The Rapid City Stevens football team makes its home debut three weeks into the season tonight with a little anxiety ... in a good way.
The Raiders will host a good Watertown squad tonight in front of a large crowd to kick off the 26th Annual Rushmore Bowl at Dunham Field at O’Harra Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m., with Rapid City Central and Sturgis to follow at approximately 8 p.m.
Stevens coach Scott Hagen said his team is excited to finally be at home, and opening the Rushmore Bowl at the same time.
“They are always anxious to play in front of the home crowd, and the Rushmore Bowl crowd because there will be more people there, and the kids enjoy that,” Hagen said.
The Raiders are also anxious to show that last week’s 66-6 win over Spearfish was more like what they can do compared to the 48-19 season-opening loss to Sioux Falls Roosevelt.
The big win for the Spartans in Spearfish was a confidence booster, to say the least. A few changes in the lineup did the trick.
“We struggled the first week against Roosevelt with our snaps out of the shotgun, and our punt team,” Hagen said. “Those things, the kids worked on them hard. We were able to be successful against Spearfish.”
Hagen said the Raider offense relies on timing, and that obviously improved as the team put up 638 yards of total offense.
“If the snaps are not there, it throws off the whole play,” he said. “We weren’t able to get any running game going because of that against Roosevelt. Things were good for us last week against Spearfish, and we just hope that carries over to Watertown.
Bridger Nesbit and several of his teammates had huge games against the Spartans. Nesbit had six catches for 202 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Teigen Heckel was 15-of-26 passing for 405 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Ostyn Pruitt ran for 104 yards.
“It was a great offensive performance for us,” Hagen said. “Colton Hartford (six tackles) stepped up again on defense, along with Wes Folsum (13 tackles). We’re real young defensively and it will be a little time before we get more experience, and they should be a sound group defensively.”
On paper, it should be a shootout against the Arrows, who are 2-0, including a 34-13 win over Rapid City Central last week. Watertown opened the season with a 40-19 drubbing of Mitchell.
“They are very similar to us. They like to throw the deep ball and are capable of big plays. They have two wide receivers that are shifty and fast. They are just a solid football team that plays hard,” Hagen said. “If the offenses are clicking, fans are going to be in for a real treat.”
Cobblers looking to get going
It’s been a slow start for the young Rapid City Central Cobblers, who are looking for their first win of the season tonight against Sturgis.
The Cobblers have been outscored 65-20 in their first two games.
Central coach Erik Iverson said he sees his team getting things together, and he would obviously like to happen tonight.
“One of these weeks it is going to be that way,” he said.
Iverson said one of their biggest improvements they need to make is their physicality on the offensive line.
“We need better push. Some of the guys we had out there were over-matched and young,” he said. “We’re trying to get some guys who are more physical and push a little more. We’ve moved some people around, and hopefully it will pay off this week.”
Jeremy Weidman has led the way offensively, and those changes on the line are designed to open up some holes for the Central running backs.
“He’s a little scatter bug, so if we can get him in open space, we like our chances. We’re going to try tom find of opportunities to do that,” Iverson said.
On defense, Iverson said their tackling has improved, but it still has a long way to go.
“We’re a far better tackling team than we were last year, so our defense is kind of carrying us right now,” he said. “That has switched from last year when the offense carried us and the defense needed work.”
After a tough 18-15 loss to Belle Fourche in the season opener, the Scoopers rebounded in a big way, running past Douglas 61-27.
Iverson said they saw the Scoopers this past summer at the Chadron State College camp, he came away impressed with their improvement. Last season, the Cobblers downed the Scoopers 42-0.
“It will not be an easy time by any means for us. Our guys know that they will have a battle,” he said. “Obviously they (Scoopers) have spent some time in the off-season in the weight room, so they are big.”
Iverson said they are looking forward to the larger crowd tonight, and he hopes this game springboards some bigger and better crowds in the future.
“Fans follow a winner, so hopefully if we can start a winning streak, the kids will know what it is like to have a crowd in front of them, and more support,” he said. “It’s always a great opportunity. It’s not hard for them to get motivated.”