DEAL: Playoff favorites for Class 11B, nine-man classes mix tradition and upstarts
There’s a chilly breeze in the air, and that means one thing: football playoffs.
The state’s smallest schools and their fans are about to make memories honking horns, bundling up along the sidelines and sipping hot chocolate.
Class 11B and the three nine-man classes will start their postseason on Thursday, with Class 11AAA, Class 11AA and Class 11A kicking off next week. The state football championships are Nov. 12-14 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.
Before we can think about the warm and cozy Dome, we must brave the elements at fields across the state. So before you bundle up and mask up, here’s a quick breakdown of Class 11B and the three nine-man classes:
Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan and Winner once again headline this class.
The Class 11B powerhouse met in last year’s state title, a 21-14 heart-pounding victory for the Seahawks. They’ve combined to play in each of the last five Class 11B state championships, with three titles between them. The Class 11B stalwarts appear on a collision course for Vermillion.
Winner (7-0) has been ranked No. 1 all season and is the No. 1 seed. BEE (8-0) is riding a 20-game winning streak, and as the No. 2 seed, will also have home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Sioux Valley (7-1) and Mobridge-Pollock (7-0) are among the teams looking to play spoiler.
Is there a class with more undefeated teams? Nope.
Four of the state’s 14 undefeated teams reside in Class 9AA, with Hamlin (8-0), Viborg-Hurley (7-0), Platte-Geddes (8-0) and Lemmon/McIntosh (8-0) all sporting perfect records. So it’s conceivable two undefeated teams could play on the road in the semifinals.
No. 1 overall seed Viborg-Hurley and No. 2 seed Hamlin will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. If the top seeds win out, No. 3 Lemmon/McIntosh and No. 4 Platte-Geddes would go on the road for the semifinals. Both the Cowboys and Black Panthers bring some freshness to the bracket; neither has ever played for the state championship under their current arrangements.
The intrigue is about to boil over in this class.
Cornbelt Conference fans could be in store for another instant classic.
Conference rivals Howard and Canistota/Freeman played the game of the year, a 16-14 triple overtime victory by the Tigers on Sept. 11. The rematch would likely come in the semifinals. The win helped Howard (7-0) earn the No. 1 overall seed, while Canistota/Freeman (7-1) settled for the No. 4 overall seed. If both teams win out, and barring no upset wins over Wall (7-0) and Warner (7-0), the Tigers and Pride would meet in the semifinals. We approve of rematches in the playoffs, but there’s a host of two-loss teams looking to prevent it.
The state’s smallest class has perhaps the biggest game of the night.
No. 2-ranked Langford Area (6-2) plays at No. 1-ranked Wolsey-Wessington (6-1) in the opening round. That’s No. 1 vs. No. 2. In the first round. Nine-man pundits will have their eyes fixated on that one.
Region 1, in fact, could be the toughest one in all of nine-man football. Herreid/Selby Area (7-1) earned the region’s No. 1 seed and was ranked No. 3 in the last poll. So that’s No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 all in the same region.
Kadoka Area is the No. 1 overall seed in the class, followed by Herreid/Selby Area, Wolsey-Wessington and Langford Area. The Kougars are looking for their first state title game trip in school history.