Aberdeen Central at #4 Sioux Falls Roosevelt

Roosevelt High's newest football championship trophy is prominent in the school's trophy case. Roosevelt was hit hard though by graduation from that championship team(11-1) last year that dropped Sioux Falls Washington 31-17 last November in the Dakota Dome.

Head coach Kim Nelson said after Thursday's practice, " I think our defense is ahead of our offense, I expected that. We found some really good players to replace those guys we lost and am really optimistic our season."

The Riders showed great balance offensively in last season's title run. They will be led by an athletic but young quarterback sophomore Taryn Christion. They averaged 208 yards in the air with lefty Scott Tyler.

On the ground, they generated 158 yards a contest. Returning to do the bulk of the rushing is talented senior running back Mikal Smith, who missed several games last season due to injury. A couple of basketball players will help this offense, including running back Jeremiah Clark  and wide out Lucas Wilbur. He had 375 yards in receptions last year.

"It's going to take awhile for us to get going but I think by the end of the year we will be alright," said Nelson, who won his first state title last season.

Nelson on his new quarterback Christion, "athletic, talented, good strong arm. He needs experience. "

Defensively in a 4-3, LB John Wessel returns as a starter, that's it from last year's team. Wessel,one the city's top defensive players had 83 tackles, 3 for loss. But the coaching staff said after Thursday's practice that they are excited about the ten others they have found since practice started. They might be a little thin after that, but the staff is excited about the work the defense is putting in and the progress they are making.

Defensive Lineman Chase Potas is getting high marks in his camp progress.

Nelson wants to keep things very simple and execute then build and place winning the title behind the Riders and begin to build a new club. He said that started with an outstanding summer program.

The Riders averaged over 90 guys a day in the weight room and 100 a day in the POWER program, with many kids making big gains in the off season.

"The guys are tired of playing against each, we are excited to play against Aberdeen Central," said Nelson.

After losing 15 seniors to graduation, the Golden Eagles will feature another new roster.

Coach Mike Flakus, in his 14th season, says they are very inexperienced, "We have a pretty big junior class and there's going to be a lot of them playing.”"

Since losing to Sioux Falls Washington in the State 11AA championship game in 2009 and finishing 12-1, Golden Eagles football has been anything but golden with a  3-17 record.

Last season, the Golden Eagles only scored 12points per game, and gave up 30 points.

Besides finding the starters, the staff has emphasized the need to run the ball better and much better defense play, including tackling.

The Golden Eagles return three starters on offense and five on defense.

We are hearing junior Mike Stotz will be starting QB. Watch for Josh Hilgemann to get lots of carries. He is one of the state's top hurdlers.

Roosevelt thrives on the big plays on special teams, look for that to be a big part of tonight's game. AC's special teams is all new.