Sioux Falls Roosevelt has been to the dance the last two seasons without the hardware to show for it. They're looking to change that this year.

Kim Nelson's squad returns 14 starters from last year, and nine of 11 are back on the defensive side of the ball. They are the consensus top team in Class 11AAA heading into the season. Even with the amount of starters returning, Nelson says the offseason programs improved his team.

"We had great attendance and was really pleased with the amount of improvement we saw. I am very excited about getting going again."

The main emphasis during camp has been on the offense. Quarterback Jett Thune returns for the Rough Riders and he will have Tyler Van Voorst as his main target. The Riders also have three returners on the offensive line. Outside of those five, Roosevelt will be fresh.

"Our defensive is much further ahead than our offense. We have a little more work to do on our offense to catch up. We are happy with the progress that we have made though and we're always evaluating players. Who knows, the guys who start might not be the same guys who start in the last week."

Manny Christopher, Sean Powell, Andrew Batt, Nathan Durfee, and Justin Mueller are just some of the names returning this season defensively for Roosevelt. Nelson says that those guys have stepped into the leadership role.

"I think a few guys have done so. Christopher (DL), Powell (LB), Durfee (DB), those guys have all played at least 1-2 years with us. Every level of defense has some experience and those three guys are captains this season. Cole Schroedermeier and Justin Mueller at corners are both seniors. Piercen Evans moved from LB to DE. We don't have any excuses to not be ready."

Class 11AAA is heading into its third season. Nelson says that he thinks the conference will be tight, but will run through Sioux Falls.

"I hate to say it, but I am going to. The Sioux Falls schools is where the strength is at again. I think Brandon Valley will have a good team, but maybe a different team. We're going to play two teams we haven't played in a long time in Harrisburg and Brookings. I still think AAA will have the power in Sioux Falls. It's going to be us beating each other up."

Roosevelt opens the season on Friday night when they travel to Aberdeen Central.