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Doin’ The Right Thing

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Last Friday night Belle Fourche fans were treated to a great high school football game. Most expected St. Thomas More to run away with the Black Hills Conference title but a great rivalry game in which records are truly thrown out the window proved to change traditional thought when Belle Fourche escaped with a 27-21 victory. It was an interesting game in which Belle Fourche thoroughly dominated for three quarters but then almost gave it away over the frantic final three minutes. The combination of Chris Dschaak, who was a sparkling 7-7 passing and threw a touchdown pass, as well as running for another, and the workhorse efforts of Austin Kudlock who rushed for 127 yards and had a critical interception in the waning seconds proved to be the winning formula for Belle Fourche. The Broncs have battled injuries throughout the season but with Belle Fourche now finally healthy it appears the playoff landscape in 11A West River football isn’t as one sided as once thought. Most would believe now that, even though St. Thomas More is still the favorite, any number of four teams from the hills region could make a deep run into the playoffs. This should add excitement throughout the area as the playoffs kick off on Tuesday night.

More importantly though……….. it was refreshing to see the Belle Fourche community and athletes do the right thing. Many may have noticed the pink on the Belle Fourche football uniforms Friday night. Twenty years ago you would never have seen a high school male athlete wear pink because after all “men are too tough to wear pink!” The staff at Belle Fourche elected to have their players wear pink in honor of breast cancer victims and cancer victims in general. We all know someone, or worse yet some of us have battled the disease ourselves, so society has a general understanding of how vicious cancer is. It’s refreshing to see a group of people come together and show their solidarity against cancer. The reality is there were a handful of high school kids who may receive a small scholarship to a small college to play ball that battled on Lou Graslie Field Friday night. I don’t think any coach, at least in South Dakota, gets into the coaching business to start an NBA or NFL factory.  Being able to balance the importance of teaching kids how to be successful on the field and in the classroom as well as teaching them to be exemplary human beings is so incredibly vital.  Friday night I believe the staff in Belle Fourche was successful on both of these fronts.  Great job and keep teaching our kids to do the right thing!

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I AM NOT A ROLE MODEL

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Charles Barkley coined the popular phrase, “I am not a role model” over a decade ago. It resonated on Nike commercials and sadly became a popular mantra among professional athletes. That’s why I thank God everyday for high school sports. It’s hard to get a man or a woman who makes millions of dollars every year to embrace being a role model.  Yet you can take a small town eighteen year old kid and he is more than willing to offer his time and energy to being a positive influence on hundreds and sometimes thousands of young children in his own community.  I have had the opportunity to watch from a distance many of the young men and ladies that have gone through Sturgis Brown High School and have been impressed by their willingness to help the youth of the Sturgis community.  The senior class is a terrific example of civic pride that our kids have shown over the past year.  I have marveled every time I’ve attended Church or have been at a school function and saw a high school athlete extend a helping hand or have given an elementary student a high five for no personal benefit.  In an era of selfishness and “what’s in it for me” attitudes it’s a breath of fresh air to see so many quality young men and ladies taking the time to help kids.  The Joey Olson’s and Clint Wilson’s have been terrific role models for so many children.  Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and as their high school football careers come to a close within the next few weeks we won’t see another athlete quite like those two.  They aren’t the only ones though, you can talk about Seth Bachand and Joel Herman, Tessa Tierney and so many others and it is sad to know that after this fall they will no longer compete in their respective sports.  Fortunately many of these high school athletes will compete during the winter months as well so we’re not yet done marveling at their athletic feats.  As time goes by and athletes graduate and move on with their lives new student / athletes will take their place.  That being said, Sturgis Brown is graduating a group of seniors that are special.  There will never be a group quite like this group and as the season comes to a close it will be hard to say goodbye.  I am challenging all the readers of Sports Buzzard to comment on the special high school student / athletes in your communities.  Not necessarily the stars but those young men and women who make a difference in peoples lives.  So in the comment section please share stories of our young kids who go the extra mile to live right and shed a positive example for all to see.  I will be interested to read about them.

