Four Raiders, two Cobblers earn first-team honors
STATE AAA ALL-STATE FOOTBALL

Four Raiders, two Cobblers earn first-team honors

State champion O'Gorman, runner-up Brandon Valley, Lincoln and Roosevelt headlined the 2019 Class 11AAA All-State teams, as selected by the South Dakota Football Coaches Association and released Friday morning.

The Knights, who claimed their first 11AAA title in the playoff era and first overall since they won back-to-back championships in 2004-05, were represented by Jacob Byrd, Cade Mikuska, Zach Norton, Conor Pavelko, Will Washenberger and Tate Wishard.

The runner-up Lynx matched the Knights' six selections with Jackson Hilton, Tate Johnson, Parker Reed, Zach Roggow, Thomas Scholten and Jesse Steffel, as did Roosevelt (Brady Dannenbring, Caleb Dwyer, Ben Kohls, Aaron Kusler, Adam Kusler and Mike Paulson) and Lincoln (Tyler Hiatt, Hunter Merkley, Alex Oppold, Isaac Sarbacker, Sam Siegel and Jonathan Smith).

Harrisburg and Rapid City Stevens both had four representatives, Washington had three and Watertown, Aberdeen Central and Rapid City Central all had two.

For the Raiders, named to the first team were senior receivers Bridger Nesbit and Michael Norman, senior offensive lineman Brennan Busse and senior defensive back Colton Hartford.

Also for the Raiders,  senior James Vandervoorst was named honorable mention.

Nesbit (6-foot-3, 180 pounds), an explosive receiver capable of stretching the field, caught 54 passes for 880 yards (averaged 16.29 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns. He graduates with 103 catches for 1,747 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"Bridger has the ability to make big plays every time he touches the ball and did so on many occasions for us this fall," Stevens coach Steve Svendsen said. "He was a very consistent offensive player and we relied on his abilities to make plays and make our offense go."

A standout receiver, Norman (6-5, 185) averaged 12.55 yards per catch (49 passes, 615 yards) with four touchdowns. He also contributed on defense, recording 18 solo tackles, three interceptions and two sacks.

"Michael was a big, physical presence in the middle for us through the air," Svendsen said. "This young man is a great kid off the field, as well. He tours middle schools every week and works with kids who are struggling in school and in life."

Busse (6-0, 260) was a key blocker for a Raiders offense that rushed for over 1,000 yards and threw for an additional 2,500 in 2019.

"He was the heart and soul of our offensive line," Svendsen said. "He had great feet, which allowed us to use him in pulling quite frequently on our trap scheme."

For Hartford (6-0, 175), 43 of his 77 total tackles were solo efforts. He also logged two interceptions and broke up five passes. At quarterback, he completed 179 of 285 passes for 2,473 yards and 21 touchdowns, and rushed for 403 yards and three touchdowns.

"Colton is an impact player on both sides," Svendsen said. "His competitiveness and intelligence make him a very dynamic player and his work ethic is second-to-none. His teammates looked upon his leadership abilities throughout the season."

Earning first-team honors for the Cobblers were senior running back Jeremy Weidmann, senior linebacker Aaron Iverson. Senior Wyatt Jungclaus was also named honorable mention.

Weidmann (5-7, 165) suffered a high ankle sprain in the Cobblers' first game of the season, then played through the last two with a grade two sprain of the AC joint in his shoulder. Despite those setbacks, the 5-7, 160-pound back finished the year with 627 rushing yards, 553 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns.

"Jeremy is what every coach dreams of in a player," coach Erik Iverson said.

Though he missed three games due to injury, Iverson (5-10, 170) still recorded 52 tackles (team leader), 17 of which went for loss. A three-year starter on defense and two-year two-way starter, he rarely came off the field over his final two seasons.

"Everything Aaron has done, he's done on his own," Erik Iverson said of his son. "I never pushed him to get to offseason workouts. He gave 100 percent each of his four years."

Here is a look at the rest of this year's team.

Offense

Quarterback: Brady Dannenbring, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-5, 215)

Dannenbring came into his own as a senior, completing 183 of 286 passes for 2,612 passes with 23 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He also rushed for 219 yards and a couple scores.

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound quarterback graduates with 5,656 passing yards and 50 touchdowns on 411 of 660 passing.

Quarterback: Thomas Scholten, Brandon Valley (Sr., 6-2, 190)

Scholten completed 118 of 191 passes for 1,689 yards and 26 touchdowns — with just one interception. He graduates with 67 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.

