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Quarterfinal playoff contests feature several rematches

Aberdeen Central’s Parker Lemer, left, sets to throw a pass as teammate Avery Ligon, right, protects on the play during a game earlier this season against Pierre at the Brownell Activities Complex. Central opens the Class 11AA playoffs at Watertown tonight. Photo by John Davis taken 8/25/2023

The South Dakota high school football playoffs continue with the quarterfinal round tonight. This week, teams from Class 11AAA, 11AA, and 11A join the playoff mix along with the 11B and nine-man teams which started their postseason action last week. Included in the 11AA group is Aberdeen Central.

The fifth-seeded Golden Eagles (4-5) travel to Watertown (6-3) for a rematch of the Sept. 29 contest in Aberdeen, which resulted in a 16-14 Arrows win. In that game, Watertown scored the only points of the second half on a 21-yard field goal late in the third quarter, while Central missed a potential game-winning 29-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Both squads have relied on physical running games during the regular season, and will no doubt look to establish the line of scrimmage in tonight’s game. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

Aberdeen Roncalli and Deuel are the remaining area teams in Class 11B after earning first round victories last week. The Cavaliers (7-2) defeated Wagner 17-6 in the opening round and now travel to top-seeded Winner. The Warriors, 9-0 on the season, defeated Parker 36-0 in the opening round, and have qualified for the Class 11B state title game the past four years. That kickoff will take place at 6 p.m. as well.

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Keegan Stewart, center, tries to stiff arm Redfield’s Jacob Buranen, right, as Stewart tried to get to the end zone on a long pass play during a game earlier this season at Dacotah Bank Stadium. In on the play are the Pheasants’ Ayden Understock-Jessen (6) and the Cavaliers’ James Behan (behind Understock-Jessen). Photo by John Davis taken 9/1/2023

Deuel plays host to Rapid City Christian in the quarterfinal round. The Cardinals are 9-0 after narrowly defeating Webster 20-14 in the opening round. Trey Maaland led Deuel with 39 carries for 288 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Rapid City Christian (7-2) earned a 36-7 first round win over Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central, its second win over the Blackhawks in six days. It was also Comets’ first-ever 11-man playoff win.

In the nine-man ranks, Hamlin is the lone area squad left in Class 9AA after its 52-8 opening round win over Bon Homme. The Chargers (8-1) will now host defending champion Wall (8-1) in a rematch of last season’s semifinal contest, which resulted in a 26-13 win for the Eagles. Hamlin will be tasked with trying to slow down Wall quarterback Burk Blasius, while the Chargers will lean on a balanced attack led by quarterback Tyson Stevenson.

A pair of area teams will clash for the second time this season when Warner (9-0) hosts Castlewood (5-4) in a Class 9A quarterfinals matchup. Warner won the regular season contest, 67-16, at Castlewood on Sept. 15. The top-seeded Monarchs cruised to an opening round win over Colman-Egan, 57-0, thanks, in part, to three touchdowns apiece from Hunter Cramer and Charlie Dulany. The ninth-seeded Warriors are coming off a 50-0 first round win over Lyman.

Hitchcock-Tulare’s Erik Salmen, left, gets to the edge as Iroquois-Lake Preston’s Jake Larsen (23) and Josh McMasters (7) give chase during a game last season in Hitchcock. Photo by John Davis taken 9/2/2022

A trio of area schools still remain in the Class 9B playoffs. Defending champion Hitchcock-Tulare (5-4) will travel to Avon (7-2) for the second time this season. The Patriots and Pirates clashed back on Sept. 15, resulting in a 32-28 Avon win. Eighth-seeded Hitchcock-Tulare will rely on running back Erik Salmen, who rushed for 219 yards and five touchdowns, while adding a passing touchdown, in the Patriots’ 44-24 win over Lemmon/McIntosh in the opening round. Top-seeded Avon will also rely on a star running back of their own in Aziah Meyer, who tallied 276 yards and five touchdowns in the Pirates’ 54-14 opening round win over Faith.

Eleventh-seeded Potter County was one of three Class 9B road teams to pull off an upset in the opening round as the Battlers earned a win over Dell Rapids St. Mary, 38-22. Now Potter County (4-5) will travel to third-seeded Corsica-Stickney (7-2) in hopes of pulling off another upset. The Battlers and Jaguars have one common opponent from the regular season as both defeated Sully Buttes by the same 14-point margin.

Faulkton’s Spencer Melius (10) runs with the ball on a punt return ahead of Northwestern’s Cole Caulder (14) during a game earlier this season in Mellette. Photo by John Davis taken 9/15/2023

Second-seeded Faulkton (8-1) cruised past its opening round opponent, shutting out Jones County, 50-0, and will now host another west river foe in Kadoka Area (4-5), which defeated Sully Buttes, 38-22, in its first-round matchup. In the win over Jones County, Trojans running back Garrett Cramer rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns, while quarterback Layne Cotton passed for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Faulkton defense allowed just five yards of total offense in the win.

The winners of tonight’s quarterfinal matchups will advance to next week’s semifinal round on Friday, Nov. 3. The state finals will take place Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 9-11 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

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