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Golden Eagles roll past Spearfish to advance in 11AA playoffs

Aberdeen Central’s Karson Carda (4) celebrates with teammate Brian Johnson (86) after Carda’s second touchdown of the first quarter during Thursday night’s Class 11 AA football playoff game against Spearfish at Golden Eagles Field. Photo by John Davis taken 10/27/2022

Dustin Hermansen is well-versed in Aberdeen Central football history.

The son of a coach, Hermansen literally grew up on the Golden Eagle sidelines, serving as a waterboy and watching seasons upon seasons pass without a home playoff game.

So he knew exactly how much a win on Thursday meant.

“To have the opportunity to win a home playoff game in front of our fans … there’s no other feeling like it that I’ve ever had in my life,” Hermansen said following Central’s 34-7 win over Spearfish in the opening round of the Class 11AA playoffs at Golden Eagle Field.

The contest was the first postseason game that Central hosted since the 2009 season.

But it also meant a bit more to Hermansen and the Golden Eagle squad.

“Just with everything that’s been going on this past week in the Aberdeen Public School District, we played this game not only for ourselves, but for our community,” Hermansen said. “We wanted this to be a uniting factor that we could all come together and celebrate.”

Central set the tone for the evening very early on, as Aiden Heimann picked off a Spartan pass on the first play of the game. Spearfish had gone for the trick play at the outset, but Heimann’s interception set the Golden Eagles up for an early lead.

Aberdeen Central’s Aiden Heimann, center, jumps to intercept a pass on the first play from scrimmage during Thursday night’s Class 11 AA football playoff game at Golden Eagles Field. Looking on are Central’s Will Heinert, rar right and Spearfish’s Seth Hamilton (12). Photo by John Davis taken 10/27/2022

“It set the tone for the whole game,” Hermansen said. “Our defense comes out the first play of the game and just tells Spearfish that we’re in control. We’re going to control the ball, we’re going to control the clock. Obviously, our defense set the bar high and it was good for our offense to finish off the drive.”

That, essentially, is exactly what the Golden Eagles did. Well over 80 percent of Central’s offensive plays were running plays, a stark contrast to Spearfish’s air attack.

And while Central was efficient with their ground game – the Golden Eagles averaged better than 4 yards a carry – Spearfish could not match it through the air.

The Spartans were just 6-for-22 for 54 yards overall, throwing four total interceptions.

“They throw the ball around a lot,” said Central coach Justin Briese, who is in his first season at the helm of the Golden Eagles. “That’s their offense. They want to throw the ball and our guys did a great job of playing the receivers and hawking the ball.”

Parker Lemer picked off another pass in the first half, while Cole Artz notched a 34-yard pick-six early in the second half. Junior Brayden Comstock ended the game with his first varsity pickoff.

Aberdeen Central’s Jalen Holt, bottom far left, pulls down Spearfish’s Bridger Niehaus (21) as Central’s Chandler Gardner (53) and Casey Vining (50) help out on defense during Thursday night’s Class 11 AA football playoff game at Golden Eagles Field. In on the play for the Spartans are Mathew Medina (59) and Asher Peil, far right. Photo by John Davis taken 10/27/2022

Central, meanwhile, as is its custom, handed the ball off to Karson Carda early and often. The senior notched 149 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries before leaving the game after a hard tackle early in the second half. 

Sophomore Tate Huff took the reins at running back in Carda’s stead, recording 38 yards on 14 carries. Huff recorded his first career touchdown on his final touch of the night.

“It’s always next man up,” Hermansen said. “We’ve been talking about how we’re a family all season. We’re there for each other, and Tate Huff was there. … He didn’t run like he was a little guy. He ran just as hard as Carda did.”

Hermansen ended his night going 6-for-9 passing for 48 yards. He also scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak in the second quarter.

Spearfish broke up the shutout bid with a 35-yard strike from Seth Hamilton to Doylon Doren with 8:11 left to play in the game, but it was far too little and much too late for the Spartans to mount any serious comeback threat.

“I told the kids after the game, playoff wins aren’t easy,” Briese said. “They don’t hand them out like candy. To get one is a big deal. Be excited. Celebrate it.”

Central’s reward is a rematch date with second-seeded Tea Area next Friday in Tea. The Trojans, who defeated the Eagles in the second game of the season, knocked off Watertown 41-0 in Thursday’s first round.

“Tea is a very good football team,” Hermansen said. “They beat Watertown pretty substantially. But we’re a different football team than we were Week 2. So we’re going to go down to Tea and bring our best game.”

Spearfish (4-6) 0 0 0 7 – 7

Aberdeen Central (6-4) 13 7 7 7 – 34

First Quarter

AC – Karson Carda 5 run (run failed), 9:30.

AC – Carda 1 run (Tayden Brownson kick), 4:13.

Second Quarter

AC – Dustin Hermansen 1 run (Brownson kick), 5:16.

Third Quarter

AC – Cole Artz 34 interception return (Brownson kick), 8:15.

Fourth Quarter

SPF – Doylon Doron 35 pass from Seth Hamilton (Hamilton kick), 8:11.

AC – Tate Huff 1 run (Brownson kick), 1:04.

OFFENSE: Spearfish rushing 22-67 (Bridger Niehaus 12-50), passing 6-22-4 for 54 (Seth Hamilton 6-21-3 for 54, Brady Hartwig 0-1-1 for 0), receiving (Caden Langenfeld 2-16, Doren 1-35); Aberdeen Central rushing 56-226 (Karson Carda 23-149, Tate Huff 14-38, Austin Erickson 6-32), passing 6-9-0 for 48 (Hermansen), receiving (Spencer Barr 1-21, Erickson 2-3, Carda 1-13).

DEFENSE: Aberdeen Central (Aiden Heimann 1 interception, Parker Lemer 1 interception, Cole Artz 1 interception, Brayden Comstock 1 interception).

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