Something has to give when the annual Rushmore Bowl games take to the field at O’Harra Stadium tonight, and that something is the win column.
All four teams taking part in tonight’s games — Rapid City Stevens, Watertown, Rapid City Central and Aberdeen Central — enter the night coming off losses during the opening week of the Class 11AAA football season.
The Raiders fell to O’Gorman 56-20 while the Cobblers dropped a 26-20 decision to Harrisburg. The Golden Eagles were shut out by Sioux Falls Washington, 35-0. The Arrows lost to Sioux Falls Lincoln, 39-3.
With Game 1 temperatures at kickoff expected to be around 80 degrees, the Rushmore Bowl will see some hard-hitting action as the four teams taking part try to crack the win column.
“It’s a great atmosphere for football,” Stevens coach Steven Svendsen said. “A lot of people volunteer and put time in. That’s a credit to the booster clubs at both schools and the community for making it go.”
Action starts at 5 p.m. when Stevens and Watertown take the field. The Cobblers and Aberdeen Central are scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m.
Watertown vs. R.C. Stevens
Fans can expect a shootout when the Arrows and Raiders take the field tonight. Watertown, like Stevens, like to play a spread offense and push the ball to its wide receivers.
“I know their coaching staff really well,” Svendsen said. “They like to throw the ball down the field. They have a couple kids who can make big plays.”
Stevens showed plenty of fire power on the offensive side of the ball, totaling 394 yards of total offense against O’Gorman last week. Quarterback Colton Hartford threw for 302 yards, with Bransen Kuehl making eight catches for 196 yards. The Raider run game accounted for 92 yards to bring some balance to the offense.
Penalties, Svendsen noted, are an area to clean up heading into tonight’s game with the Arrows. One way to address that is to have more linemen only play offense or defense, but not both.
“We’ve got to be more physical up front and we have to eliminate the penalties,” Svendsen said. “That’s learning a new system. When you’re thinking a lot, you’re not playing.
“Those two-way guys are going to get tired. They’re engaged every play. If you have more one-way players going, they’re able to get more rest and you can make adjustments with them on the sidelines.”
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Pushing more players into starting roles has put added pressure on a Raider coaching staff that is learning a new system alongside the players.
“My coaching staff has done a great job coaching the kids up this week and even during the game last week,” Svendsen said. “They’ve done a nice job getting them ready.”
Aberdeen Central vs. R.C. Central
The Golden Eagles held Washington to eight first-half points before the Warriors exploded for 27 second-half points on their way to beating Aberdeen Central in the season opener for both teams.
“They gave up a couple big plays to Washington,” Cobbler coach Erik Iverson said. “It seemed like momentum was with Washington after that. They played them close the first half.”
Central saw a couple of its key players either knocked out or hampered by injuries during the Harrisburg game.
Cobbler junior Liam Porter suffered a leg injury early in last Friday’s loss to Harrisburg, and Porter is expected to miss this week’s game. That leaves Central without a skilled blocker in its running game and a physical presence on the defensive side of the ball at inside linebacker.
Two series later, Jeremy Weidmann sprained an ankle on a kickoff return and missed much of the game. He returned for the last few series as the Cobblers tried to come back to beat Harrisburg.
Weidmann, who finished with 87 rushing yards despite missing the second and third quarters, is expected to play tonight. But Porter’s presence as a blocker and linebacker will force the Cobblers to add a few new wrinkles on offense and insert some new faces into the lineup to overcome his absence.
Iverson said Aberdeen Central is physical along the line on both sides of the ball. That could mean the Cobblers will look to junior quarterback Kohl Meisman to stretch the field throwing the football.
“Aberdeen always stacks the box on us. Hopefully, we can get them out of their comfort zone,” Iverson said. “We’ve got a few wrinkles on the offense we think we’re going to add, but we need to do what we always do – play one drive at a time, control the ball and the clock.”
Rushmore Bowl ticket prices are $5 for students, $10 for adults and $35 for ramp passes, though ramp passes are sold out.