ESPN 99.1 Game of Week: Class 11AAA Playoffs Begin
Anything can happen in the playoffs.
Tonight, South Dakota's new class, 11AAA, begins its playoffs. In the first round, No. 1 Lincoln battles Rapid City Stevens, No. 2 Roosevelt squares off with Washington, O'Gorman travels West to play Rapid City Stevens and Aberdeen Central is on the road at Brandon Valley.
ESPN 99.1 is featuring two games on Thursday night, Rapid City Stevens at Lincoln at 4:30 p.m., and Washington at Roosevelt at 7:30 p.m.
In the nightcap, Washington and Roosevelt usually play each other much deeper in the postseason, but this year, both teams square off in the first round. Roosevelt finished No. 2 in 11AAA with a 7-1 record, while Washington struggled with a 3-5 record. The Riders only loss occurred against Lincoln back on September 13. The Warriors are the two-time defending champions, but are going to need some help to three-peat.
Both Washington and Roosevelt played each other earlier in 2013 on September 7, and the Riders came out on top 30-7. The Riders are trying to not overlook the Warriors heading into tonight. "They have a lot of pride. It's a huge game for them, and they're going to be jacked. It's playoff time, and we have to be ready to play our best. Nobody can afford a bad game now," says Roosevelt head coach Kim Nelson. Washington, meanwhile, is used to being one of the top teams, and head coach Chad Stadem says playing as an 'underdog' is unusual after the past few years. "We are learning and appreciating the past. We have to see an opportunity and take advantage of it. That's where were at as a program."
Roosevelt finished off the regular season with a 31-7 victory over O'Gorman, while Washington fell 43-7 to Lincoln. Both teams had a week off last week, and have had a lot of preparation for tonight's game. The Riders spent last week doing a lot of team building, community service, conditioning and lifting. Nelson says the goal is stay focused, as one game can make or break a season. "If you don't play well the first game, you don't have to worry about the next game. Everything is riding on one game. There's the same kind of motivation until you get to the last game. Every game is just as important. There's no easy game, and there can't be a letdown. It's pretty easy to motivate and I think our guys will be ready." Washington had an easier week last week, too. They kept practicing, watched film, and are trying to stick their gameplan. "It was quick and clean. We have a gameplan, and hope to execute it," says Stadem.
Coming into tonight's match-up, the Riders are more explosive on offense, but both defenses are very solid. Nelson says the Warriors are improved, and have got a lot better since the last time the Riders played them. "They run first. We need to slow down the run, and pass, and get them in third-and-long. Their defense is pretty good, and they take pride in that. It's a combination of stopping the run, moving the chains, and keeping our defense off the field (to win)." Washington, meanwhile, is focusing on not letting Roosevelt capitalize on big plays. "We have to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves," says Stadem.
Roosevelt and Washington begins at 7:30 p.m. tonight at Howard Wood after Lincoln plays Rapid City Stevens at 4:30 p.m. Both games can be heard on ESPN 99.1. Jerry Palleschi and Jeff Thurn will have the call.