ETHAN -- Football season arrived Monday for South Dakota nine-man and 11B schools.
Monday was the first day of fall practice for those teams, and while that means helmets and shorts and plenty of conditioning work for each team, the atmosphere varies from school-to-school.
For Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, it is the start of another year, with the same goals. Every Seahawk that has played since 2001 has reached at least one state championship game. Despite losing key pieces, the expectations are still the same.
“That kind of culture feeds into itself,” BEE head coach Jeff VanLeur said. “These kids went against the second-best team in the state last year. Everyday, they went against the second-best and it just builds your confidence.”
Last year’s Class 11B runner-up lost standouts such as Jamin Arend and Carter Dye, but BEE also returns several players with experience, including quarterback and leading tackler Brady Hawkins.
While Hawkins’ spot is secure after throwing for 1,302 yards and 14 touchdowns, while rushing for another 689 yards and nine scores, but there are other positions up for grabs during the preseason.
Jonah Hofer, Chase Arend, Grant Andrews and Bodie Burnham saw playing time a year ago in the Seahawk backfield, but with Jamin Arend gone, there will be more carries and passes to spread around.
There are also open spots along the offensive and defensive line, but with the Aug. 23 opener against Wagner less than two weeks away, the BEE coaching staff prefers lineups to take shape by the end of the week.
“I hope by Saturday morning we have a pretty good idea who is going to go where,” VanLeur said. “I hope we have some surprises and we’ll play a lot of kids in that first game to see how the perform in game-time situations.
“It’s about getting kids in the right position,” VanLeur continued. “And some of these kids are going to play a different position than they did last year because of what we have.”
Hanson looks to rebound from winless season
While Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan is looking to reload yet again, Hanson is attempting to get the program back on track.
The Beavers are coming off an 0-8 season and haven’t posted a winning campaign since 2011, but veteran head coach Jim Haskamp treats the start of each year the same. Although, Haskamp admits player outlooks are different depending on the previous season
“What their belief and expectation in themselves can change,” Haskamp said. “We were 0-8 last year, so how confident are they? What are their expectations? What does it take to win a football game?
“We’ve had those really good years, when they step on the field, the expectation is, ‘We’ve got to win,’ ” Haskamp continued. “The same goes for the other team. How do they view you? That gets taken into account.”
Fall practices are fast-tracked in South Dakota due to time between the start of practice to the first game, but some of the first few days can be more about staying focused before teams can play with pads or teams must install schemes because players get more excited when hitting begins.
“We usually have not done a lot of live contact, even during the years we were real successful,” Haskamp said. “We do kind of a live scrimmage, but it’s pretty well-controlled. We’re very cautious and careful. The first time you do live contact, the kids get excited for that.”