Championship facts and figures to know for South Dakota state football contests

Fun facts to know ahead of the 2021 South Dakota football championships

Winner's Brady Fritz is lifted up along with the Class 11B state championship trophy following the Warriors 18-14 win over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan on Nov. 13 in Vermillion at the DakotaDome.

Getting to the DakotaDome is the pinnacle of prep football in South Dakota. however, oftentimes the games are looked at individually, or sometimes through the narrow scope of that season, leaving out the history and interesting tidbits when looking at the entire football championship weekend.

Ahead of the 2021 state football title games, here are some facts and figures worth noting:

(Note: For the purposes of this report, facts and figures relate only to the current makeup of schools and programs. For example, Potter County is not synonymous with Gettysburg, and the successes of Canistota and Freeman on their own were treated separately from those of Canistota/Freeman.)

Six returning champions

Of the seven champions crowned in 2020, six are making a return trip in 2021, though two of the six will be playing another returning champion after moving up a class.

No. 9 seed Platte-Geddes (2020 Class 9AA champion) and No. 11 seed Canistota/Freeman (2020 Class 9A champion) took unconventional routes, but will square off for the Class 9AA title Thursday evening, as Canistota/Freeman aims to keep their streak of three-straight nine-man championships alive.


Winner won Class 11B, 18-14, over Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan in 2020, avenging a 21-14 title game defeat in 2019. The No. 1 Warriors meet the No. 7 Seahawks in a part three rubber match Friday morning.

Tea Area (2020 Class 11A champion) moved up to Class 11AA and breezed to an 11-0 record and the top seed in its new classification, earning the Titans a matchup with the four-time defending Class 11AA champion Pierre, which comes in as the No. 3 seed.

Rounding out the returners is Brandon Valley, which defeated Harrisburg, 35-14, in last year’s Class 11AAA championship. The second-seeded Lynx and the No. 1 Tigers meet again on Saturday evening.

Only 2020 champion that did not make it was Wolsey-Wessington, which won the Class 9B title a season ago, but was defeated in the Class 9A quarterfinals by No. 2 seed and class finalist, Howard.

43 combined playoff-era football titles

There’s plenty of championship pedigree among the 2021 finalists.

All 14 finalists have appeared in the state title game at least once before, combining for 95 total appearances. Herreid/Selby Area is the lone team not to have DakotaDome experience, as it made the title game in 2019 when the finals were played at Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings.

Twelve of the 14 programs have won at least one championship (Herreid/Selby Area and Dell Rapids St. Mary being the exceptions). Brandon Valley and Winner are both chasing a ninth title, which would tie Sioux Falls O’Gorman for the second-most in the playoff era (since 1981). Additionally, Winner is making its 17th appearance in a state championship game, which breaks its tie with O’Gorman for the most all-time in South Dakota.

28 titles won by No. 1s

Since the introduction a seventh classification in 2013, exactly half of the 56 state championship games have been won by a No. 1 seed.


No. 1 seeds are most successful in Class 11AA, where they had won seven straight championships prior to No. 3 Pierre defeating No. 1 Brookings in 2020 (the Governors are the third seed again this year against top-seeded Tea Area).

Higher seeds are predictably successful in the DakotaDome, with a record of 37-19 since 2013. Classes 11AAA and 11AA have seen the higher seeded team win in the final seven out of eight years. Higher seeds in all other classes have winning records over the same period, except for Class 9A. In the middle nine-man class, higher seeds are 2-6, with the most recent win by a higher seed coming when No. 4 Canistota/Freeman defeated No. 6 Howard in 2018.

Also of note, seed Nos. 2 and 3 are the only seed lines to defeat a top seed in the seven-class era, doing so four and six times, respectively. However, No. 2 and 3 seeds do not have winning records in that span, with second-seeded teams owning a 7-23 record as third-seeded teams have gone 10-10. The most successful seed line in the finals by winning percentage behind No. 1 seeds (.737) is the No. 4 seeds, owning a 9-4 record for a winning percentage of .692.

The lowest seeded champions since 2013 have come from the 5-seed line (twice), though fifth-seeded teams have also lost three times. Programs seeded sixth or lower are 0-6 over the past eight years, and only once has a team more than two seed lines lower than its opponent won in the seven-class era (No. 5 Wolsey-Wessington defeated No. 2 Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central in 2015).

135 combined wins

The 14 teams that advanced to the DakotaDome won an average of nearly 10 games apiece and had a combined winning percentage of .871.

Six programs — Harrisburg (Class 11AAA), Tea Area (Class 11AA), Madison (Class 11A), Winner (Class 11B), Herreid/Selby Area (Class 9A) and Howard (Class 9A) — enter their respective championship contests undefeated.

Action from the Howard Tigers at Hanson Beavers game on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Alexandria. (Matt Gade / Republic)


Four rematches

More than half the championship slate is a replay of a 2021 regular season contest.

In each instance, the higher playoff seed was the winner of the prior matchup.

Harrisburg trounced Brandon Valley 43-14 on Oct. 21, Madison defeated Milbank 9-0 on Sept. 17, Winner rushed past Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan 44-0 on Aug. 27 and Platte-Geddes edged Canistota/Freeman 16-8 on Aug. 20.

As for rematches of prior championships, Brandon Valley and Harrisburg met last year in Class 11AAA and Winner and Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan have played each of the past two seasons for the Class 11B crown, but none of the other programs have met up with one another to decide the state champion before. However, there’s some unique crossover between classes, as Canistota/Freeman began its Class 9A title reign with a win over Howard in 2018, Harrisburg and Pierre played for the Class 11AA title in 2017, Tea Area faced off with Madison in the 2016 Class 11A championship and Winner and Milbank met for the Class 11A title in 1989.

Action from the Kimball/White Lake at Platte-Geddes on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. (Matt Gade / Republic)

54 (summation of all seeds)

While five of the seven No. 1 seeds advanced to the DakotaDome, there was more than a fair share of shake up amongst the ranks, making this year the highest seed sum in the seven-class era (since 2013).

Now, 2021 marked the first time teams were seeded 1 through 16 in Class 11B and the nine-man classes instead of playing a region-based round of 16, making it possible for seeds higher than 8 to reach the final and inflating the number slightly. However, only 2018 even came close to threatening this year for the top spot, as two No. 7 seeds and two No. 6 seeds played in the finals that year, raising the seed sum to 52. This year two No. 7s, a No. 9 and No. 11 all reached the finals.

The lowest this number could be is 21, indicating the No. 1 seed met the No. 2 seed in all seven classes. Prior to this year, the average seed sum during the seven-class era was 34.25, and that includes the abnormally-high mark in 2018. If you removed 2018, the average drops to 31.7, underscoring how topsy-turvy the 2021 playoffs truly were.

25 points

The total margin of victory across the six nine-man semifinals was very low.

Potter County’s 22-12 win over Faulkton Area in Class 9B was the only game decided by more than four points, setting up for what could be a historically competitive slate of nine-man finals.

To compare, Winner won by 50% more than this (38) in one of the Class 11B semifinals, and Milbank nearly matched it (24) in Class 11A.

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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