Sometimes, you go with what's working.
Micaiah Grace was working and then some last Friday in Custer's big 62-41 win over Lead-Deadwood in a Black Hills Conference battle in Lead.
The 5-foot-11, 180 pound senior was unstoppable against Lead-Deadwood and the Wildcats made sure the Golddiggers saw plenty of him, as he ran the ball 33 times for 319 yards and seven touchdowns.
"That was crazy," Custer senior quarterback Dathon Elmore said of Grace's night against the Golddiggers. "I was excited for him."
On Thursday in the Wildcat locker room, Grace acknowledged that he had a big game last week, but took little credit for it.
He knows who to credit.
"I did manage to get that, but it was a lot of blocking for sure," Grace said. "Those gaps were perfect. It was honestly me just not messing up and everyone else doing their job perfectly."
First-year Custer head coach David Williams said that Grace is "our heart right now." They are making sure he gets his touches.
"Even from last year, he has really developed into a different type of runner, and it shows," he said. "He doesn't take hits any more, he gives hits. He gets that extra yard he wouldn't have gotten last year."
Grace has scored 19 touchdowns through seven games this season for the 4-3 Wildcats, who are still on the outside looking in, but they still have some hopes to qualify for the playoffs in their first year back in the Class A ranks.
He has four 100-yard plus games and unofficially about 850 yards. It unofficial because in the Wildcats 62-12 win over Todd County in Mission, it was raining so hard the stat book got too wet to ready.
Williams said Grace had over 100 yards and four TDs in that game.
In the six games recorded, he has 742 yards on 88 carries (8.5 yards per carry) and the 15 TDs.
A Black Hills Conference champion wrestler for the Wildcats, Grace uses that toughness on the football field as well.
"He's explosive and likes to hit people. He's a good running back," Elmore said. "We have a good line that has given him good holes to get through."
Grace said it is not just him, but they have a lot of strong runners in their backfield. Elmore has over 500 yards (in the recorded six games) and Daniel Sedlacek was at 222 yards (six games).
"Daniel Sedlacek is really good at powering through and getting down the field as fast as possible. Dathon Elmore is shifty and goes form A to B pretty fast," Grace said. "Our line has stepped up as well. We had some injuries in the last couple of weeks, but people have stepped up."
First year back in Class A
Grace and the Wildcats look to continue their strong play Friday night when they host Southern Hills rival Hot Springs. They'll close the season next week against Pine Ridge.
Custer will need both wins and some help to have a shot to qualify for the Class A playoffs, as the Wildcats are currently in 11th place in the power points, with the top eight teams moving on.
Regardless of if they make the playoffs this season or not, the move to Class A has been a success, they say.
"It's definitely a little harder with the East River teams, and they play other teams over there that we don't see at all," Grace said. "For us it is harder to get into the playoffs than what it was last year. We had the teams around us that were going to be in the playoffs."
Williams said that when they found out when they were going to 11A, most of the team wanted to move up.
"They wanted more of a challenge of playing better teams and East River teams," he said. "That was a challenge for us. They took it on. It told us where we stood."
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Elmore said this was a good year for the Wildcats to make the jump to Class A.
"I really liked it. If you go against the bigger teams, you know how good you actually are," he said. "It makes us step up our game because we have to play bigger schools."
Custer is 0-2 against East River teams, falling to West Central 42-28 and Lennox 46-8.
"They gained a lot of confidence," Williams said of those two losses. "We played pretty good, although there were some penalties and bonehead plays that we did at the wrong time. But it gave us some experience that we wouldn't have that we played against some teams in 11B."
The Wildcats other loss was to Class A BHC foe Belle Fourche 27-24 on Sept. 20 in a game that was delayed over two hours because of lightning.
Custer has won three straight, outscoring their opponents 165-53.
"When the season started I saw a record of 7-2," Williams said. "We have a chance to be 6-3. Belle Fourche was the game I thought we had a chance to win, and they pulled it out at the end."
The Southern Hills Showdown
One of the top rivalry games in the history of the Black Hills Conference throughout the years has been Custer versus Hot Springs.
Unfortunately for Custer, it hasn't been a successful one as of late. This year they hope that changes.
The Wildcats haven't beaten their Southern Hills rivals since 2011, a 34-8 win. Since then, the Bison have won seven straight games, outscoring Custer 251-39. Last year was 56-13 and previously Hot Springs had shut out the Wildcats for three straight seasons.
"We've been looking for this game for a long time ... ever since last year's game. It was a blowout," Williams said. "We're gearing up for it. This is a big game for our season, for having a chance to go to the playoffs."
Grace and Elmore have been playing in this game for a few years, and obviously they haven't seen any success. That doesn't matter as the trash talk between the two teams, about 30 miles apart, is always ongoing.
"I've been talking crap recently to some of their players and they have been talking crap to us," said Grace.
"It's Hot Springs. I can't wait to beat them," Elmore added, throwing down a friendly dagger. "We're going to have to go out and play like we know we can."
Hot Springs head coach Ben Kramer said the rivalry, as a whole, is what football rivalries are all about.
"The kids really get into the rivalry," Kramer said. "I don't see it going away anytime soon. There are bragging rights into basketball season and things like that. That don't let each other not here about it if they win. You're sitting at a basketball game they are starting football chants."
The Bison are also 4-3 on the season, but appear to have a much better shot of making the playoffs as they moved down to the Class B ranks. Hot Springs is 15th in the 16-team field, with Friday's game their final contest of the regular-season.
"Some of the AA schools play next week. I think we're in regardless. It's just hard to tell. We figure we'll go one week at a time and go from there," Kramer said.
It's been an up-and-down year for the Bison as well. They've won two straight after dropping two in a row, including a tough loss to Lead-Deadwood.
"We definitely haven't played our best game yet,' Kramer said.
Kramer calls the teams polar opposites. It's Custer's speed getting athletes in space and the Bison coming right at you.
"It is probably one of the more athletic Custer teams that I have seen in my time as far as speed," he said. "They have a lot of kids you have to account for. They are technically sound defensively."
Kickoff is set Friday night for 6 p.m.