With temperatures soaring into triple digits in the past week, football might be the last thing on people’s minds. However, some of the state’s finest gridiron athletes are preparing for the South Dakota All-Star High School Game which takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday at the DakotaDome in Vermillion. (The game will be televised live on Midco Sports).
One of those players is former Britton-Hecla standout Wyatt Bray. While the other players might be a bit curious how they will look after not playing for months, Bray has even more reason to wonder how things will go.
“I haven’t played in a few months, particularly in my case, I’ve had surgery and knee treatments since I last played football,” Bray said. “So it might feel a little weird.”
Bray was planning to play football at South Dakota State next season before a knee injury his junior season and subsequent surgery scrapped that idea.
“I hit the lower part of my knee, it’s called the patella bone, on a helmet and it just hurt for the next year,” Bray said.
An MRI revealed a fracture and Bray decided to have surgery.
“It was supposed to be an easy surgery where it’s completely better in three months, but it never got better,” Bray said. “I committed to SDSU to play football, but this whole thing kind of got rid of that.”
So that means Saturday will mark Bray’s final football game ever. The good news is he can’t do any more damage to his knee. The bad news, he is far from pain-free.
“The good thing is, there’s not a high chance at all of me hurting it more, the doctor said,” Bray said. “It’s just going to be pain for the next 2-3 years, but I can’t really hurt it any more than it already is.”
Football has been a big part of Bray’s life. He played in two state championship games for the Braves, winning a state title his freshman season.
When asked what he will remember most about his playing days with Britton-Hecla, Bray pointed to two specific things: the championship and a tragic injury to quarterback Trevor Zuehlke which resulted in a serious brain injury and how the players rallied behind their teammate.
“Definitely my freshmen year winning the state championship and then my junior year, I’ll always remember the end of the Warner game and the final regular season game, where my classmate went down with that brain injury,” Bray said. “I’ll always remember the playoff games after that. The Gregory game, which was the third-round game, that was extremely close and we finally won it. That has to be probably the happiest time in my life. That’s the only time in my life I’ve ever had tears of joy. That just goes to show how exciting it was to make the state (championship) game even after my friend, our quarterback went down.”
Bray said the team rallied around their fallen leader and proved people wrong.
“It’s our quarterback and one of our star players. Everyone was like, ‘There kind of goes the season.’ I don’t think any single one of the players had that kind of thought in mind. We just put the next guy in, continued working every day,” Bray said. “Winning that Gregory game, that whole time you’re just kind of head down, pushing through and once we won that, you just kind of realized how much we accomplished.”
Now, as Bray gears up for his final game, he will be playing as teammates against some of the same opponents he went against during his prep career. That includes a couple of players from rival Warner.
“In football we’re rivals, but we’re all friends with each other” Bray said. “It’s not one of those serious rivals where you hate everyone on the other team.”
Here is a look at the rosters for each squad:
Head Coach: Ben Kramer (Hot Springs)
Assistant Coaches: Brandon White (Harrisburg), Russ Bailey (Custer), Dan Maciecjzak (Douglas) and Lex Heathershaw (Wall).
Players: Nathan Cook, Stanley County; Chayce Montagne, Dakota Valley; Ethyn Rollinger, Harrisburg; Trevor Fitzgerald, Yankton; Jaxon Kampshoff, Howard; Dominic Abraham, Garretson; Isaiah Robinson, Sioux Falls Lincoln; Kobey June, Dakota Valley; Cody Thompson, Lemmon/McIntosh; Bosten Morehart, Winner; Jackson Hansen, Winner; Kashas VanderWal, Sioux Valley; Ryan Dodds, Dakota Valley; Samuel Callies, Howard; David Severson, Douglas; Ashton Bultje, Sioux Valley; Brextin Garza, Belle Fourche; Michael Johnson, Sioux Falls Washington; Charlie Larson, St. Thomas More; Wren Jacobs, Sturgis; Aaron Thomas, Sioux Falls Washington; Kayden Ahlemeier, Potter County; Richard Long, Harding County; Ashaun Roach-Valandra, Dell Rapids St. Mary; Gaven Sudbeck, Kadoka Area; Jace Kelley, Custer; Tyler Clark, Douglas; Daniel Sedlacek, Custer; Malik Ahmed Hosie, Douglas; Isaiah Portwood, Lemmon/McIntosh; Ian Bennett, Tea Area; Luke Rettedal, Tea Area; Talon Elshere, Sturgis; Jaxton Schiller, Sioux Valley; Malcolm Johnson, Sioux Falls Washington; Marcus Harkless, Hot Springs; Connor Saunders, Vermillion; TJ Hamar, Kadoka Area.
Head Coach: Rich Lundstrom (Canton)
Assistant Coaches: Steve Steele (Pierre), Shaun Wanner (Groton Area), Byron Pudwill (Bon Homme) and John King (Gregory).
Players: Bryston Goehring, Mobridge/Pollock; Jackson Hilton, Brandon Valley; Tristan Abbott, Wolsey/Wessington; Landon Leidholt, Warner; Regan Bollweg, Pierre; Tate Johnson, Brandon Valley; Brock Stevens, WWSSC; Josh Livermore, West Central; Sam Kohls, Sioux Falls Roosevelt; Zach Schreier, Dell Rapids; Coby Maeschen, Dell Rapids; Jackson McNeil, Warner; Jacob Schwab, SF O’Gorman; Kaleb Kubal, Bon Homme; Rylee Schultz, Bridgewater/Emery/Ethan; Preston Taylor, Pierre; Jordan Gall, Scotland; Parker Reed, Brandon Valley; Derek Eidsness, West Central; Braden Goehring, Mobridge/Pollock; Cayden Eisemann, Mobridge/Pollock; Seth Peterson, Canton; Hayden Reints, Langford; Wyatt Bray, Britton-Hecla; Bodie Burnham, Bridgewater/Emery/Ethan; Ben Ziebarth, Mitchell; Johnny Rozeboom, Burke; Derick Siemonsma, Huron; Hunter Lemer, Aberdeen Central; Isaac Sumption, North Border; Jaxon Skinner, West Central; Parker Phillips, Mitchell; Payton Gassman, Florence/Henry; Carter Owen, Florence/Henry; Gunnar Gehring, Pierre; Martin Raasch, Great Plains Lutheran; Matthew Hettich, Ipswich/Edmonds Central; Colby Rumpza, Dakota Hills.
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