The 2019 South Dakota prep football season was unlike any other.
The season had a series of firsts that were widely viewed as positives: replay, outdoor state championships and a new conference.
Replay, which was utilized just for state title games, was successful and was done in a timely manner. State title games were played outdoors at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings and the weather cooperated to give everyone an enjoyable experience. The All Nations Football Conference, which is made up of 12 Native American schools, played its first season and positive feedback came with it.
Those were just some highlights of another prep season on the gridiron. Here are some other bests from the 2019 season:
Best venue: Renovations at Vermillion’s DakotaDome moved the title games to Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium for one season. No blizzard blanketed Brookings and the fancy venue helped make it a fun atmosphere for the championship games. Weather will be the main talking point about where it should be. The DakotaDome is smaller and more intimate, which creates a louder atmosphere and is always inside away from the cold. But playing and watching football outdoors is nothing new for South Dakotans. So why not one more week? It’s set to go back to Vermillion next year, but a return trip to Brookings should be considered in the future.
Best game: No. 1 Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan vs. No. 2 Winner appeared to be on a collision course all season long. The two powerhouses combined to play in the past four Class 11B state titles, but never against each other. They finally met this season for the championship game and it didn’t disappoint. The Seahawks edged the Warriors 21-14, with BEE’s Brady Hawkins throwing a touchdown strike to Jonah Hofer for the game-winning score in the fourth quarter. But it was capped off with a goal line stand by the Seahawks and game-clinching interception by Chase Arend. The programs led by veterans coaches -- Winner’s Dan Aaker and BEE’s Jeff Van Leur -- showed great respect after the classic battle and will again be in the Class 11B hunt next season.
Best championship performance: You can pick so many different players, but Viborg-Hurley’s Chase Mason stood out above the rest this season. The quarterback finished 14 of 22 for 220 yards with three touchdowns through the air and ran 14 times for 196 yards and three scores in Viborg-Hurley’s 50-24 win over Bon Homme. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder was the Jim Langer Most Valuable Player and Outstanding Back, while breaking the Class 9AA total offense championship game record. With Mason coming back next season, the Cougars will be among the favorites to repeat in Class 9AA.
Best quote: Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan claimed the Class 11B title this season after losing to now-Class 11A Sioux Falls Christian the past two seasons. The emotions of finally capturing the state title came pouring in for Hawkins, who was named the Jim Langer MVP and Outstanding Back. “Unlike any other,” said Hawkins when asked to describe the emotions of winning the title. “I have never been so happy. We have been playing together since we have been third graders and we have been working for this moment right here and losing the last two sucks and getting this one means the world. I couldn’t be happier.”
See you next season and now it’s onto basketball.