Running back: Brett Fossum, Watertown (Sr., 5-11, 185)

Fossum cleared 1,000 yards for his career in 2019, finishing the season with 530 yards, seven touchdowns and no fumbles on 130 carries. He also contributed as a receiver (22 catches, 268 yards, 1 touchdown) and as a linebacker (44 tackles, three sacks).

Running back: Tate Johnson, Brandon Valley (Jr., 5-8, 170)

Only a junior, Johnson logged 304 carries for 1,833 yards and 22 touchdowns. In addition to his workload on the ground, he also caught 19 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back: Tate Wishard, O'Gorman (Sr., 5-10, 195)

A 1,000-yard rusher, Wishard was an absolute workhorse for the state champion Knights. The 5-10, 195-pound back went for 1,215 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground and caught 10 passes for 64 yards and a score.

Receiver: Hunter Merkley, Lincoln (Sr., 5-11, 160)

An explosive wideout, Merkley recorded 47 receptions and eight touchdowns, putting him at the forefront of a Patriots receiving corps that had eight players with over 10 catches on the year.

Receiver: Zach Norton, O'Gorman (Sr., 6-0, 190)

Norton made an impact as a passer (14 of 22, 307 yards, five touchdowns), runner (55 carries, 438 yards, three touchdowns) and receiver (67 catches, 755 yards, four touchdowns) for the state champion Knights.

"Zach is a very versatile player," Poppinga said. "He did what needed to be done to make the Knights a better team and played his best football in his last games."

Receiver: Mike Paulson, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-2, 190)

A big-play, deep-ball threat, Paulson was a big threat after the catch. The 6-2, 190-pound wideout averaged over 20 yards per catch, logging 58 receptions for 1,186 yards and 12 scores.

Receiver: Jhei Roewart, Harrisburg (Sr., 5-8, 170)

Roewart caught 29 passes for 456 yards and nine touchdowns for the Tigers and graduates with 937 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 53 catches. Responsible for guarding the opponent's top receiver, Roewart recorded 42 tackles and three interceptions.

Receiver: Dawson Schmidt, Watertown (Jr., 6-3, 165)

Schmidt was a steady contributor on the outside for the Arrows, catching 39 passes for 943 yards and six touchdowns. He also completed a pass for 38 yards.

Receiver: Chris Weber, Aberdeen Central (Sr., 5-9, 165)

A running back turned receiver, Weber flourished in both areas for the Golden Eagles. He caught 39 passes for 607 yards and five touchdowns, and rushed for 326 yards and a score on 28 carries in his career.

Tight end: Tyus Hanson, Washington (Jr., 6-4, 225)

A versatile threat, Hanson caught 38 passes for 506 yards and nine touchdowns. He also started one game at quarterback, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Hanson, who did a bit of everything for the Warriors, enters his senior season with 55 receptions for 646 yards and 12 touchdowns over 21 games.

Tight end: Ethyn Rollinger, Harrisburg (Jr., 6-3, 190)

A key cog in the Tigers' offense, the 6-3, 190-pound Rollinger recorded 31 catches for 510 yards and three touchdowns.

Line: Brandon Dickens, Washington (Sr., 6-3, 290)

A two-year starter, Dickens moved from guard to left tackle during the season and earned All-Conference honors for the Warriors.

Line: Tyler Hiatt, Lincoln (Sr., 6-4, 277)

Committed to NDSU for track and field, Hiatt — a 6-4, 277-pound left tackle — finished his football career strong, playing a key role for an offense that rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and threw for 2,000.

Line: Ben Kohls, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-3, 270)

A three-year starter and team captain, Kohls focused on his footwork to become the Rough Riders' best offensive lineman. The South Dakota commit was a key blocker for an offense that rushed for over 1,400 yards and threw for over 2,000 yards.

Line: Alex Oppold, Lincoln (Sr., 6-2, 246)

Fredenburg praised the 6-2, 246-pound senior as the best offensive lineman on a team that rushed for nearly 1,700 yards and 26 touchdowns. At defensive tackle, Oppold amassed 20 tackles and four sacks.

Line: Zach Roggow, Brandon Valley (Sr., 6-4, 280)

Roggow made his name as a run blocker, clearing the way for a Brandon Valley attack that rushed for 2,300 yards and averaged over 36 points per game. He was adept in pass protection, as well, anchoring the line for a group that threw for nearly 1,700 yards.

Line: Will Washenberger, O'Gorman (Sr., 6-4, 265)

Washenberger was a key blocker for an O'Gorman offense that rolled up over 2,100 yards rushing, threw for over 2,300 yards and converted nearly 40 percent of its third down conversions.