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The Ethics of Sport

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Last night I watched a great movie with my wife. The “Blind Side” was gripping, exciting, sad, and made you want to root for the underdog. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book it’s about a wealthy white family who took in a behemoth of a teenager into their home. It probably wouldn’t have been that big of a deal but the young man was 6’8″, 320 pounds and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. In addition, he happened to be black and a great athlete who was from the projects in inner city Memphis. Ultimately, the wealthy family who happened to be a family of Ole Miss graduates and fans encouraged their adopted son to enroll at Ole Miss. Before “Big Mike” started his first day of classes the NCAA questioned the families motives. Did the wealthy family take this kid in to groom him for stardom at Ole Miss? Did the family have the best interests of the teenager at heart, or were they acting selfishly to help their alma matre benefit? All fair questions and many people have different opinions. A similar situation occurred just last week in Florida. According to published reports Bill Buldini, head coach at St. Cloud High School, took in a homeless teenager who also happened to play football for him. The coach was suspended for a week while an investigation occurred and he eventually was exonerated of any wrongdoing. How do you determine what is being done for all the right reasons and what is being done to try to cheat the system and give yourself a competitive edge? Many people reading this article will say that this would never happen in South Dakota. Well you would be wrong. In the early 1990′s there was a coach at Pine Ridge High School by the name of John Jordan. Jordan came to Pine Ridge from New York and when he rolled into town he brought three very talented basketball players with him.  None of which were his biological children.  The most talented of the three was a player by the name of Fontaine Saltes.  Saltes went on to score 47 points in a game in 1993.  The Thorpes went from being a team not expected to do much to a team that was completely different and completely loaded with the three new players.  I wasn’t living in Pine Ridge in 1993 so I am not one to judge.  It does make you question however, why and how did these three “studs” wind up in Pine Ridge.  This scenario isn’t necessarily isolated.  As a fan you hear everyday about this player or that player winding up in this school or at that school.  Often times it’s not for academic reasons but for athletic reasons.  Where is the line drawn and when is it ok to leave one school for another.  The other question is, is it okay to bring in an athlete and have him live with you.  It’s a tricky question because we all know people who are kind and only want to protect and take care of kids.  On the other hand, we all hear about coaches going out and encouraging talented kids to come and play for them.  It’s an interesting predicament and is another example of how inter-scholastic athletics has evolved.  By the way “Big Mike” is now playing offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens and in reality the wealthy family who took him in may very well have saved his life.  What’s your stance on this issue?  I’d be curious to get your insight.

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Raiders edge Scoopers to move to 3-0

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

For the people who attended Friday nights epic battle between RC Stevens and Sturgis they walked away knowing they watched a great game. What initially was thought to be Stevens’ air attack against Sturgis’ ground game fans witnessed a bit of role reversal by each team. Sturgis adjusted beautifully without star running back and linebacker Clint Wilson and attacked through the air while Stevens’ had the majority of its success on the ground. Seth Johnson paced Stevens’ ground attack with 108 yards on 18 carries and Kris Klapprodt also pitched in with a solid game. Sturgis on the other hand was paced by Joey Olson’s near perfect game, he was 18-22 with three rushing touchdowns but a costly interception late, and a solid effort by Sturgis’ wide receiving core. In a game that could have gone either way at the end Stevens’ simply made the necessary plays. It will be interesting to see these two teams line up against each other come playoff time. If Sturgis has a healthy Clint Wilson what will the implications be? Common sense dictates that adding a player of Wilson’s caliber should tip the scale in favor of the Scoopers. But when it comes to athletics things don’t always make sense. I do think this was an entertaining game one, hopefully we’ll see a game 2!

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Fearless 5 Forecast: Big Week on the West Side of the River

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The marquee matchup is here! Sturgis vs Stevens should be a real battle. Central vs Spearfish will probably be another mismatch and will Douglas bounce back from their blowout loss to St. Thomas More two weeks ago?

