16 Mitchell area prep football players to watch during the 2022 season
South Dakota high school football resumes Friday with the kickoff of the nine-man classes and Class 11B. The upper 11-man classes begin their seasons on August 26.
MITCHELL — For 86 South Dakota high school football programs, it’s Game Week.
The first high school football games of 2022 will kick off starting Thursday, Aug. 18, with the majority of the contests to be played on Friday.
With that in mind, the Mitchell Republic sports staff took a look at the rosters of the Mitchell area teams and spotlighted 16 that will be key to watch this season on the gridiron. Players are listed alphabetically.
Sutton Arend, sr., Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan: As the Seahawks fire up another season expected to be in contention in Class 11B, Arend will be counted on both sides of the ball. Arend made 68 tackles and picked off eight passes in his role as a defensive back with significant size — 6-foot-4, 190 pounds. He also made 68 tackles, plus caught five passes for touchdowns on offense.
Aiden Barfuss, jr., Winner: Barfuss emerged onto the scene late in the 2021 season, just in time for the Winner Warriors’ latest championship run. Barfuss scored in each of Winner’s last five games, including rushing for 126 yards and a touchdown in the Class 11B state championship game. He ran for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns from the fullback spot, plus made 42 tackles on the season. His return, along with his backfield colleague Riley Orel, is a major reason why Winner is going for a state championship three-peat this season.
Brady Bierema, sr., Avon: Bierema, who stands at 5-foot-8, remains a key player in nine-man football in the state, especially off a nearly 2,000-yard rushing season with 32 total touchdowns. In the words of Avon coach Tom Culver, Bierema was pound-for-pound the Pirates’ best player in 2021. Off a knee injury from wrestling, if Bierema is back on the field this season, that will be a huge boost for a Pirates squad that expects to be a contender in Class 9B.
Will Cleveland, sr., McCook Central/Montrose: Cleveland was involved with a little bit of everything for the Fighting Cougars last season. On offense, he provided a quality receiving option, recording 380 yards and four touchdowns opposite the since-graduated all-state talent Cody Miles, and added two kick-return touchdowns on special teams. Defensively, Cleveland had three forced fumbles, three interceptions, one defensive score and is described by coach Shawn Flanagan as a “great ball hawk and tremendous tackler.”
Isaac Crownover, sr., Bon Homme: If Bon Homme is going to have a bounce-back season, Crownover likely will be a key piece for the Cavaliers. He made 73 tackles last season and has accounted for nearly 2,000 career yards in a running back role as a two-way player. Byron Pudwill, the Bon Homme coach, calls him a throwback player that makes the Cavaliers tick.
Griffin Clubb, sr., Howard: With 697 yards and seven touchdowns last season, Clubb is the top returning rusher from the Tigers’ 2021 Class 9A title-winning team that churned out nearly 4,000 yards on the ground. Clubb saved perhaps his best performance for last, totaling 115 yards and two scores in the DakotaDome. Expect Clubb and fellow 600-yard returning rusher Karsyn Feldhaus to carry the load following the graduation of all-state backfield talents Ty Beyer and John Callies.
Atticus Darnell, sr., Howard: Playing opposite game-wrecker Jace Sifore on Howard’s defensive line last season, Darnell shouldered the burden of having most teams run his direction and, in the words of coach Pat Ruml, “he's an option destroyer, and he made the plays.” The 6-foot-1, 205-pound end racked up 72 tackles, including seven sacks, with three fumble recoveries last season. Darnell also had more than 300 yards receiving and three touchdowns on a Howard offense that far prefers the run to the pass.
Kley Heumiller, sr., Avon: Paving the way up front, Heumiller helped Avon rush for nearly 4,000 yards in 2021, a clip of more than 360 yards per game. Avon coach Tom Culver described the 6-foot-3, 210-pound guard and Great Plains all-conference honoree as “a dominant lineman” and “true leader.” Blocking for talents such as Brady Bierema, all signs point to Heumiller and the Pirates having another successful season in 2022.
Dawson Hoffman, sr., Platte-Geddes: The quarterback for the more recent of the Black Panthers’ back-to-back state titles returns for his senior season in 2022. Last year, Hoffman completed 51 passes for 1,015 yards, accounting for 13 total touchdowns, and he’ll have one of his top targets back in Joey Foxley (367 yards, seven total touchdowns).
Brayden Jervik, jr., Parkston: Jervik will be a three-year starter for Parkston, playing key roles at running back and linebacker for a Trojans team that finished one game away from the DakotaDome in Class 9AA last season and rushed for nearly 300 yards per game. Jervik and Kolter Kramer will be two of the key backs for Parkston, which has 13 letterwinners returning and should be in the mix once again in its class.
Riley Orel, sr., Winner: Orel is half of one of the top returning backfield duos in the state alongside Aiden Barfuss as Winner looks to make yet another push to the DakotaDome in 2022. Last season, the 2020 Joe Robbie Award winner as the most outstanding player in the state title game accounted for more than 1,000 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns. For his career, Orel has more than 1,600 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns to pair with four receiving scores.
Rylan Peck, jr., Gregory: Back for another year engineering the Gorillas offense, Peck, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound dual threat, accounted for nearly 1,900 yards of offense and 26 touchdowns. Much of that damage was done running the ball, with 741 yards and 14 touchdowns. For a Gregory squad that expects to make some noise in 2022, it starts with Peck.
Tage Ortman, jr., Canistota: As Canistota transitions back to life in Class 9A as a standalone program following a successful partnership with Freeman, the Hawks will look to signal-caller Tage Ortman to pick up where he left off in 2021. During Ortman’s sophomore campaign, he completed nearly 56% of his passes for 1,828 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 171 yards and five scores on the ground, helping C/F reach the state championship game as the No. 11 seed in Class 9AA.
Reed Rus, sr., Mount Vernon/Plankinton: The Titans will put the ball in the hands of Rus a lot on offense in 2022 and will hope he can help MVP get it back on defense, as well. The 6-foot-4 quarterback/linebacker accounted for 19 touchdowns on offense last season, plus made 41 tackles and five sacks from his defensive position. He has collegiate offers from schools in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and has drawn interest from the FCS schools in the Dakotas and most notably visited the University of Iowa, where his uncle, Chad Greenway, played his college football.
Jagger Tyler, sr., Mitchell: With the toughness and tenacity that comes from a state-champion wrestler, Tyler will be an important cog in the Kernels defense, as well as contributing on offense. He had 57 tackles and was an all-state honorable mention player in Class 11AA in 2021, as the Kernels look to climb up the standings in their class.
Hadley Wallace, sr., Hanson: Alongside backfield mate Brock Tuttle, Wallace helps make the Hanson Beavers a dangerous squad in 2022. Wallace rushed for 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns last season, providing the explosive, big-play potential that Hanson used last year to average nearly 35 points and more than 230 rushing yards per game. He also added 52 tackles at linebacker for a defense that held opponents to 215 yards per game.