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South Dakota Miners to showcase talent on national stage

South Dakota youth football players will test their skills against some of the best in the nation this weekend.

The South Dakota Miners Youth Club Football Team will play in the Hall of Fame Academy Classic Championships in Dallas, Texas. The event starts today and continues through Sunday.

The Miners will have a team competing in each of the sixth, seventh and eighth grade divisions.

Each team is guaranteed three games with squads from all across the country competing in the event. In today's opening round games, the Miners will play teams from Minnesota, New Jersey and North Texas. The event is an invitational.

"It is an opportunity for these kids to play at a higher level for their sport in the aspect of the big holes that happen in the junior high programs at the local levels," Miners co-coach Fred Prien said. "It gives these kids more reps on the field, higher quality of play and of course bigger scenery, bigger opportunities and playing against some powerful football teams."

The Miners have played games during the season at such locations as Des Moines, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri. The seventh and eighth grade teams are both 9-0. The eighth grade team has outscored their opponents 374-27 this season.

The eighth grade group has experience competing in a similar event. Two years, they played for Team South Dakota in the Football University National Championships in Naples, Florida.

In total, Prien said there are around 80 players on the Miners' roster, including 30 on each of the seventh and eighth grade teams. Prien said the program continues to grow each year.

"The seventh graders are built around a very nice nucleus of kids that were sixth graders last year," Prien said. "So each year the kids continue to get better and better. We are getting more kids interested from the area and getting the exposure and getting the reps and getting the time on the field that they don't get all the time at home."

Prien added the coach to athlete ratio is very high and "that they have taught the kids a higher level of play that prepares the athletes for the next level."

This year's games will be played at Dallas area high school stadiums, while championship games will be played in the Dallas Cowboys Star Facility Indoor Arena. The players will also receive a free tour of the AT&T Stadium, which is where the Dallas Cowboys play their home games.

"There's a lot of other events that come along with it," Prien said. "So it is a great opportunity and a fun time for the kids to participate in."

The Mitchell-area players on the sixth grade team include: Armour's Payton Westendorf, Dalton Westendorf and Tristan Weatherford and Kimball's Dalton Deffenbaugh. The local players on the seventh grade team include: Mitchell's Mick Dailey, Hanson's Brock Tuttle and Noah Price, Corsica-Stickney's Carter Wright and Plankinton's Evan Bultsma. The area players on the eighth grade team include: Mount Vernon's Daniel Laufman and Charlie Prien, Hanson's Hadley Wallace and Lucas Nicholson and Ethan's Brody Riggs.