Sturgis vs Stevens:
In a matchup that everyone has been anticipating the ranked Stevens Raiders takes on the 2-0 Sturgis Scoopers. Going in everyone has questioned whether Clint Wilson will play. I have a hunch Wilson goes and carries the Scoops to an upset win, albeit a mild one against Stevens. Sturgis: 20 RC Stevens: 14.

RC Central vs Spearfish:
Central rolls in this one. Rapid City scores early and often and cruises to the easy win. RCC: 35 Spearfish: 6

Douglas vs Custer:
In the upset special of the week Douglas bounces back from their demoralizing loss two weeks ago. Douglas makes the necessary plays to sneak out a 14-13 win.

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The Greatest Ever: Let the Argument Begin

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

It’s tradition for sports fanatics to argue who the best players are. It’s also tradition to argue who the greatest of all time is. How many times have you heard yourself say, “back when I was playing……” or today’s athletes wouldn’t stand a chance against some of the guys that I played against. It’s a typical sports axiom to have pride in your generation and to compare it to someone else’s generation. In an effort to promote some good old fashion arguing I have compiled a list of who I think is the greatest high school football players that the state of South Dakota has produced. There are no requirements to be on the list, however, all eleven of these guys played professionally at some level in one sport or another. Would Doug Miller be able to chase down Jason Sutherland for a big sack? Or how about watching “Big” John Dutton corral Carrol Hardy in his hey day? Would Adam Viniateri connect from long range even if Bryan Schwartz was coming from the edge? Let the arguments begin.

11. Jason Sutherland: Quarterback / Defensive Back (Watertown High School)
If this list were entitled the “Greatest Athlete” of South Dakota Sutherland would very well be number one. A 7’ high jumper, an outstanding basketball player, and a game changing athlete on the football field in the early 90’s Sutherland was in a league of his own. I once watched Sutherland dunk a basketball after leaving the floor from just inside the free throw line…………………….as a ninth grader! After leaving Spearfish high school after his 9th grade year Sutherland went on to an outstanding career in Watertown. He won a state championship in basketball, football, and track. After completing a great career at Missouri for the legendary Norm Stewart in which he finished his career as the most prolific three point shooter in school history he received a try- out with the Kansas City Chiefs as a defensive back. His dreams of playing pro football didn’t work out but he did play professional basketball in Europe for a few years and even had a short stint playing in Rapid City for the Black Hills Gold until a torn ACL derailed his career. Interestingly enough, as of 2008 he was playing semi – pro football (as a Quarterback) in Kansas. Imagine a 35 year old QB being chased around by guys ten years younger than him.

10. Mike Busch: Quarterback (Huron High School)
Mike Busch was a STUD at Huron High School. After a stellar career Busch attended Idaho State University and eventually transferred to South Dakota State to play for the Jackrabbits. The Huron native is proof positive of the SDSU saying “you can go anywhere from here” as he ended up on the big stage in 1987. Busch was the starting Quarterback for the New York Giants on a Monday night in front of a national audience during the strike marred season of 1987. Following his playing career Busch came back to his native state and has coached a number of high school football programs. Most recently he was on the sideline for the Pierre Governors two seasons ago.

9. Josh Heupel: Quarterback (Aberdeen Central)
This guy had a college career everyone dreams of having. After coming out of Aberdeen Central High School he was mostly ignored by the big time programs. He did land, however, at Weber State University and after suffering a leg injury ended up at Snow Junior College. After a great year at Snow operating from the “spread” offense the Oklahoma Sooners came calling. Bob Stoops had his Sooner program on the rise and Heupel was the right man at the right time for the Oklahoma program. After two record breaking seasons in Oklahoma in which he won numerous awards and was second in the Heisman voting he had a cup of coffee with the Miami Dolphins but unfortunately an injury in the pre-season hindered any opportunity for him to land on an NFL roster. The son of a football lifer, father Ken was the longtime coach at Northern State University, he is currently the Quarterbacks coach at Oklahoma.

