Before I get into football, I have enjoyed the Olympics over the last couple weeks and come away with ten of my random thoughts:
After this summer, we all need something to look forward to. The heat this summer was punishing like a visit to a convection oven and the fact that the harvest this fall is going to be a fraction of last year’s is the reality of living in farming and ranching communities. It’s a gamble every year. It’s depressing to drive the highways of the west (and east) and see so many corn fields that have burned up, a lot have already been chopped to salvage something out of it. As green as things were last year, the seem to have taken over. Cattle herds will be thinned and the fall markets will be busy. The start of a new season of fall high school sports may be the best thing for a lot of us.
So anybody else getting that feeling? You know what I’m talking about – the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler (thankfully), the bikers have come and gone, and football is in the air. The buzz at the convenience store coffee/card tables, cafes of sale barns, and local café breakfast tables has started and the questions from my friends with other zip codes have started….”So how’s Winner gonna be this year?” Insert your town, the question rings true throughout the state. It’s the one thing that makes me feel like a little kid sizing up Christmas presents under the tree as kid. (Here’s a fundraising idea – maybe like Advent calendars with a piece of chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas, do a football one leading up to kickoff, but maybe skip the milk chocolate in late July if you do the laundry, perhaps a pistachio?) At any rate, the anticipation of the upcoming season brings high hopes for a lot of communities and this correspondent in particular.
Fall practices will start Monday and in two short weeks the first volleyball, golf meets, cross country meets, and high school football games will be played. All the early morning weightlifting, trips to summer camps, individual time that kids have put into – this is what it’s about. There will be plenty of mouthpieces getting molded in the next few days, new cleats getting broken in, and jammed fingers. Freshman will get acquainted to varsity level practices and bring home those first varsity jerseys and find out what their number will be. That was always a neat moment. I inherited the number of an all stater and felt like I was wearing “his” number for my first varsity year. Every team will again find themselves running “The Hill” that seems to accompany every practice field, no matter the zip code. We had two hills back in the day where the current Not Harvey Naasz Field lies, which was our practice field. One was mowed and a little longer, one was not mowed. If we really screwed up we got the 2 foot tall clover/brome mix behind the practice goal post on the west end. Normally one visit to that hill cured all ills. Fall camp was the time to shake it out and see who really worked hard and who developed over the summer. It was two weeks to concentrate on football and to prepare for the start of school. It just felt different at 6:30 AM then it does at 4 PM after a day at school. It also meant 30 football players cleaning out the long john tray at the bakery on Main Street in Winner that was run by the grandparents of current Hot Springs and SD/ USA wrestling coach Ray Ringstmeyer. And that lucky dog always got to jump the line, dang it. Those were simpler times and good times. Enjoy it and appreciate it, young men. This time goes by fast.
Hopes are high in the great Pheasant Belt for many teams this fall. A lot of teams down here return great talent and have the potential to improve on last season. I see a lot of teams taking steps forward and very few taking steps back. Among those who should take some steps forward are Gregory, South Central, and Lyman. Winner and White River, both who made late playoff runs, should be as equipped as last season to do the same, and Todd County, Jones County, and Colome all come into the year with hopes of doing the same.
In the spirit of my first Sod’s Six of the 2012 season, let’s explore those thoughts with six questions.
The Warriors football team is mired in a slump. That’s a generous way to put it. They are in the midst of a 58 game losing streak, and without some help, that likely continues. They won’t lose week 7, that is the only safe bet on the season.
Well, week 0 offers Colome and Jones County, one team that started hot and then was decimated by injuries, while Colome just seemed to get better as the year went on. The Gregory County Shootout between South Central and Gregory is a great way for both of those teams to start the year as well. Both teams return a bulk of last year’s talent and have their eyes on playoff runs. Gregory needs this win to avoid a potential rough start as they get Avon and Kimball-White Lake the upcoming weeks. The Wall/White River game features the last two west river nine man teams to play last fall and White River returns somes incredible skill players, while Wall brings back Coach Anderson who led Wall in their hey day in the early 90’s. Those are three games to circle early.
