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SABATO: QB play holds keys to state championship weekend

The 2018 South Dakota prep football season is officially in the books after another three-day thrill ride at the DakotaDome over the weekend. Colome outlasted Sully Buttes in an overtime thriller, while an Austin Thu to Trey Ortman to Bailey Sage...

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Colome's Jackson Kinzer (6) breaks free on his way to the end zone for a score as Sully Buttes' Cameron Ogle gives chase during the Class 9B state championship game on Friday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The 2018 South Dakota prep football season is officially in the books after another three-day thrill ride at the DakotaDome over the weekend.

Colome outlasted Sully Buttes in an overtime thriller, while an Austin Thu to Trey Ortman to Bailey Sage two-point conversion for Canistota/Freeman in the Class 9A title game made its way across national platforms, including ESPN's Twitter and Facebook pages, along with being featured at halftime of Sunday Night Football on NBC.

Bon Homme and Brandon Valley won state championships for the first time in more than 20 years, while Tea Area secured its first ever state championship.

What stood out above all, however, was the remarkable play of the quarterbacks throughout the series of seven games. High school football across the country is still run-oriented, and the most explosive athlete on the team usually plays running back. There is a shift in the paradigm, though, with teams placing the top athlete at quarterback and that was made evident last week.

With offenses running like a fastbreak in basketball, the quarterback now serves as the point guard, pushing the ball down the field. The seven starting quarterbacks averaged 237 all-purpose yards and 31 combined passes and rushing attempts per game, while all seven accounted for at least two touchdowns.

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It started in the first game, with Canistota/Freeman's Trey Ortman nearly pitching a perfect game against Howard, as he went 8 of 9 for 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 46-14 rout. Ortman had the Pride offense humming throughout most of the game, including an audible from a run play to a 50-yard touchdown pass to his younger brother, Tyce.

"He's got that decision-making ability," Canistota/Freeman head coach James Strang said. "You have to be able to trust your quarterback to make those decisions and lead your offense."

Three of the winning quarterbacks not only led their teams in passing, but rushing as well. Bon Homme's Joey Slama threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 154 and two more touchdowns, while Jackson Kinzer led Colome with 155 passing yards, 130 rushing yards and three total scores, as he outdueled Nick Wittler of Sully Buttes (422 total yards and six touchdowns).

Pierre seemed to design its offense-shotgun, double tight ends and often no running backs-for quarterback Garrett Stout, who threw for 248 and ran for 111, while scoring three touchdowns apiece through the air and on the ground as the Governors repeated as Class 11AA champions.

Coaches want to put the ball in the hands of their best players and let them attempt to decide the outcome of the game. The strategy paid off as Slama, Kinzer and Stout led their teams back from second-half deficits to win.

It's not to say that putting the best athlete on the team at quarterback equates to state championships or that it's the only way to win-Sioux Falls Christian running back Parker Nelson ran 34 times for 245 yards-but expect the trend to continue to grow across high school football.

As long as it is successful, teams are going to attempt to replicate the recipe.

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