South Dakota Gridiron Report: Reflecting on Each of the State Football Championships – Mitchell Republic

MITCHELL — Just as quickly as it began three months ago, South Dakota High School’s 2022 football season ended with a three-day event at the DakotaDome.

Seven state champions were crowned, including two first-time champions and just one repeat winner from 2021.

With this final South Dakota Gridiron report of the season, we’re taking a moment to look back at the action, find out what made each competition special, and offer a final salute to another memorable pre-football season.

Class 11AAA | Sioux Falls Jefferson 48, Harrisburg 21

After falling twice early on against a Harrisburg team that came out swinging and showed why it’s ranked among the state’s top programs annually, the Jefferson juggernaut we’ve seen all season emerged and turned the game in a hurry around. In just 15 minutes and eight seconds of play (from 6:58 before halftime to 3:50 in the third quarter), the Cavaliers went on a 35-0 run to stake their claim on what was undeniably the most dominant season, the had a team in the 10-year history of Class 11AAA. Jefferson finished 12-0, winning by an average margin of nearly 32.2 points per game, without a contest being decided by fewer than three possessions (17 points) in the regular season and four possessions (25 points) in the playoffs .

Quarterback Pierre Lincoln Kienholz (3) throws a pass against Tea Area during the Class 11AA State Championship game Saturday, November 12, 2022, in Vermillion.

Josh Jurgens / South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Class 11AA | Pierre 35, tea area 20

Unsurprisingly, Tea Area stayed within a score of Pierre for most of the game (see previous matchups in the 2021 championship and 2022 regular season to see how well the teams are doing), until a spate of late turnovers and a governor touchdown sealed a historic sixth straight Class 11AA state championship win. Pierre (2017-22) joins West Central (2000-05 in Class 11A) as the only program to reel off six straight state titles as the governors have been 62-9 since early 2017 and will enter the 2023 season on one Winning streak of 15 games.

Class 11A | Dell Rapids 24, West Central 7

The matchup between two longtime undefeated rivals against Class 11A competition might have been close on paper, but Dell Rapids celebrated their return to the title game in triumph thanks to quarterback Jack Henry and a strong defense. Henry pushed the Quarriers forward with two touchdown runs in the first half and that was all Dell Rapids needed as the defense kept West Central off the scoreboard until just five minutes were left and the Trojans on aggregate only 97 yards held for the game. The win earned Dell Rapids its sixth state title and the program’s first since 2014.

Class 11B | Elk Point-Jefferson 21, winner 14

Although the championship experience of entering the competition was extremely one-sided, EPJ suited Winner’s signature physicality and never shied away from the challenge. The Huskies overtook the Warriors 253 to 201 on the ground and made a crucial defensive stop in the last minute to end Winner’s 34-game winning streak. Not only was the win the EPJ’s first state title, but it also marked the first time since 2008, when the Warriors were still in Class 11A, that Winner had been defeated in seven trips to the DakotaDome. (The winner fell to Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan in the 2019 championship, but that game was played at Brookings.)

Wall’s Blair Blasius descends on Friday, November 11, 2022 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion for a reception at the Class 9AA State Soccer Championship game against Parkston.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Class 9AA | Wall 34, Parkston 14

Special teams set the tone for Wall with a blocked punt for a touchdown and a kick from Blair Blasius, who scored two field goals and eliminated most chances for returns in kickoff and punt play. Despite best efforts, Parkston was never able to fully recover from Wall’s fast start, as the Eagles never lagged behind, underscoring a 12-0 season with the program’s first state championship since 1994. It is only the sixth time since the start of the playoff era (1981) that a team from the Mountain time zone has won a nine-man title at Vermillion.

Class 9A | Gregory 36, Warner 23

Throughout the season, Gregory’s offense had demonstrated the ability to score at will, and that’s what propelled the Gorillas to a Class 9A state title against a tough Warner defense. Gregory took an early 24-0 lead, and after Warner cut the deficit to a lone goal late in the third quarter, the Gorillas went on a 96-yard scoring drive that made the game decisive. But after a good flying performance in the semifinals, Gregory relied on ground play against the Monarchs, amassing 300 rushing yards and all five touchdowns with 48 carries. Although this was Gregory’s first Class 9A title, the Gorillas have now won a total of five championships.

