ESPN 99.1 Game of the Week: Class 11AAA Down to the Final Four
Four teams have one last obstacle to overcome on the road to the Dome tonight at Howard Wood Field. Sioux Falls Lincoln matches up against city-rival O'Gorman, and Sioux Falls Roosevelt squares off against Brandon Valley.
Both contests are rematches from the first two weeks of the season, but a lot has changed for all four teams. Lincoln (9-0) beat O'Gorman, 51-20, in the second week of the regular season. The Patriots eventually cruised to an undefeated season, and the top seed in the playoffs. O'Gorman (4-5) has struggled with injuries all season, losing five two-way starters. Three of the five players have played through their injuries to help the Knights make another run at a title. Against Rapid City Central, A.J. Martinec played with a cast, Eion Donelan played with a cast, and Jake Niedringhaus played despite needing surgery once the season ends.
Lincoln and O'Gorman kick off in the first game tonight, and Patriots head coach Aaron Beaver says his team is focused in a city rivalry game. "The kids are focused. A lot is at stake. If you lose you're done, and if you win, you play for the championship." On the road to the Dome, the Patriots rode a dominant defensive attack all the way to a blowout win over the Raiders in the quarterfinals last week. Lincoln shut out the Raiders for three quarters before allowing a touchdown late to the Raiders. The offense, meanwhile, started slow with an early turnover, and a few series later, put the Raiders away by halftime. "We tried to work on timing early because of the bye week, but game speed is different than practice speed. (Against O'Gorman) we can't just line up to run, and we have to put the ball in the air," adds Beavers. The offense will likely have starting quarterback Connor Burchill back, as he has been practicing during the week after leaving last Thursday's game with a bruised knee.
Friday's rematch with O'Gorman will be a test, as the Knights are good at staying in games. "We have to get back to playing fundamental, sound football. We have to be extremely disciplined. O'Gorman hangs in there, and sometimes doesn't give the ball back, so we have to sustain drives. We want to end the game with a kick, whether it's a punt, field goal, or extra point," says Beavers.
The Knights played Rapid City Central for back-to-back weeks, and beat the Cobblers both times. This week in the semi-finals, O'Gorman is looking to play the 'spoiler' role, and to do so, head coach Steve Kueter says they have to stop the Patriots senior running back Caden Quintanilla. "Stop Quintanilla, and move the ball on offense are two things we didn't do earlier in the year, and we have to do both. We also can't turn the ball over, and we have to hang onto the ball."
In the nightcap, Roosevelt (8-1) and Brandon Valley (7-2) meet in a rematch of the first game of the season, where the Riders shut out the Lynx in Brandon, 30-0. The Riders were in a dogfight against Washington in the quarterfinals last week, as the Warriors closed the gap to a touchdown with a minute left. The Riders were fortunate enough to recover an onside kick that ended the game. Head coach Kim Nelson says Roosevelt played well. but relied on a lot of big plays to beat the Warriors. "Washington never gave up. They took away our run game. We were still able to pass and won on big plays. The defense played well, but we gave up some '500' balls." This week against Brandon Valley, the Riders need to do a better job on the ground, and not rely on some of those big plays allowed last week. "The offense needs run the ball better, as the weather could be a factor outside at Howard Wood, and we need to be consistent, and get first downs. On defense, we need to make Brandon Valley one-dimensional. Take the run or pass away, and put them in third downs."
Brandon Valley routed Aberdeen Central in the quarterfinals, 42-14, and a big reason why was a fast start, and a short memory. The Lynx had a bad snap that resulted in a turnover, which led to a touchdown for Aberdeen early. The offense, however, came back and put points on the board right away, and then got an onside kick that got the Lynx rolling. This week, head coach Chad Garrow says the Lynx need to force turnovers, and win the field position battle. "Turnovers have been huge for us. When our defense gets them, our offense has been good. We have to make them go 80 yards, as field position is big."
Both games are on right here at ESPN 99.1, and Jerry Palleschi and Dan Peters will have the call. Lincoln and O'Gorman kick off at 4 p.m., while Roosevelt and Brandon Valley battle under the lights at 7 p.m.