8. Taylor Mehlhaff: Kicker (Aberdeen Central)
The second “Golden Eagle” on this list Taylor Mehlhaff has spent time in the NFL with both the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints drafted Mehlhaff in the sixth round of the 2008 draft. Unfortunately the Saints cut him late in the pre-season when he lost the kicking job to Martin Gramatica. After Gramatica was hurt later in the season the Saints brought him back and he was 3-4 on field goals and 9-10 on extra points. The Saints cut Mehlhaff two days after he missed a crucial extra point against the San Diego Chargers. Currently Mehlhaff is kicking for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League.

7. Doug Miller: Linebacker (Sturgis)
Miller was a standout athlete at Sturgis Brown High School. An all-stater in both football and basketball as well as an accomplished track athlete and baseball player there wasn’t much Doug Miller couldn’t do. After an outstanding career at South Dakota State, Miller was drafted by the San Diego Chargers. Playing mostly on special teams Miller is remembered for a face mask penalty on the opening kickoff against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in 1993. After a two year career and enjoying retirement Miller was tragically killed camping in Colorado when he was struck by lightning.

6. Bryan Schwartz: Linebacker (Miller High School)
Born in tiny St. Lawrence, South Dakota Bryan Schwartz was and still is the pride of Miller High School. Another multi-sport athlete Schwartz teamed with Nick Johanson on the athletic field during a time of great success for the Miller Rustlers. Schwartz went on to play for the Augustana Vikings and then was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaquars in the second round of the 1995 draft. After a successful five year career with Jacksonville Schwartz left the NFL to pursue a career in the clergy. He is currently the lead pastor at a church in Colorado.

5. Ben Leber: running back / Linebacker (Vermillion)
Leber starred at Vermillion High School as a running and linebacker at Vermillion High School. Coming from a football family, Ben’s brother Jason was an All-American running back at the University of South Dakota, Leber went on to an outstanding career at Kansas State University in which he ranks fifth all time in school history with 216 tackles. He had an outstanding career for the San Diego Chargers until he was injured during the pre-season of his fourth season and eventually lost his starting job to future pro bowler Shawn Merriman. Leber then moved on to the Minnesota Vikings where he was a solid, consistent contributer to a good defense.

4. Chad Greenway: Linebacker / Running back (Mt. Vernon)
After a stand out career at Mt. Vernon High School Chad Greenway went on to a career marked by being an All-American at the University of Iowa. After success at both the high school level, a state championship, and a successful college career he was selected number 17 overall in the 2006 draft. After an injury in the pre-season Greenway did not step on the field for the Vikes until the 2007 season. Considered a team leader Greenway rarely comes off the field for Minnesota. It appears that he will have a long and successful career for Minnesota. Perhaps a Super Bowl ring is in the offing this season for Mr. Greenway.

3. Carroll Hardy: Wide Receiver (Sturgis)
Carroll Hardy played for the San Francisco 49ers during the 1955 season. In a season in which he caught twelve passes, four for touchdowns Hardy was forced to make a tough decision. The following season he elected to walk away from a potentially long football career to make his profession as a baseball outfielder. In 1958 Hardy pinch hit for Roger Maris on his 25th birthday and hit his first career homerun. What Carroll Hardy is most famous for, however, is he is the only player to ever pinch hit for Ted Williams. In a mark of irony, following his baseball career Hardy went to work in the front office of the Denver Broncos for twenty years and is given the majority of credit for building the “Orange Crush” Defense of the 1970’s.