Class 9B | Hitchcock-Tulare 50, Herreid/Selby Area 28

Hitchcock-Tulare excelled on both fronts, pitting dynamic offense against strong defenses, scoring the most points of any team over the weekend with creative play-calling and making big defensive plays when needed to thwart the Herreid/Selby Area attack keep in check. Among the exceptional play calls and designs, the Patriots put up a 65-yard score with a 6-yard screen pass, a 3-yard shovel pass, and a forward pitch sweep to a wide receiver, with the defense taking a pick-six earned . It was Hitchcock-Tulare’s third state championship and first since 2009.

The top stories and scenes from the national soccer championship

On the final play of the Class 9B title contest, Herreid/Selby Area’s Brenden Begeman threw a 21-yard rush for 189 game yards and 6,807 career rushing yards, the all-time rushing record set by South Dakota (formerly held by Howard’s Luke Loudenburg) by a meter. Begeman also broke the single-season rushing record during the competition (2,930 yards, previously held by Wolsey-Wessington’s Hunter Johnson) and finished the season with 2,976 yards.

Pierre quarterback Lincoln Kienholz overcame two early turnovers and put a memorable end to what is perhaps the most impressive singles career in South Dakota prep football history by scoring all five of Pierre’s touchdowns (three passes, two rushing). Kienholz finished his prep career as a South Dakota-record 9,100-yard passer and 3,500-yard rusher after a total of 148 touchdowns (104 passing, 44 rushing) and will continue his football journey at the University of Washington under coaching Kalen DeBoer, another South Dakota native.

Elk Point-Jefferson celebrates an interception by Jakob Scarmon (11) in the Class 11B State Soccer Championship against Winner on Friday, November 11, 2022 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Pair of first-time champions

Only two of the 14 teams that made it to Vermillion this season had never appeared in a state title game before. And as fate would have it, both won on their first trip to the DakotaDome, ending unbeaten campaigns by defeating defending champions with long-standing title game histories. On Friday afternoon in Class 11B, Elk Point-Jefferson denied a winner three peats in front of a large contingent of Husky fans who made the 15-mile trip for the occasion. Then, on Saturday night, a Sioux Falls Jefferson program in only its second season dethroned Harrisburg. EPJ became the 132nd unique program to appear in a state football championship game and the 91st to win a title since 1981, followed by Sioux Falls Jefferson as the 133rd team to appear and 92nd champion.

Recognizing the top performances of the week:

  • Lincoln Kienholz, Pierre: Completed 14 of 28 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns while adding 32 rush attempts for 121 yards and two more points, plus one pass interception on defense.
  • Jack Merkwan, Pierre: Hauled in eight passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns of 92 and 75 yards.
  • Taylen Ashley, Sioux Falls Jefferson: Four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) with 14 completions on 16 attempts for 203 yards through the air and nine carries for 61 yards.
  • Nelson Wright, Sioux Falls Jefferson: Rolled for 162 yards and three points on 20 carries.
  • Carter Binger, Hitchcock-Tulare: Walked 12 of 15 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns while adding 123 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts on the ground.
  • Rylan Peck, Gregory Rushed for 162 yards and three touchdowns on 15 attempts and completed 5 of 11 passes for 77 yards and intercepted a pass on defense.
  • Lucas Hüser, Elk Point-Jefferson: 14 times for 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 31-yard score.
  • Jack Henry, Dell Rapids: He scored two goals on 13 carries for 64 yards and passed 10 of 16 passes for 182 yards.
  • Cedar Amiotte, wall: Led his team in rushing (111 yards) and receiving (52 yards) on 20 touches.
  • Blair Blaise, Wall: He notched field goals from 40 and 34 yards, in addition to handling punting and kickoff duties where he limited return opportunities.
  • Brenden Begeman, Herreid/Selby area: Rushed 23 times for 189 yards and three touchdowns, setting South Dakota’s all-time and single-season rushing records.
  • Chase Van Tol, Tea Area: Catched three passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns from 83 and 68 yards.
  • Hunter Cramer, Warner: Total 183 yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing).
  • Riley Orel, Winner: Rushed 13 times for 111 yards and a 69-yard touchdown.