Defense

Line: Caleb Dwyer, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-2, 265)

Dwyer recorded 68 takedowns and a school-record 12.5 sacks. Nelson credited the two-year starter's emergence in 2019 to the work he put in in the weight room, adding that he "made himself into a great player."

Line: Alex Holt, Harrisburg (Sr., 6-2, 210)

Holt was a force along the front line for Harrisburg, recording 42 tackles and eight sacks. The 6-2, 210-pound senior graduates with 62 tackles and eight sacks.

Line: Cade Mikuska, O'Gorman (Sr., 6-4, 215)

Mikuska tallied a team-high 54 tackles, 10 of which went for a loss, and recovered a fumble. He also contributed offensively as a tight end, catching a touchdown pass and playing a critical role in the team's rushing attack as a blocker.

For his career, Mikuska collected 82 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.

Line: Parker Reed, Brandon Valley (Jr., 6-2, 235)

A defensive end for the 11AAA runner-up Lynx, Reed recorded 20 tackles for a loss of 94 yards, 8.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also blocked a pair of kicks and logged 68 total tackles.

Line: Isaac Sarbacker, Lincoln (Sr., 6-4, 200)

A standout lineman, Sarbacker logged 43 tackles, 11 sacks and four tackles for loss. He also recovered two fumbles, forced two fumbles, intercepted a pass and scored a defensive touchdown.

Line: Jonathan Smith, Lincoln (Sr., 6-2, 266)

Smith was responsible for 35.5 tackles, 6.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. He formed a lethal duo with Oppold, forcing teams to decide which one to double-team.

Linebacker: Cade Boyer, Harrisburg (Sr., 6-1, 210)

An anchor for the Tigers' defense, Boyer recorded 82 tackles, three sacks and forced a couple fumbles in 2019. The two-year starter graduates with 152 tackles, five sacks and two interceptions.

Linebacker: Randolph Kpai, Washington (Jr., 6-3, 190)

Kpai recorded 63 tackles (12.5 for loss), three sacks and two fumble recoveries. He enters his senior season with 138 tackles, 20.5 tackles, six sacks and three fumble recoveries.

Linebacker: Aaron Kusler, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-2, 210)

Aaron Kusler logged 109 tackles in 2019. The South Dakota State commit overcame an ACL injury to start in two-and-a-half seasons and graduates second only to his twin brother on Roosevelt's all-time tackles list (206).

Linebacker: Adam Kusler, Roosevelt (Sr., 6-2, 210)

Adam Kusler logged 129 total tackles in his senior campaign, leaving him with a school-record 269 takedowns for his career. A three-year starter and two-year captain, the SDSU commit was one of the "most-dedicated, hardest working athletes" Nelson has ever seen.

Linebacker: Jesse Steffel, Brandon Valley (Sr., 6-3, 195)

A two-way starter, Steffel honed his defensive game in 2019, recording 51 tackles, six tackles for loss and two sacks over 12 games.

Defensive back: Avery Bad Moccasin, Aberdeen Central (Sr., 5-10, 150)

Nicknamed the "silent assassin," Bad Moccasin recorded 10 total takeaways (seven interceptions) and broke up 14 passes. He finished the season with 34 total tackles.

Defensive back: Jacob Byrd, O'Gorman (Sr., 6-0, 170)

A talented two-way starter, Byrd was a lockdown presence in the defensive backfield. He also returned six punts for 63 yards and 13 kicks for 246 yards. As a receiver, Byrd caught 14 passes for 205 yards and four scores.

Defensive back: Jackson Hilton, Brandon Valley (Jr., 6-2, 170)

An electrifying corner, Hilton recorded 30 tackles and intercepted three passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. He also dazzled as a receiver, catching 28 passes for 626 yards and 11 scores. Three of his eight career interceptions have been returned for six.

Defensive back: Sam Siegel, Lincoln (Sr., 6-2, 185)

The Patriots' defensive most valuable player the last two seasons, Siegel led the team with 70 tackles (four for loss), leaving him with 120 for his career, and rounded out his 2019 line with four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.

Special teams

Kicker: Conor Pavelko, O'Gorman (Jr., 5-10, 175)

Pavelko was one of the state's most reliable kickers in 2019, converting eight of his 10 field goal attempts, including a perfect 6-for-6 mark from 40-49 yards out. His season long came from 49 yards out. Pavelko was 43-for-46 on PATs.

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