Sioux Falls Washington started the defense of its state title with two losses in the first three games to Sioux Falls Roosevelt and Sioux Falls O'Gorman. It seems that the Warriors are figuring some things out, as they rolled to a win on the road against Rapid City Stevens 41-10 Friday night at O'Harra Stadium.
The win improved Washington to 3-2, while Stevens fell to 1-4.
"I thought we came out with some really good energy," Warrior coach Chad Stadem said. "I'm real happy with our team. It was a tough week because we didn't practice all week on our field because of the weather. I like where we're going."
Stevens coach Scott Hagen said that while the final score was lopsided, there were still some things to be encouraged by.
"One thing about our kids is that they never give up, they play hard for four quarters," he said. "I just told the kids we'll build on that every week. We're going to get better, we're just out of sync a little bit."
Offensively, Washington went to running back Tupak Kpeayeh early and often. He finished the game with 192 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. He also had three receptions for 28 yards.
He got the Warriors on the board during their second drive when he scored from 4-yards out. He also had a run of 14 yards on the drive.
"He's starting to get better," Stadem said. "Our O-line is coming along as well, but Tupak is Tupak. When we get him in there, he's pretty special."
In the first quarter Stevens couldn’t get anything going offensively. The Raiders ended the quarter with one first down on five drives, and their best drive start was from their own 27-yard line.
"We struggled there a little bit. We like to take the ball, and it was just a challenge for our offense," Hagen said. "We didn't have the best field position, the wind was kind of a factor. It's one of those things that you learn from for the next game. The coaches and players, I know are going to get better for next week."
The Raiders also had some lineup changes. Colton Hartford got the start at quarterback instead of Teigen Heckel, who played receiver instead.
Hartford finished the game 23-of-41 for 182 yards and a touchdown, while Heckel had seven receptions for 56 yards.
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"I thought we did a lot of good things tonight, and we're going to build off that," Hagen said. "I thought Tiegen Heckel at wide receiver had a heck of a game for us. He's got great hands, he showed it, and I'm very proud of him for making that switch."
The Warriors had great field position to start the game. Their worst starting field position in the quarter was their own 46-yard line.
"That has to do with our defense doing a good job," Stadem said. "We really did a nice job rallying to the football, and they had a hard time getting the ball off. We're getting pressure on them, our defense is starting to come along."
The quarter ended with a bang for Washington, as Kpeayeh scored again from 33-yards out, and on the ensuing kickoff, a Stevens fumble was scooped up and taken to the end end zone by Trey Ponto to make it 21-0 at the end of the first.
Washington scored again with 10:58 remaining in the half when Jayden Johannsen found Jacob Smith from 4-yards out to make it 28-0.
Johannsen was at it again later in the quarter hitting Gabe Person from 15-yards out with 2:17 to go in the half. Going into the locker room, the Warriors led 35-0.
In the first drive of the second half, Washington didn’t lose its edge. A big run by Kpeayeh set up Adam Durland to score from 1-yard out. The extra point was no good.
After that the Warriors put their backups in, but the Raiders offense still struggled to find a rhythm on offense, at the end of the third quarter Washington led 41-0.
Stevens got its first points in the fourth quarter when Corben Mahaffey nailed a 21-yard field goal with 9:51 to go in the game.
"We had some things not go our way early but the kids never hung their heads," Hagen said. "One thing we try to teach our kids is that we overcome adversity, and they did that. I'm proud of their effort tonight by playing hard for four quarters."
The Raiders added a touchdown on their last drive of the game. Hartford found Bridger Nesbitt on a crossing route, and hit him for the 17-yard score with 2:02 to go.
Stevens faces Brandon Valley on the road next week while Washington is at home against Brookings.