Week 1 features Gregory travelling to Colome after the Cowboys topped them in the schools’ first meeting in a couple generations last season. Coming off tough first games, both teams could really need this win. This is a game where cousins will be lined up across each other and there will be more juice than normal for sure. And of course there will be the Winner/STM game at Dutton Field in Rapid City as well. These are two heavyweights in 11B and the only 11 man west river teams to play on the turf in the last decade. This should be a dandy as always. STM will be gunning for this one and will lean on their QB, while Winner will again look for balance and suffocating defense.
In the 9 man ranks, Terrance Kinzer leads Colome and turned into a great player as a sophomore last year for the Cowboys. Terrance has found the weight room and he is not going to go down easy this year. South Central returns Turner Serr and Sam Hazen, both juniors, who were team leaders last season. Serr was the QB and one the better kick returners in the area while Hazen is a big lineman with good feet. Gregory returns Jaden Bartling under center for his third season taking snaps and look for a nice season out of Joe Beck, a talented kid who comes from quite a lineage of talent. Lyman brings back Charlie LaRoche at running back and he had some huge games last year. White River has the shifty and skilled Wyatt Krogamn back at QB and the silly fast Nic Waln back at running back. Matt Gillen will be looked upon to lead the line for the Tigers. Jones County gets back a talented corp of seniors led by Phil Mathews and another burner in Wyatt Hespe, both of whom got dinged up last season.
In 11 man, Todd County brings back Kellan Herman, who had a strong year for the Falcons, and a great lineman with size in Ryan Kornely. Bennett County has a lot of speed with players like Brad Hahn and CodyLarson, while Wade Porch should do some big things as an end. And Winner returns four all conference selections and six starters on both sides of the ball. Kyle Bertram gained over 1000 yards in total offense last season and averaged over 10 yards a touch, Tanner Fritz returns as the QB and had 8 picks on defense, Michael “ Big Country” Hofeldt returns for his third season as a starter on the line, and Ben Connot was one of three underclassmen selected to last season’s 11B all state squad and he looks to build on a year that saw him score 18 TD’s and swipe 6 interceptions. Big things will also be expected from ends senior Isiah Old Lodge and junior Kray Krolikowski, senior lineman Tate Novotny, and junior RB Trace Meyer.
I’ll go out west to Bennett County. They have a real nice collection of athletic kids in the skill positions but will need to develop some linemen. Their season last year was a quagmire losing a coach midseason and really never settling in, but it seemed to me like the inmates were running the asylum, or at least their parents were. While they had a heck of a team in 2009, it is not uncommon for BC to win six regular season games and then get smacked in the playoffs as their schedule has been soft for years. Adding a couple BHC schools helps them, but with schools like Gordon, Valentine, and Winner within driving distance, why not step it up? They have a new coach who is new to the area and school system, and Coach Sundberg will have his hands full making early season decisions. The Warriors have the talent to win six regular season games, but could falter as well. It will be worth monitoring.
There are plenty of strong teams here, but I think Winner and White River have the best chance to make late season runs. Both teams return a lot of starters and winning experience. They return diversely talented kids and have had stability in their coaching staffs. Now that said, 9AA and 11B are always two of the more competitive classes in the ever expanding field of football classes in South Dakota. Both of Bridgewater/Emery-Ethan and Kimball- White Lake return a lot of talent in 9AA and perennially power Tri-Valley return just as much. If there are two teams equipped to challenge those programs, the Tigers and Warriors should be the two.
No thanks. I can’t speak to their football fandom.
Welcome back, my friends. I’m glad to be back and I appreciate that SB1 and the other members of the executive council have brought me back for another season. I look forward to seeing what the Black Hills newest most eligible bachelor, Nick Heeb, has to say this fall and the friction that our friend ER#1 always incites in the fall. Will SB1’s choices of the Monster POTW continue to be controversial? And how long until we get a thought from Honcho? My sources also say there may be more reason to be tuned into the Buzz on Friday nights this fall. Stay tuned….. Hey, this is my favorite time of the year. Let us proceed!
And congrats to friend of the website Blake Gardner. He will exchange vows with Kati Ginsbach this weekend and break the hearts of many a cougar in the Buzzdom.
PLOW ON, MY FRIENDS!Tweet