The 2014 high school football season kicks off in the area on Friday night, and throughout the week, we have been previewing the area leagues. Today, we take a look at the Northern Plains League 8-Man DII schools.
St. John’s/Tipton and Thunder Ridge are two schools in our area that are looking to do big things in 2014. They are both coming off of solid seasons a year ago, in which both teams were eliminated from the playoffs by Sharon Springs. Thunder Ridge lost just one other game, and that was a thrilling 42-38 game against St. John’s/Tipton in Beloit last September. This season, both teams are in nearly everyone’s Top 5 going into the season, with some media members picking either team as the #1 team in the State. Interestingly enough, in the end, one of the teams may be staying home for the postseason, as they are in a stacked District 7 in 8-Man DII that also includes Victoria.
St. John’s/Tipton returns four starters on offense and three on defense from last season’s team that went 11-1. Trey Dubbert is the top returner, as he will begin his third full season as the starting QB for the Blujays. Dubbert threw for 1,354 yards last season with 20 TD and only 4 INT. Also back on offense is Junior Parker Gates, who racked up 1,304 all-purpose yards last season. Riley Gates and Andrew Eilert are back to anchor the offensive line. The Blujays will need to replace Luke Eilert, Connor Eilert and Caleb Brummer from last year’s team. All three were solid skill players, but they may find out that replacing them on defense will be more difficult, as the trio combined to be the top three tacklers on the team with a total of 413 tackles and 35 tackles for loss between them.
Keith Kresin, the head coach of the Blujays, does like what his offense looks like so far in practices this season.
St. John’s/Tipton will open out their season on Friday night in Hill City on Z 96.3 “The Lake”. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30.
On KD Country 94, the Thunder Ridge Longhorns open up against defending 8-Man DI State Champion Osborne. Thunder Ridge returns five starters on offense and three on defense, led by RB Trent Rietzke, who ran for over 1,300 yards last season. Dylan Bretton is back after spending a few games as the starting QB last season in coach Jerry Voorhees’ run first offense. The Longhorns also bring back one of their top tacklers on defense in Larame Boyle. Thunder Ridge will rely on their size up front to help guide the running game. Voorhees is excited about this year’s group.
Also in NPL 8-Man DII, Sylvan-Lucas looks to bounce back from a tough 3-6 year, in which they needed just one more win in the final week against Otis-Bison to qualify for the playoffs. They ended up losing that game by two points, which leaves a bad taste in the mouths of their four returning offensive and five returning defensive starters. Sylvan-Lucas does lose key players from last season, but they return starting QB Collin Herold and backs Tim Schulteis and Ty Heenan. Mustangs head coach Ben Labertew is hoping to find the right pieces to fit in with the experience he has back.
Sylvan-Lucas opens their season at Natoma on Friday night.
Southern Cloud had some success a season ago, going 6-4, but losing in the first round of the playoffs to eventual State Champion Baileyville B&B. The Warriors have experience back in RB’s Justin Pelkey and Austin Pelkey and TE/DB Trey Bellows, but they will need to replace QB/DB Ryan Perkins and fellow 8-Man All-Star Lance Heller. Perkins threw for just under 1,200 yards and ran for another 800, but will be tougher to replace on defense, as he finished his career with 481 tackles. The Warriors open their season in Miltonvale against Rock Hills on Friday.
Pike Valley moves down to 8-Man DII this season. Don Melby enters his 33rd season as head coach of the Panthers and has three starters back on offense and six on defense. Jacob Field and Dawson Carlgren return in the backfield after combining for 1,426 yards rushing and 25 TD. The Panthers will need to replace their QB, as Titus Vignery is now at Minneapolis. Pike Valley opens the season on the road at Lakeside Friday night.
Four other teams from the NPL play in the 8-Man DII ranks. Natoma is in the same district as St. John’s/Tipton and Thunder Ridge and returns four starters on offense and five on defense from a team that went 5-4. Triton Frye is back at QB after throwing for over 800 yards and 17 TD last year.
Wilson went just 1-8 last season, but they return six starters on both sides of the ball, so they are much more experienced than they were a season ago.
Tescott went 3-6 last year and returns four starters on offense and three on defense. Senior QB Joel McCosh is the top returner for Daymon Walker’s squad.
And finally in the NPL 8-Man DII Ranks, Chase will be one of the more experienced teams in the league, as they return seven starters on each side after going 3-6 last season. QB Brendon Clark and RB Mikey Brown are the top returners for the Kats.