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Chasing perfection

Heading into the final game of the regular season there are 15 undefeated teams spread among the seven classes of South Dakota high school football. Last year, only four teams finished the season with a perfect record as state champions. This yea...

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Winner's Jayden Schroeder (26) runs the ball during a game on earlier this year against Parkston in Parkston. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Heading into the final game of the regular season there are 15 undefeated teams spread among the seven classes of South Dakota high school football.

Last year, only four teams finished the season with a perfect record as state champions.

This year, three Mitchell-area teams have their sights set on capping off an unbeaten regular season today and turning their attention to making a trip to the DakotaDome. One team, Gregory, has already finished the regular season undefeated and the Gorillas are now focused on making it through a demanding Class 9AA playoff field.

Gregory toppled traditional Class 9AA heavyweights-Wolsey-Wessington, Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central, Kimball/White Lake and Bon Homme-this season. The Gorillas are one of four undefeated teams in the class.

"It obviously is a great regular season," Gregory coach Brian Allmendinger said. "I am happy for the guys, but to be honest, now it really starts and every game is going to be a battle."

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The Gorillas lost the first playoff battle last season, a 32-8 defeat against Stanley County. That defeat is a driving force for Gregory, which is No. 2 in the latest South Dakota Sportswriters Association poll.

"We lost last year in the first round and it is a terrible feeling," Allmendinger said. "We need to really focus and we really have to work hard here because we are going to earn every victory we are lucky enough to get."

The Gorillas are powered by quarterback Andy McCance, running back/linebacker Jayd VanDerWerff, running back/linebacker Robert Vomacka and running back/safety Joseph Veskrna.

Canistota handling 9AA leap

Canistota was one of the four South Dakota football teams to finish the 2015 season undefeated after the Hawks thumped Sully Buttes 56-8 in the Class 9A title game.

After a co-op was approved with Freeman High School, the Hawks made the jump to Class 9AA for the 2016 season.

Seven games into the season, it appears Canistota has had no problems adjusting.

"We've grown quite a bit throughout the year, putting Canistota and Freeman together," Canistota head coach James Strang said. "You have a lot of players getting on the field and more players are playing confident and understanding the system better and better."

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The Hawks haven't lost a game since 2014 and currently sit No. 1 in the South Dakota Sportswriters Association poll.

Strang said the team wants to win every game and therefore would like to finish the regular season unbeaten.

"It's as important as winning any one game, plus you get a bonus point for an undefeated regular season," Strang said. "That can improve playoff positioning and what your overall seed is. It's just like any other game, you want to go out there and win it."

Despite its perfect record, Canistota finds itself in second place in Region 2 with 44.000 seed points, trailing Baltic (7-0), which has 44.857 seed points.

In total, four teams-Baltic, Canistota, Gregory and Webster-are unbeaten in Class 9AA.

"There's a lot great teams out there that have one or two losses," Strang said. "You have four teams undefeated and then Region 3 is tough with Mount Vernon/Plankinton and Wolsey-Wessington."

Canistota faces Bon Homme (4-3) at 7 p.m. today in Canistota as the Hawks try to finish the regular season undefeated and the Cavaliers try to remain in the playoffs.

Strang said Bon Homme is a good opponent for the Hawks to face before the playoffs and said the team will continue to rely on its strengths.

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"Our strength as a ballclub probably lies on the offensive and defensive line," Strang said. "We have a good set of (running) backs that any one of them can go off for 100 yards on any given night."

Leading the Hawks this year has been linemen Xavier Ward, a South Dakota State University commit, and Kasey Buse as well as quarterback Scott Jolley and running back Jacob White Lance.

Corsica-Stickney after 9B title

After falling one game short of making a trip to the DakotaDome in 2015, the Corsica-Stickney Jaguars have had plenty of motivation in 2016.

The Jaguars were able to rally past No. 4 Colome 16-14 in the season-opener and have cruised past every single opponent since. Since the win over Colome, Corsica-Stickney has only allowed six points in six games, while the offense has scored more than 50 points in five of those games.

Led by seniors Landon Bruinsma, Hunter Johnson and Clayton Menning, the Jaguars are averaging 46.4 points per game

Corsica-Stickney faces one of its toughest tests of the season today as the Jaguars host Gayville-Volin (6-1) at 7 p.m. in Corsica.

In Class 9B, Harding County is the only other undefeated team, while defending state champion Langford Area is 6-1 with the lone loss coming against undefeated Class 9A team Warner.

Winner continues winning ways

The Winner Warriors were one of the most dominant football teams in South Dakota history in 2015. Winner went 12-0 and captured the Class 11B title, while outscoring its opponents 594-26

In 2016, Winner returned 39 letterwinners and tightened its grip on Class 11B.

The Warriors (7-0) started the season with four-straight shutouts and have outscored their opponents 362-22.

In Class 11B, Winner is being pushed by Groton Area, which is also 7-0 and hosts Parkston today. In last year's semifinals, Winner topped Groton Area 39-0.

Drew DeMers, Kayleb Brozik, Cameron Kuil, Isaac Naasz, Krockett Krolikowski and 14 other seniors have led the way for the top-ranked Warriors.

As the Warriors close out the regular season with Jones County/White River at 7 p.m. today in Winner, one thing is certain-the road the DakotaDome will go through Winner.

Winner head coach Dan Aaker and Corsica-Stickney head coach Jason Broughton were unable to be reached for comments on this story.

Related Topics: CORSICAFOOTBALL
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