Here are my Week 8 power rankings for Class 11AA high school football, with all 16 teams included. These are my personal rankings and have nothing to do with the South Dakota Sportswriters Association poll or playoff points. Enjoy:
1. WASHINGTON (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Yankton 52-8
THIS WEEK: Host Rapid City Stevens
COMMENT: The Warriors were determined to silence talk about them being beatable after a subpar performance at Pierre, and Yankton just happened to be in the way. Washington wants to hold onto the No. 1 playoff seed and enters one of the biggest mismatches in Class 11AA history this week when it hosts the reeling (und winless) Raiders. Then comes Roosevelt.
2. BRANDON VALLEY (7-0)
LAST WEEK: Beat Aberdeen Central 49-0
THIS WEEK: At Pierre
COMMENT: Chase Marso continues to put up big numbers, Matt Vandeberg keeps scoring touchdowns and the Lynx are rolling after tallying 366 total yards against Aberdeen. Keeping that No. 2 seed is crucial, and Friday’s visit to Pierre could be mildly interesting for a team that looks firmly focused on playing for a championship. It’s starting to look like the Lynx and three Sioux Falls teams will make the semifinals, but which SF team will be left out, and can Pierre throw a monkey wrench into that whole scenario?
3. ROOSEVELT (6-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Sturgis 62-6
THIS WEEK: At Rapid City Central
COMMENT: I moved the Rough Riders up to No. 3 past Lincoln this week because Kim Nelson’s team is starting to get healthy and quarterback Taryn Christion is becoming more and more of a weapon each week. There are a lot of playmakers on this team, which makes Roosevelt a potentially dangerous playoff foe. But road trip to play Cobblers won’t be as easy as it appeared a few weeks ago, and clash with Washington on Oct. 18 still looms large.
4. LINCOLN (5-2)
LAST WEEK: Beat Mitchell 56-0
THIS WEEK: Host Brookings
COMMENT: The Patriots can get a first-round bye by finishing with wins over Brookings and O’Gorman, and they should handle the Bobcats with ease. Caden Quintanilla is a force of nature who ran for 103 yards and four touchdowns last week against Mitchell, while Connor Burchill threw three scoring strikes. The game at Howard Wood Field next week against O’Gorman should be a good test of whether this team is a title contender or merely a program that is gearing up for a championship run in 2013.
5. O’GORMAN (4-3)
LAST WEEK: Beat Rapid City Central 28-0
THIS WEEK: At Aberdeen Central
COMMENT: It was a long journey after an 0-3 start, but the Knights are back in the top five after five straight wins and can steal a first-round bye if both they and Brandon Valley finish with two wins. Tanner Schulte, back from a broken tibia, practiced this week, but Steve Kueter would be wise to rest him against Aberdeen and save him for the regular-season finale against Lincoln. Junior Eion Donelan (hip pointer) should also be back for the Pats.
6. PIERRE (5-2)
LAST WEEK: Beat Rapid City Stevens 36-6
THIS WEEK: Host Brandon Valley
COMMENT: The Governors are the surprise team of 2012, and they still have a shot at a share of the ESD title entering Friday’s game against Brandon Valley. Quarterback Alex Gray threw for just 58 yards (and two TDs) last week against Stevens, while Jace Jerome rushed for 129. Pierre will need a stellar defensive effort and big plays from WRs Lane Severyn and Austin Christopherson to have any chance against the Lynx.
7. YANKTON (5-2)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Washington 52-8
THIS WEEK: Host Mitchell
COMMENT: The banged-up Bucks were out of the game before they got their bearings against Washington, and that comes on the heels of a 35-21 loss to Roosevelt. They get a break this week against Mitchell, but then it’s off to Brandon Valley for the regular-season finale, which means Yankton could very well head into the playoffs having lost three of its last four.
8. RAPID CITY CENTRAL (3-4)
LAST WEEK: Lost to O’Gorman 28-0
THIS WEEK: Host Roosevelt
COMMENT: The Cobblers gained some respect by playing tough defense at McEneaney Field against the Knights, trailing just 7-0 at halftime and holding O’Gorman to less than 200 total yards and 14 first downs. Still trying to figure out how this team allowed 21 points to Mitchell the week before, but the “best team out west” is at least starting to act like it. If the Cobblers keep it close against Roosevelt, they might even get some playoff buzz going.
9. BROOKINGS (3-4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Watertown 31-13
THIS WEEK: At Lincoln
COMMENT: Picking out the fourth-best team in the ESD has been like selecting the “least-hungry hobo” this season, but the Bobcats are making a bid. After starting 2-0, they dropped four straight before traveling to Watertown last week and routing the Arrows as sophomore running back Mikey Daniel and senior quarterback Kaleb Vig combined for 289 yards rushing. Now comes a trip to Sioux Falls to face Lincoln, so the roller coaster could continue.
10. WATERTOWN (2-5)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Brookings 31-13
THIS WEEK: At Huron
COMMENT: The Arrows showed a glimmer of hope by walking into Swisher Field and beating Aberdeen Central two weeks ago, but it turns out beating the Golden Eagles isn’t that special. Watertown turned around and got ripped at home by Brookings, and now they travel to Huron to try to find some late-season momentum. This is a playoff team, but not by much.
11. HURON (1-6)
LAST WEEK: Beat Spearfish 21-15
THIS WEEK: Host Watertown
COMMENT: See, I told you that these Tigers were for real. After weeks of making my preseason optimism look silly, they traveled west to face highly regarded Spearfish and pulled out their first victory of the year. With winnable game coming up against Watertown and Mitchell, Huron can still steal a playoff berth despite its 0-6 start, and then it’s Vermillion or bust!
12. ABERDEEN CENTRAL (2-5)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Brandon Valley 49-0
THIS WEEK: Hosts O’Gorman
COMMENT: The Golden Eagles had the unenviable task of traveling to Brandon last week and trailed 28-0 before the end of the first quarter. It didn’t get much better from there, and now comes a home date against a surging O’Gorman team. So far, there have been no Jared Hannigan sightings on campus.
13. DOUGLAS (3-4)
LAST WEEK: Beat Belle Fourche 36-7
THIS WEEK: Host Sturgis
COMMENT: I promised that I would move the Patriots up to No. 14 in these rankings if they beat Belle Fourche on the road after winning the Basement Bowl against Stevens, and they delivered. But they’re so hot right now that they leap-frogged Mitchell to No. 13, and a playoff spot is possible with winnable games coming up against Sturgis and Custer.
14. MITCHELL (0-7)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Lincoln 56-0
THIS WEEK: At Yankton
COMMENT: The Kernels managed to tally 129 total yards against Lincoln last week, but much of that was against the Pats’ sophomore brigade in the second half. With games against Yankton and Huron coming up, it’s quite possible that Mitchell will finish winless and out of the playoffs after a breakthrough year in 2011.
15. STURGIS (1-7)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Roosevelt 62-6
THIS WEEK: At Douglas
COMMENT: The Scoopers have had the misfortune of playing the four Sioux Falls schools in successive weeks. The total tally of those losses was 240-6. Enough said.
16. RAPID CITY STEVENS (0-7)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Pierre 36-6
THIS WEEK: At Washington
COMMENT: The Raiders are listed as 70-point underdogs at Howard Wood against No. 1 Washington on Friday (OK, I made that up) and will simply try to get out alive for the joyous 350-mile drive back home. Ah, the wonders of the GDC, where sometimes a good cry at Al’s Oasis is the only way to get through the night.