Tea Area lands seven on Class 11A all-state team
Winning a state championship, especially in football, is never a one-person job. That same rings true when it comes to winning the first state title in school history.
That is certainly the case for the Tea Area Titans, who overcame a narrow defeat late in the season to roll to the Class 11A state football title, the first Tea Area team to accomplish that feat.
For their efforts throughout the season, seven members of the state-championship Titans' squad were selected to the Class 11A all-state football team, as selected by the South Dakota Football Coaches Association.
Carter Slykhuis — who almost lost his leg to compartment syndrome prior to the season — and Kaleb Joffer were each honored on the offense. Wyatt Powers, Gavin Graff and PJ Parmelee each were named on the defensive side of the ball and Kade Stearns and Cade Clayberg were selected as specialists. Parmelee is the lone non-senior in that group for the Titans.
State runner-up Dell Rapids had two honorees while Dakota Valley and West Central each had four players selected to the all-state team. Belle Fourche, Lennox, Madison, and St. Thomas More also each had multiple selections to the team.
Slykhuis, Joffer and Madison linebacker Doyle Brown were selected to the all-state team for a second consecutive year. Slykhuis made the team this year at running back after being selected in 2017 at defensive back, while Joffer was an offensive tackle selection this year after being a defensive line selection in 2017.
Quarterback — Zach Leisinger, Lennox (SR, 6'1", 180)
Leisinger commanded the Orioles offense this season, throwing for 2,277 yards and 21 touchdowns on 153-of-279 passing over eight games. The senior gunslinger also ran for 201 yards and accounted for 72 percent of the Lennox offensive attack in 2018.
Lennox head coach Matthew Luze called Leisinger "one of the toughest kids I've ever coached" and added his quarterback "took a more commanding presence this year."
Running backs — Carter Slykhuis, Tea Area (SR, 5'11", 175); Sam Chesterman, Dakota Valley (SR, 6'1", 180)
After overcoming compartment syndrome this past summer, Slykhuis didn't miss a beat on the field. A two-year captain and a 2017 All-State defensive back, Slykhuis accounted for over 1,500 yards of offense (1,168 rushing, 343 receiving) and ran for 17 touchdowns. He capped the Titans' run to the state title with 121 yards on the ground, 81 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the championship game.
"He is the leader of our team and a very electrifying player to watch when he has the ball in his hands," said Tea Area head coach Craig Clayberg.
Chesterman ranked up 1,151 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground for the Panthers, good for 8.5 yards per carry. He closed out his high school career with 35 total touchdowns over over 2,300 yards on the ground.
Fullback — Jacob Karges, Milbank Area (SR, 5'10", 190)
An honorable mention in 2017, Karges put together another all-around campaign as the Milbank Area fullback. Karges contributed 881 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground for the Bulldogs.
"He has great vision and runs downhill and finishes ever rush getting an extra yard," said Milbank Area head coach Adolph Shepardson.
Tight end — Josh Rowland, Todd County (SR, 6'4", 185)
Though a tight end, Rowland was a scoring machine for Todd County. The senior totaled 26 touchdowns on the year, 19 of which came on caught passes. He finished the season with 927 yards on 40 receptions.
"Josh is one of the most explosive, talented athletes we've ever had at Todd County," said head coach Bob Kornley, Jr.
Receivers — Caleb Metcalf, Lennox (JR, 6'0", 175); Logan Ellingson, Dell Rapids (JR, 5'10", 145)
A pair of junior receivers round out the offensive skill positions. Metcalf was on the receiving end of Leisinger's tosses frequently, coming up with 50 catches for 963 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Luze called Metcalf "arguably our hardest worker" and noted that he "truly cares about his teammates on and off the field."
Part of the state runner-up Quarriers, Ellingson caught 35 balls for 924 yards and found the end zone 10 times.
"He made big plays for us all year long that allowed us to stay in and win games," said Dell Rapids head coach Jordan Huska.
Guards — Connor Swanson, West Central (JR, 5'8", 195); Mitchell Kistner, Dakota Valley (SR, 6'0", 220)
Swanson helped anchor the Tea Area offensive line that racked up over 4,000 yards of total offense this season.
"Connor was excellent at a position that is vital to our offensive success," said West Central head coach Kent Mueller.
Kistner helped block for an offense that accumulated over 3,800 yards on the ground and another 750 through the air.
Center — Johnny Ricke, Madison (SR, 6'1", 255)
The ever-important position of center, Ricke led the Madison offensive line that kept the Bulldog offense humming to the tune of 1,917 yards passing, 1,200 yards rushing and 260 points scored.
"As the center, he led our offensive line and had great communication skills, which set him apart from others," said Madison head coach Max Hodgen.
Tackles — Kaleb Joffer, Tea Area (SR, 6'3", 235); Casey Voichahoske, Dakota Valley (SR, 6'0", 225)
A four-year starter on both sides of the ball, Joffer's final act in high school football was a big one, helping the Titans average 346.4 yards per game on their way to the state title.
"He has some of the best feet that we have ever coached," said Tea Area head coach Craig Clayberg.
Voichahoske finished his career at Dakota Valley as a three-year starter and a two-time all-conference selections. He also served as a team captain for the Panthers this season as the team's leading blocker/main puller on run plays.
Tackles — Hunter Mitchell, Belle Fourche (SR, 6'4", 215); Gavin Graff, Tea Area (SR, 6'0", 255)
Mitchell anchored the Belle Fourche defensive attack. The senior came up with 72 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, two saves, three forced fumbles and recovered three fumbles.
