when they told me they wanted me at linebacker, I was just excited because I don't have to worry about being hit, I just have to hit people."
Northern State was 6-5 in 2015 but won the North Division in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. All six wins came in the latter half of the season for the Wolves.
For Kepplinger, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound defensive end and tight end for the Highlanders, he recorded seven sacks and 73.5 tackles for the 2015 season, along with 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two blocked punts. He was an all-state selection for the Highlanders, who were Class 9A state semifinalists and posted a 9-2 record. Kepplinger tallied 122 tackles and 12 sacks for his career.
The five-time defending champions in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, Kepplinger said the winning tradition sold itself.
"I definitely liked Morningside, just on their success and the winning program that coach (Steve) Ryan has built, they have a really good thing down there," Kepplinger said, who added that Morningside has recently added an agricultural program that intrigued him as well.
He will go to Sioux City to play defensive end but Kepplinger said the coaches are considering moving him to defensive tackle.
"I'm pretty much open to anything," he said. "I'll do whatever they need to help the team."
Kepplinger said that Morningside is regularly playing "for the big show" in the national tournament, something Kepplinger wanted a part of.
Scotland coach Ryan Robb said he was proud of both players for building themselves into solid players and young men. He said he hopes the signing event becomes an annual event at the school.
"Hopefully we're doing this again next year," he said.
Cougars' Serr heads to NSU, Sebern picks Presentation
BURKE - Burke/South Central will have two players heading to play college football in Aberdeen next year, with linebacker Tyson Serr going to Northern State and quarterback Zach Sebern going to Presentation College.
Serr, a 6-foot, 205-pound student at Burke High School, played all four years for the Cougars and tallied 93 tackles, two interceptions and three fumble recoveries for Burke/South Central in 2015. Serr had 247 tackles for his career to pair with 1,620 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns as a running back for the Cougars in his career.
Serr is a two-time all-conference and all-state selection for the Class 9B Cougars.
"Tyson is a standout high school athlete at Burke High School," said Northern State head coach Tom Dosch in a statement. "His versatility and competitiveness will be a huge asset at the collegiate level."
Burke/South Central quarterback Zach Sebern has decided to play quarterback at Presentation College in Aberdeen. He's one of 31 recruits in the Saints' 2016 class.
Sebern was an all-state selection for the Cougars in 2015, picked as a linebacker on the Class 9B team. He was also named to the academic all-state team as a senior as well.
The Cougars were 5-4 in 2015 and played in the Class 9B playoffs before falling in the first round.
Sebern joins Presentation, which plays the North Star Athletic Association in the NAIA. The Saints were 4-6 in 2015. The offense was 15th in the country in passing yards per game, throwing for 262 yards per contest.
Nelson on campus for SDSU's signing day
There was no fanfare on National Signing Day for Mitchell's Kanin Nelson, who is already on the South Dakota State University campus and preparing for the 2016 football season.
Nelson graduated from Mitchell High School early and is an early enrollee, allowing him to practice with the Jackrabbits during spring practice later this year. SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier said Wednesday that Nelson is the first player in the program's history to take this specific route to get ahead academically and athletically. Nelson is one of two quarterbacks recruited in the class by the Jacks.
"He graduated in December and is going to SDSU right now and he's going through workouts right now and will be in spring ball," Stiegelmeier said via Brookings Radio's Dellas Cole. "He will be a semester ahead ... and he will be ahead in knowledge and all of the relationships that you build, he will be ahead. It's the first time we've ever done that."
Nelson played all four seasons for the Kernels, racking up more than 4,400 yards of total offense. As a senior, he threw for 734 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 1,189 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also was the team's kicker and punter. He plans on majoring in agricultural business.
Nelson is one of six South Dakotans in the Jacks' recruiting class, joining defensive end Austin Barrett, of Douglas, offensive linemen Wes Genant, of Parkston and Hunter Hanley, of West Central, linebacker Preston Tetzlaff, of Brookings and long snapper Bradey Sorenson, of Yankton.
"When you go to the school that is the school or university in your state and you've thought of that since you were six years old, that means something and that's the way that these guys are," Stiegelmeier said. "This is a dream come true for these guys."