O’Gorman High School, Lincoln High School Battle in Dakota Bowl Saturday
Lincoln ousted O'Gorman, 28-0 in the Class 11AAA semifinals last Fall before eventually claiming the state title. The two tangle in an early season match-up at Howard Wood Field in the Dakota Bowl Saturday.
Last week, the third-ranked Patriots dominated Rapid City Central, 63-7 and fourth-ranked O'Gorman knocked off Rapid City Stevens, 34-7. Lincoln's rout over Central was the most impressive, considering the Patriots returned four starters on offense and two on defense. Not to mention, some had Central ranked fifth. To show respect, O'Gorman head coach Steve Kueter thinks that his opponent on Saturday could be the best team in the state.
"In my personal opinion, I think they are best team in the state. They put up 65 points on a really good Rapid City Central team. They throw and run the ball well. They do a lot of things well that we are going to have to take away."
Meanwhile, the Knights were 4-6 and fell to the Patriots in the playoffs. O'Gorman had a lot of injuries last year, and in 2014, return five starters on both sides of the ball. They have always relied on the running game, and senior A.J. Martinec and junior Dodi Makwinja should play a big part in the offense. Junior quarterback Luke Fritsch comes back, too. He's a multidimensional threat at quarterback after running for 825 yards and nine scores in 2014. He passed for nine, as well. Lincoln head coach Aaron Beavers paid compliments to the Knights and expects them to a be a better football team.
"They are a much, much improved team from last year. Steve and the Knights had a lot of injuries last year. They were a fairly young team. I was very impressed with them on film. You know they are going to be well-coached and disciplined as well."
The run game should take center state on Saturday night. O'Gorman's Makwinja burst on the radar by showing his explosiveness from the fullback position last week. Off the run, the Knights were able to balance the attack through the air, as Fritsch threw two scores. That's really what O'Gorman's style of football has always been over the years.
"We like to be way heavy on the run. 80% on the run, and 20% on the pass. The run helps set up the play-action. It's pretty effective," Kueter says.
Lincoln's big win over Central came from Roach's confidence at quarterback. The senior quarterback picked up where he left off last season when he started in the 11AAA championship game for Connor Burchill. Roach threw for 221 yards, three touchdowns, and ran for 79 yards and a score last week. Now, it's finally's Roach's job in 2014 and he is a lot more confident in his abilities as Lincoln's signal caller.
"Last year in the championship game, he (Roach) did a nice job of captaining the ship and not getting the team in a bad situation. We knew he is a talented kid. He was on the bubble and working to be a starter. He also made Burchill a lot better, too. We have a little bit of the same thing this year. Mason Nelson, our junior quarterback, he's making Isaiah better. I think it is good for Isaiah to know that it is his offense. He's not looking over his shoulder or knowing that if this guy gets better, than he might be out. Now. it's his gig. I think he did a fine job Week 1," Beavers adds.
O'Gorman found out a lot of their strengths and weaknesses last week against Stevens. The Knights threw and ran the ball well. One thing Kueter wants to do improve is the defense and Roach's ability to throw and run the ball will test the Knights on Saturday night.
"We have to control their offense and move the ball on the ground and through the air. We can't get out of position and have to make tackles . That's hard with a running quarterback," says Kueter.
Lincoln got up early and stayed focused last week. While the Patriots did roll past Central, there are some things their team can work on. Beavers noted that his team got sloppy with penalties against the Cobblers, and must get better on the defensive side of the football.
"Obviously, we talked about penalties. Defensively, I think we need to play more physical. I think at times we didn't and at times, we didn't. We need to continue to try to play the game at a high-speed. There was just one returning defensive player that played last week - Braxton Large. The rest of them, this was their first go around. The more comfortable they get and acclimated with the defense, that will happen."
Stopping each other's offenses is the key to the game in an exciting contest with early season importance for both Lincoln and O'Gorman. Not only is this a big football game, though. It's a huge event for O'Gorman and the city of Sioux Falls.
"We work all year long on it. It's a huge fundraiser and is a big game for the community. For some it's the only game they see with the band, cheerleaders for fans and their parents. Always been a big game, and I have been fortunate to be at them all," tells Kueter.
"It's their big night as far as their bowl game. But what a great opportunity for our kids to play in front of a large crowd and once first kickoff is done, football is football. It's not like the field is any bigger than it was or smaller. Ball is not lighter or heavier. It's the game of football. Once we get through all the introduction festivities, we will just get down to playing football," adds Beavers.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. Saturday night at Howard Wood Field in the Dakota Bowl.