2. John Dutton: Defensive End (RC Central High School / RC Cathedral High School)
“Big” John Dutton starred at RC Cathedral High School until the closure of the school and then transferred to Rapid City Central High School for his senior season. During his high school years Dutton was a high school All – American in both football and basketball as a junior and senior. He also led the Cobblers to the State A basketball championship his senior year. Following high school he attended the University of Nebraska and played football. He elected to play football even though he received more scholarship offers to play hoops than he did to play football. He was a part of the 1971 National Championship team and also played in what is now referred to as the game of the century that same year against Oklahoma. In 1974 Dutton was selected with the fifth overall pick by the Baltimore Colts and was named to the All Rookie team. In 1975 he led the Colts in sacks with seventeen and was named to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls. In 1979 the Colts traded Dutton to the Dallas Cowboys for a number one and number two pick in the 1980 draft. He eventually was part of one of the greatest defensive lines in the history of football as he, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Randy White, and Harvey Martin played together.

1. Adam Vinatieri: Quarterback / Kicker (RC Central High School)
Perhaps the greatest clutch kicker in the history of the National Football League “Automatic” Adam Vinatieri tops my list as the Greatest South Dakota football player of all time. A sure first ballot hall of famer Vinatieri has kicked the game winner in two Super Bowls and is a four time Super Bowl winner. He may be best known for his kick in the infamous “tuck rule game” when he booted a 45 yard field goal in snowy Foxborough against the Oakland Raiders to go to the Super Bowl. Vinatieri graduated from Rapid City Central High School in 1991 where he was a standout in both football and wrestling. After high school he attended South Dakota State University where he was the team’s placekicker and punter. He eventually signed with the New England Patriots in 1996 as an unrestricted free agent. After winning three Super Bowls with the Patriots he signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. Viniateri is currently the New England Patriots all time leading scorer with 1,158 points. Since his departure the Patriots have not re-issued his number 4 jersey.

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Scoopers Beat Cobblers: Oh My Is That an Ankle Sprain

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Last night Sturgis knocked off a game RC Central Cobbler ballclub 35-21. Early on it looked as though Sturgis would rout Central but the Cobblers pulled within 27-21 late in the third quarter after star tailback Clint Wilson went down with an apparent ankle sprain. Coach Rod Richardson turned to the passing game in the fourth quarter to move the ball and score the clinching touchdown. It’s a testament to the Scooper program that they were resillient enough to beat Central without its star running back. Sturgis has a number of good athletes and last night’s win proves that they are more than a one man band. Paired with Stevens blow out win of Spearfish, next weeks Sturgis vs Stevens matchup should be the highlight game of the week. It will be interesting to see Wilson’s status for next week’s marquee matchup. Evidently there was some swelling in Wilson’s ankle and his status for next week is up in the air. It appeared he was removed from the game last night for precautionary reasons but there is still a good chance he could be available for the Stevens game. Until it is checked out by the doctors, Wilson’s ability to play will be anybody’s guess. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope he can go. Either way it’s going to be a great matchup, but it will be an even better one with a healthy Clint Wilson.

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Fearless 5 Forecast: Week 2

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

It should be another interesting week of football in the AA ranks. Four of the five west river teams play schools on this side of the river. The other, Douglas, is idle until next week.  The 4 GDC AA’s will square off with each other in the Rushmore Bowl. Unfortunately neither Friday night tilt includes Sturgis and Stevens playing each other which is the game I think everyone is interested in seeing. That being said it is still too early in the season to make assumptions of who is the real deal and who isn’t. I still believe that Stevens and Sturgis are the two teams to beat but only time will tell. Here are my picks for week 2.

RC Stevens vs Spearfish:
In the opener of the Rushmore Bowl Stevens rolls in convincing fashion. Spearfish just doesn’t have the depth or the athletes to hang with Stevens’ well balanced attack. Hayden Hast has a big night through the air and Stevens wins going away 52-14.

Sturgis vs RC Central:
This one is a little closer than a lot of people believe it will be. Central is stingy on defense and helps keep the game close. Too much Clint Wilson on the ground and Sturgis’ air attack helps loosen up Central’s backers. Sturgis wins 14-3.

