Led by Bridgewater-Emery / Ethan, the Class 11B challengers roster is packed in October
As it stands, the Winner Warriors are clearly the favorites, but there are arguments to be made for several programs to have the talent to make a run into the playoffs.
“Right now, Winner is at the level that everyone is trying to achieve, but there are just a lot of good football teams in this class,” said Bridgewater-Emery / Ethan coach Jeff VanLeur. “I think it’s an open race to catch up with this winning team.”
The No.2-seeded VanLeur Seahawks look like the leader of the contender group, scoring victories over No.3 Sioux Valley and then No.3.5 McCook Central / Montrose. Even so, BEE’s place is not absolute, as these wins against the Cossacks and Fighting Cougars resulted in a total of six points. The latter ended in a winning touchdown in the last half-minute on September 24.
“It was two good football teams fighting. it was a war there, and it could have gone both ways, ”VanLeur said of the MCM game. “We had a few kids who made big games and you need them to win big ball games. … [MCM] had as many opportunities to win as we did, I just think whoever had the ball last was going to win the football game.
This illustrates the depth and narrow margins that currently exist within the class, and while media polls are far from flawless, they also point to considerable parity among 11B challengers.
In the most recent poll, 10 schools received votes to be ranked. Last week it was 11, tied for most of all classes since the start of the season. The only class that had more at one point was the Class 9A (12) preseason poll, which has now been reduced to six.
Winner (6-0), BEE (4-1), Sioux Valley (4-1), Woonsocket / Wessington Springs / Sanborn Central (4-1), Elk Point-Jefferson (4-1) and MCM (3-2 ) have received votes in every iteration of the media poll this season, including the preseason. Aberdeen Roncalli (4-1) has been included since the first poll of the season on August 23, and Mount Vernon / Plankinton (4-1) has received votes in every poll since September 6. More recently, Groton Area (5-1) went from unclassified without a vote two weeks ago to a fourth place tied with the EPJ in the September 27 standings, thanks to a victory over previously undefeated Aberdeen Roncalli, last week.
A total of 14 of the 29 programs in Class 11B have received votes at some point this season. Usually the roster of contenders narrows as the season progresses, but so far that hasn’t quite been the case in 11B. As such, it has been difficult for several coaches to get a good reading of their position in the hierarchy.
“It’s hard to say (where we are) right now,” said MCM coach Shawn Flanagan. “We’re 3-2 so I guess where 3-2 puts us is where we are.”
Two weeks before Flanagan’s remark, MVP coach Brent Olson expressed a similar sentiment. It came just a week after MVP gave Winner his most competitive game of the season.
So while some programs that are on the lookout are unsure of their exact position, Flanagan offered a thought that several of his fellow 11B coaches will certainly be thinking at this point in the season.
“We really think we can compete, the players believe, the coaches believe,” said Flanagan. “We just need to improve and be healthy over the next three weeks so that we are ready for the playoffs. “