One Yard Separates Washington and Roosevelt in State Title Game
It was not a question for Kim Nelson and the Roosevelt Rough Riders to go for two and the win with just 27 seconds remaining.
The stats? Even. The defenses? Dominate. The 2017 Class 11AAA championship game was one to remember and one that will forever be known as the game that came down to one yard.
It was a long road though to get to that moment of being one yard from determining a champion.
Sioux Falls Washington entered Saturday night's championship game as the heavy favorite. They defeated Roosevelt 41-7 during the regular season and were in the midst of a 33-game winning streak and the defending back-to-back state champions. Chad Stadem's crew was looking to become the first team in South Dakota high school football history to win three straight championships in the highest class (AA or AAA).
The pregame chatter was all about Washington's resume, but people forgot about the fact that Roosevelt was heavily improved.
Kim Nelson's squad entered Saturday night's game without any credit or chance fully given to them. He elected to go with Carter Lohr at quarterback full-time, a switch that wasn't made until the semifinal game against Brandon Valley. It took double overtime for the Rough Riders to get to the championship game, and the discussion was more-so about how much Washington would win by.
But, as the old saying goes, this is why you play the game.
Roosevelt would have all that conversation changed quick when they jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The defensive scheme by Ed Whiting of Roosevelt was working and the Rough Riders stuck with Washington the entire way because of it.
Washington did what everyone expected them to do. Tupak Kpeayeh ran for 210 yards and a touchdown while quarterback Jayden Johannsen threw for 180 yards and one touchdown.
The key? Defense. Washington sacked Lohr six times during the game. Johannsen was swarmed by the front line of Roosevelt five times. Beyond all that, Washington held Roosevelt to just 38-yards of offense in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
Roosevelt went into their bag of tricks twice. Running back Nick Hoekstra finished the game with two passing touchdowns off an option play that turned into a running back pass. His second one that connected to Demareio Hester that put the Rough Riders within one point with just 27 seconds left.
Go for it. The setup was perfect on both sides. Washington as the powerhouse with their streak(s) on the line against a Roosevelt team that was the ultimate underdog coming in.
Roosevelt went back to the option play on the 2-point conversion try and Washington manage to stop them one yard away from the end zone.
The dynasty saved with just one yard to spare.
Sioux Falls Washington has now won three straight Class 11AAA Championships and they extend their winning streak to 34 in a row. They will have an opportunity to secure the Class 11AA/11AAA winning streak record next season if they can get to 39.
But that's looking ahead to what should be a fun start to the season next year. For now, we can enjoy the great season that was and the game that came down to one yard.
Congratulations to the Washington Warriors and the Roosevelt Rough Riders for the game that was played.