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State football notebook: Adversity doesn't stop Seahawks in memorable season

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan's Brady Hawkins (5) makes a cut move carrying the ball during the class 11B state championship game against Sioux Falls Christian at the DakotaDome on Friday in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)

VERMILLION—The road to the DakotaDome was hardly a smooth one for the Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football team.

With that perspective, the Seahawks were prideful Friday of the season they put together, winning nine games and finishing as state runner-up in Class 11B, a class that has only been home to BEE for three seasons.

"Yeah, there was adversity," BEE quarterback Brady Hawkins said. "We had our challenges this season and that's what makes this group of guys so great. We kept fighting and that's why I'm proud to call them my brothers."

The BEE season did not derail when both Cole Gassman and Tanner Hines suffered season-ending injuries in a Sept. 8 loss at Madison. The Seahawks had players in a number of positions in and out of the lineup due to injuries, which forced roster juggling all season.

"They're a group that will always play hard and that's what you saw today," BEE coach Jeff VanLeur said. "Nobody gave up and nobody gave up on this season. You can't help but be proud of this team and these kids."

The playoffs included a quarterfinal road win at Winner, avenging a 2016 state semifinal loss, and a road victory at Sioux Valley in the state semifinals this season, some payback for a late-season home loss to the Cossacks.

"It's only going to motivate this group for next year," said junior Jamin Arend. "This is tough but we're going to be ready to come back and take another crack at it."

Chargers break through for title

On the Sioux Falls Christian end of the field, the jubilation of winning the state title was marked by how far the Chargers have come in a short period of time.

In their eighth year of football, SFC had a couple of winless seasons before finally breaking through with back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2015 and 2016 in Class 11A. On Friday, the Chargers took full advantage of their first crack at a Class 11B championship.

"When you look back to what six years ago looked like, I just remember people saying we were one of the worst clubs in the state," SFC coach Jake Pettengill said. "So our kids, I want to give credit to the kids who have been here before this and the kids who are making this happen now, because it doesn't just change. You don't just go from 0-8, 1-7 to state champions overnight. It's a process along the way and the process has happened over the last few years."

Pettengill told reporters following Friday's 27-12 championship win that he wasn't sure what type of team SFC would have entering 2017, telling his administration they could be anywhere between 6-2 or 2-6 during the regular season.

Keepin' time

For the first time in recent history, the play clocks on each end of the DakotaDome playing field are being employed for the South Dakota high school football championship games.

Ironically, the amount of delay of game penalties was up in the state championship games through the first four contests of the weekend compared to last year. There were four penalty flags thrown for the delay of game in the opening four games of the state championships in 2017, with a few other penalties avoided by a coach calling timeout as the play clock was running out. In the 2016 series of games, there were just two delay penalties called, both in 11-man games.

Without the visible play clock, officials keep the 25-second timer on the field, with the back judge responsible for keeping the time and the referee responsible for signaling the start of the timer. Officials will give a warning at 10 seconds and then a visible hand count down from 5 seconds before throwing the flag. That technique was still being used Thursday and Friday at the DakotaDome, even with the digital displays.