If there was one word to summarize Tea Area’s first season moving up to Class 11AA football, it might be undaunted.
The Titans improved to 4-0 on the young season with a 47-14 win over Mitchell on Friday at Joe Quintal Field. It included another impressive gear from the Titans, who trailed 14-7 at halftime but scored 21 points in the first 5 minutes of the second half and had its defense put the clamps down on Mitchell’s offense.
The win harkened back to the Titans’ season opener at Brookings, when Tea Area left the Bobcats in the dust after a 14-all tie en route to a 47-21 victory. It is the 15th consecutive win over the last two years for the Titans, who won the Class 11A championship in 2020 and were moved up to the division with larger schools for this season.
It’s not nearly as easy as the Titans are making it look. Tea Area coach Craig Clayberg said his program knows they have to be prepared, knowing they probably won’t have the depth of other Class 11AA programs.
“I think the competition at every level is pretty good, you have to be ready to play every Friday night,” he said. “Going from (Class) A to AA, I think the teams are similar. They just have more guys than we do. So the injuries come into play, and we don’t have as much depth as the other guys. That’s a big key for us. But competition-wise, you have to adapt to it and keep moving on.”
For as quickly as Tea Area High School and its football program have grown as a suburb of the Sioux Falls metropolitan area, they remain the smallest Class 11AA football program by a decent margin. They have a male average daily membership figure of 223, with Spearfish the next closest at 293. The top of the division has Aberdeen Central at 510, Watertown at 476 and Brookings at 387.
Much like its neighboring school Harrisburg, the Titans have made the climb up from a one-time nine-man program up the 11-man ranks, leaving behind the days of winless seasons in the late 2000s with new successes.
The Titans are now 80-36 in the Clayberg era, which began in 2010. Since the start of the 2018 season, when Tea Area won the Class 11A state championship and followed it up with another two years later, the Titans are 34-4.
The transition to Class 11AA has gone off without a hitch so far for the Titans, with dozens of players ready to take on the challenge and face some new teams.
“Our kids were really excited to be able to play some new teams, prepare for some new teams,” Clayberg said. “It’s nice to play different teams and study what they do and see how they’re going to adjust to us.”
There are more challenges ahead for the Titans, who face Watertown, Aberdeen Central and old Class 11A rival West Central — all at home — in the final five weeks of the regular season. But whatever challenges lie ahead, the Titans seem to be well prepared.
“In Tea, I think we’ve built a pretty good culture,” Clayberg said. “We expect a lot and they know what we expect, and they do it. We just have hard-working guys who like to play football. They want to come and play hard and try to win. They don’t care who they play or who is scoring touchdowns, they just want to win. We’re excited about that.”
Here’s some victories that got our attention on Friday night:
Alcester-Hudson and Centerville lit up the scoreboard Friday night, as the teams combined for 1175 total yards in a 70-54 Alcester-Hudson win. Cubs running back Jovey Christensen carried the ball 36 times, racking up 547 yards and nine touchdowns. For Centerville, quarterback Cole Edberg was 31-of-50 passing for 499 yards and seven touchdowns. Edberg connected with receiver Austin Bohlman eight times for 148 yards and four scores.
Canistota/Freeman overcame a 35-12 deficit in the second quarter to take down Class 9AA No. 2 Garretson, 56-50, in overtime. Tage Ortman accounted for five total touchdowns in the win, including the game-winning quarterback sneak in overtime. Garretson quarterback threw five touchdowns of his own in the loss. The Pride has now won back-to-back contests ahead of a showdown with No. 5 Chester Area on Sept. 24.
Spearfish picked up its first win of the year, defeating Sturgis 21-19. The win snaps what was the longest active losing streak in South Dakota at 25 games. The Spartans had been outscored 120-16 through their first three games of the season.
Let’s recognize some of the outstanding performances from Week Five of South Dakota high school football:
Winner’s Riley Orel and Aiden Barfuss each rushed for over 100 yards, with both backs needing just four carries to do so. Orel had 129 yards and two touchdowns, while Barfuss logged 100 yards and a touchdown. Winner is now 5-0 and has won four games by at least 44 points.
Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian’s Cade Faulkner threw three touchdowns and added two more scores on the ground as the Thunderhawks earned their first win as an 11-man football program. Faulkner rushed 10 times for 102 yards and completed 9-of-13 passes for 141 yards.
Sioux Valley quarterback Parker Puetz led the Cossacks to the win with a very dominant individual game. Puetz accounted for all six Sioux Valley scores, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for three more. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 231 yards and rushed 27 times for 139 yards.
Elkton-Lake Benton quarterback Ryan Krog went 15-of-20 passing for 350 yards and threw five touchdowns. Krog led Elkton-Lake Benton to a 50-point win on Homecoming night.
Wolsey-Wessington’s Marrian Gohn carried the ball 18 times, racking up 223 yards and four touchdowns in the process. Gohn and the Warbirds face Platte-Geddes in a battle of defending state champions next week.