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Kernels, Gorillas claim top spots in preseason football poll

Mitchell defensive back Jackson Sadler tackles a donut pad during as part of a drill during practice on Thursday morning. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The preseason South Dakota Prep Media football poll has Mitchell and Gregory at the top of their classes heading into the 2018 season, with a number of other area schools predicted to contend, as well.

The Kernels claimed 22 of the 28 first-place votes in the Class 11AA ranks, outmuscling defending state champion Pierre and perennial stalwart Harrisburg for the top spot. Mitchell will open the season Aug. 25 against Watertown at Joe Quintal Field.

In Class 9AA, the two-time defending state champions from Gregory maintain the top spot heading into the new season. Winners of three of the last four state titles, the Gorillas had 14 of the 28 first-place votes, holding off conference rivals Miller/Highmore-Harrold and Wolsey-Wessington, who took the No. 2 and No. 3 slots in the preseason rankings. Bon Homme and Kimball/White Lake received consideration in Class 9AA, as well. Gregory hosts Kimball/White Lake on Aug. 17 to open up the new year.

Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan enters the 2018 season as the second choice in Class 11B, behind Sioux Falls Christian. The Chargers defeated Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan in the 2017 state championship game, 27-12, and the two teams combined for all but one of the top picks for the Class 11B poll, with Sioux Falls Christian receiving 23 first-place nods.

The rest of the Class 11B ranks are heavy with area connections. After the No. 2 Seahawks, Winner was No. 3, followed by Mount Vernon/Plankinton at No. 5, and Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central and McCook Central/Montrose in the receiving votes category.  

In Class 9A, Britton-Hecla was the top pick after its state championship season last year but finished two points ahead of Howard, 122-120. The Braves had 16 first-place votes, while Howard had 10. Corsica-Stickney was picked third, with Canistota/Freeman receiving votes.

Sully Buttes was the consensus top pick in Class 9B, with 20 of the 28 top picks going to the Chargers. Colome was the third favorite and had three first-place votes.

Sioux Falls Washington, the three-time defending state champions in Class 11AAA, was named the preseason favorites to repeat in its class. In Class 11A, Dakota Valley was the top pick, edging out the three-time defending champion in its class: Madison. The Bulldogs have appeared in the last five Class 11A state championship games.

The poll was unveiled Friday and comprises of voters from daily newspapers, radio stations and television outlets across the state. An updated poll will be released each week on Mondays during the season.

South Dakota Prep Media Preseason Football Poll

Top-five in each class listed with point totals. First-place votes in parentheses.

Class 11AAA: 1. SF Washington (26), 138; 2. SF O’Gorman (2), 97; 3. SF Roosevelt, 83; 4. Brandon Valley, 67; 5. SF Lincoln, 28. Receiving votes: Rapid City Stevens 5, Rapid City Central 1, Watertown 1.

Class 11AA: 1. Mitchell (22), 133; 2. Pierre (3), 103; 3. Harrisburg (3), 96; 4. Yankton, 53; 5. Huron, 19. Receiving votes: Sturgis 10, Brookings 5, Douglas 1.

Class 11A: 1. Dakota Valley (14), 113; 2. Madison (10), 104; 3. Tea Area (4), 95; 4. St. Thomas More, 68; 5. Dell Rapids, 24. Receiving votes: West Central 9, Milbank 6, Belle Fourche 1.

Class 11B: 1. Sioux Falls Christian (23), 134; 2. Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (4) 109; 3. Winner, 74; 4. Sioux Valley (1), 56; 5. Mount Vernon/Plankinton 32. Receiving votes: Canton 9, Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central 3, Aberdeen Roncalli 2, McCook Central/Montrose 1.

Class 9AA: 1. Gregory (14), 113; 2. Miller/Highmore-Harrold (9), 105; 3. Wolsey-Wessington (2), 75; 4. Irene-Wakonda (1), 55; 5. Webster Area (2), 49. Receiving votes: Baltic 8, North Border 7, Bon Homme 5, Arlington/Lake Preston 2, Kimball/White Lake 1.

Class 9A: 1. Britton-Hecla (16), 122; 2. Howard (10), 120; 3. Corsica-Stickney (1), 74; 4. Warner, 54; 5. Clark/Willow Lake (1), 35. Receiving votes: Canistota/Freeman 8, Timber Lake 5, Potter County 1, Alcester-Hudson 1.

Class 9B: 1. Sully Buttes (20), 127; 2. Castlewood (3), 88; 3. Colome (3), 80; 4. Colman-Egan (2), 78; 5. Harding County, 28. Receiving votes: Faulkton Area 13, Wall 6.