"He is the hardest worker on the field and has been living in teams' backfields for three years now," said Belle Fourche head coach Scott Slotten.
Graff helped keep offenses in check for the Titans. In his senior campaign, Graff finished with 46 total tackles, five of which were for losses, and recovered three fumbles.
"He has had a great season for us on both sides of the ball," said Clayberg. "He has become more of a vocal leader for us this season."
Ends — Jackson Miller, West Central (SR, 6'3", 200); Wyatt Powers, Tea Area (SR, 6'4", 210)
Making the switch from linebacker to defensive end for the benefit of the team, Miller came up with 72 tackles and 4.5 quarterback sacks that held opposing teams to 106 yards rushing per game for the Trojans.
Head coach Kent Mueller called Miller the "anchor" of the defense.
A two-year starter on defense, Powers came up with 75 tackles (11 for loss of yardage), 5.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries for the Titans.
"Wyatt is a big, physical kid that has a motor that does not stop," said Clayberg.
Linebackers — PJ Parmelee, Tea Area (JR, 5'11", 200); Jay Neugebauer, St. Thomas More (SR, 5'10", 245), Copper Maras, West Central (JR, 6'1", 210); Doyle Brown, Madison (SR, 6'0", 180).
Parmelee's presence on defense contributed to the Titan's run to the state title. He came up with 95 total tackles, 11 for a loss of yardage, and recorded 3.5 quarterback sacks.
"PJ is the heart and soul of our defense," said Clayberg. "He has great instincts and can get to the ball in a hurry."
One of just two seniors on the St. Thomas More defense, Neugebauer's leadership helped the Cavaliers. He came up with 75 tackles, a forced fumble and recovered a fumble for a touchdown.
"He took a young team and turned them into a playoff team by the end of the season," said St. Thomas More head coach Wayne Sullivan.
Maras put up impressive numbers for the West Central defense, totaling 118 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, three sacks and two interceptions.
"Cooper is a sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can impact the game on the defensive side of the ball," said West Central head coach Kent Mueller.
Part of the two-straight state title teams, Brown's contributions helped Madison finish the season 8-2. Brown's totals included 80 tackles (15 for loss), 3.5 sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
"Doyle plays with a lot of passion and intensity and had a major impact on games throughout his career," said Madison head coach Max Hogden.
Backs — Broc Halderman, West Central (SR, 5'9", 160); Grant Huber, St. Thomas More (JR, 5'10", 165); Morgan Harkless, Hot Springs (SR, 6'2", 180); Cole Schulz, Dakota Valley (SR, 6'0", 185)
Halderman finished the season with 32 tackles, three interceptions, six pass breakups and a touchdown for the Trojans in his final year.
"Broc was a big reason why our defense forced 18 turnovers and scared four touchdowns," said Mueller.
Huber, a junior this season, broke up seven pass attempts and tallied one interception and 28 tackles for the Cavaliers.
A pair of touchdowns, three interceptions and 52 tackles highlighted the season for Hot Springs senior Harkless.
Hot Springs head coach Ben Kramer said of Kramer, "If he's on the field, we have a chance."
Even as a defensive back, Schulz had a nose for the ball, forcing four fumbles and recovering three of them. He also came up with 74 tackles for Dakota Valley.
Kicker — Kade Stearns, Tea Area (SR, 5'11", 160)
Sterns connected on 40 of his 44 PAT kicks and was 6-of-11 on field goals, his season long coming from 35 yards out. Stearns also played for the Tea Area soccer team during the season.
"Kade can place the ball wherever you want it on the field," said Clayberg. "He is a very valuable weapon to have."
Punter — Eddie Price, Dell Rapids (SR, 6'3", 210)
A team captain and the team's quarterback and middle linebacker, Price put up some impressive numbers with his leg, pinning five punts inside the 20-yard line and finishing the season with an average of 39 yards per attempt.
Dell Rapids head coach Jordan Huska said Price is a "hard worker, easy to coach" and that he "does the right things in and out of football.
Long Snapper — Cade Clayberg, Tea Area (SR, 5'11", 170)
Never an easy task to do well, Clayberg acted as the Titans' long snapper for the past four years "since he was Coach Clayberg's son," said the head coach.
"Not many stats for are kept for long-snapping, but being able to trust someone on your team to get the ball back there is a huge asset to your team," said the Tea Area head coach.
Special teams player — Kelby Olson, Belle Fourche (JR, 6'2", 165)
Acting as the team's return man, Olson produced 292 yards and three touchdowns returning kicks and another 124 yards returning punts for the Broncs.
"He is a hard-nosed runner with deceptive speed," Bell Fourche head coach Scott Slotten said.
Ryder Kirsch, Jr., St. Thomas More; Nathan Rice, Sr., Dakota Valley, Tater Fox, Sr., Belle Fourche; Matt Norton, Sr., Hot Springs; Jackson Miller, Sr., West Central; Jesse Thybo, Sr., Belle Fourche; Kenyon Shellum, Sr., Dell Rapids; Jayden Kettell, Sr., Todd County; Jevin Kratz, Sr., Dakota Valley; Brayden Thompson, Jr., Tea Area; Kipp Red Dogg, Sr., Cheyenne-Eagle Butte; Tyson Stoebner, Sr., Lennox; Connor Saunders, So., Vermillion; Coby Maeschen, So., Dell Rapids.