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The Black Hills Conference: In a League of it’s Own

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

In recent years St. Thomas More has owned the Black Hills Conference. Time and time again teams would come along and challenge their stranglehold on league supremacy. This was evident two years ago when Belle Fourche won the league. The celebration in Belle Fourche, however, was short lived when the Cav’s traveled to Belle Fourche a week later and upset an undefeated and talented Bronc team on their way through the playoffs. The league wasn’t always dominated by one team. The 1980′s were a great decade to be a fan of the Black Hills Conference. The BHC was arguably one of the toughest and most balanced leagues in the state. No year was more evident of that then 1983. At that time the BHC was a multi-level league that had a AA team (AAA at the time), many A (AA at the time) teams , and even a class B school competing. You had the traditional powerhouse in Sturgis that was the largest school in the conference and was a consistent state qualifier in the state’s largest classification. It was not unusual for the Scoopers to beat RC Stevens and RC Central during the regular season or playoffs. You also had the large Class A schools in Belle Fourche and Spearfish who were very competitive and a talented Lead squad who could beat anyone on any given night. The surprise team of the league during this time frame was the Newell Irrigators. Newell had a good run of athletes and competed night in and night out. Newell didn’t win a lot of league games but after playing such a difficult league schedule they were a tough out during playoff time. During the 1983 season the Black Hills Conference had two teams playing for a state championship in Vermillion. Belle Fourche beat Milbank, who was coached by the legendary Kim Nelson, 20-13 and the following night the Scoops lost a difficult game to a good Brookings team. What many people don’t remember about that year, though, is that Newell lost to the Gregory Gorrilla’s in the semi-final game in the Class 11B playoffs. Think about it, if Newell had gotten into the State Championship game that year the BHC would have been represented by three teams. Pretty impressive when you consider it was an eight team league. Belle Fourche won the championship that year but only after getting beat 21-0 the previous year to Lennox. It took that learning experience of playing in the dome and understanding the magnitude of a state title in order for them to walk away with the trophy. Sturgis didn’t have that luxury. They played hard that night but lost to team that probably wasn’t as talented as they were. I’m sure that loss is a huge regret to many of the players on that team. As a young boy I remember watching Brett Burditt swallow up running backs from his middle linebacker position for the Sturgis Scoopers. I also remember watching Chris Gadsden run the option behind Jody Grubb churning out yard after yard. Or watching Bob Hannah run over would be tacklers from his tailback position for the Belle Fourche Broncs or seeing Lenny “Freight Train” Jones bust loose for the Golddiggers. Not only did the BHC have great players but they also had great coaches. Belle Fourche was led by Rick Swenson. Swenson is still the only coach to win a state championship for Belle Fourche. Down the road Mick Wysuph was starting his very successful coaching career in Sturgis that would eventually lead him to his own state championship where he led RC Stevens to a title in the 90′s. Dave Broadie, who coached for over thirty years in Douglas was another coaching legend that the league cultivated. He won his title in the mid 90′s. Those were wonderful days for the Black Hills Conference. I sometimes wonder with the addition of Spearfish getting back into the league starting in 2012 that maybe the league will find a better balance. I also wonder if maybe letting Sturgis back in would improve the other teams in the league as well. Maybe I’m just a little nostalgic but somedays I miss the old BHC.

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When You’re Good You’re Good!

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

5-0 ain’t too bad! After week one of the Fearless 5 Forecast I’m proud to say this Pigskin Prognosticator is 5-0. Following Sturgis’ beat down of Brandon Valley and RC Stevens’ thrashing of Brookings it appears that west river football is alive and well! Central struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball in there 9-0 loss to Yankton and Spearfish is well, Spearfish. I believe the Spartans will get better throughout the year but it must be a difficult pill to swallow to continuously get beaten down. Not to mention Douglas getting mauled by STM showed mixed reviews for the west river AA’s. That being said, this year’s AA schools should make for some fun conversations around the dinner table. I’m excited to continue the predictions and I am looking forward to next weeks picks. Bring on the comments because that’s what makes high school football fun. Let’s have some good old fashioned arguing!

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