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We’re baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Looking for our winter sports edition? go to: That URL will take you to beta launch of winter sports (boys and girls basketball and wrestling), including the Gut Wagon Report.

You will see numerous additions as the season moves forward.

The 2010 Fall Football season will continue to be available here at



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Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Our Class 9B Monster Player of the Year (POTY) is a repeat from last year. Alex Anderson was a one man wrecking crew this season for New Underwood. Consider Alex’ stats:


141 carries for 1276 yards – 16 TD’s

11 catches for 367 yards – 4 TD’s

20 returns for 723 yards – 5 TD’s

182 touches for 2,433 yards (13 yards per touch) 26 total TD’s

Career 309 carries for 3,372 yards and 58 TD’s


114 total tackles, 86 solo tackles, 4 interceptions

Congrats Alex!


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Sunday, November 21st, 2010

The Buzzard Brass mulled over the Monster Class 9A Player of the Year nominees long and hard. After much debate and buzzard bickering the decision that was reached was a precedent setting one. There would be no single 9A POTY award this year, but rather it would be awarded to the ENTIRE Harding Count Rancher team!

Player: Position: Height: Weight: Grade
Steven Koch RB/LB 6’1 165 9
Jess Feist QB/LB 5’10 160 10
Austin Brown QB/S 6’5 195 12
Sterling Brown WR/S 5’8 135 12
Ckyler Floyd TE/DE 6’1 180 10
Ben Juelfs C/LB 6’0 165 12
Dalton McCann C/DE 5’9 165 10
Justin Baier WR/S 5’7 125 11
Jace Jenson WR/LB 6’1 185 12
Trey Wammen WR/S 5’10 160 12
Julius High Bear WR/S 5’9 140 9
Chek Giannonatti TE/DE 6’1 185 11
Ryne Baier FB/LB 5’8 205 11
Reece Jensen G/DT 5’8 150 9
Taz Olson RB/LB 6’2 195 12
Dalton Hurst TE/DE 5’11 150 9
Max Teigen G/DT 5’4 145 9
Whit Brown G/DT 6’2 255 11
August Hewson G/DT 5’11 180 10
J.W. Helms TE/DE 6’4 185 11
Shane Milks G/DT 5’10 205 11
Dalton Jenkins G/DT 5’10 265 9
Tate Gress G/DT 5’11 255 10
Colten Jensen G/DE 6’2 175 12

Congratulations gentlemen, and thank you for making this a season to remember.

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Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Our Class 9AA Monster Player of the Year (POTY), Gregory’s Mat Braun, truly left his mark.  Consider the 2010 stats and accomplishments of our 9AA POTY.

  • 3 year starter
  • 101 Rushes/753 yards/7.45 yd per carry avg/12 touchdowns
  • 654 yards passing/8 touchdowns
  • 1538 all purpose yards
  • 79 tackles

Braun also holds the following Gorilla school records:

  • passing completions in a game – 12 (2010)
  • passing yards in a game – 352 (2010)
  • touchdown passes in a game – 5 (2010)
  • all purpose yards in a game – 443 (2010)
  • touchdowns in a game – 6 (2008)
  • points in a game – 36 (2008)

Braun’s career stats are equally impressive:

  • 2,127 rushing yards
  • 36 touchdowns
  • 4,047 all purpose yards
  • 202 tackles/1 interception

Wow! The Gorillas are going to miss Braun on the field and in the classroom (2010 Academic All State).

Congrats Mat!


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Friday, November 19th, 2010

There were a lot of outstanding players in Class 11AA this season, but few were able to play both sides of the ball and weather the season without injury. In other words, an Iron Man that didn’t rust.

Granted, the injury bug can strike any player at any time, and sometimes you have to rely upon luck to stay healthy. However, hard work and determination also seem to come into play, particularly in the long and grueling Class 11AA season that is packed with exceptionally hard knocks and tons of cross-state travel.

Seth Johnson, the 5’10” 170 lb Senior, was a true Iron Man this season for the Rapid City Stevens Raiders, playing both running back and defensive back.

When you mention Seth’s name to fans you often hear the same comment—-the guy works his tail off. Add to that attribute Seth’s end of season rushing statistics—-1134 yards and 12 TDs, and you have our Monster Class 11AA Player of the Year. Congrats Seth!!

seth johnson

SETH JOHNSON CLASS 11AA POTY. (photo courtesy Johnny Sundby Photography).

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Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Monsters are not fearful, nor was our Class 11A Monster Player of the Year this season.  “Fearless” Brady Harkless was a dynamo on both sides of the ball this season for the Hot Springs Bison, a real iron man.

Consider Fearless’ end of the year stats:

Offense: 183 rushes for 1269 yds (6.9 yards per carry), 17 TDs 

Defense: 123 total tackles (51 unassisted, 72 assisted) 8 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery for a TD


Harkless, who also placed 5th at last year’s state wrestling tournament, will return next season to lead the Bison. Congrats Brady!

Brady Harkless, 2010 Class 11B POTY. Shown here with the stealy resolve of a Bison on Woodward Field.

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Class 11B Monster Player of the Year? You Decide!

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Over the course of the next few days we will be releasing our Monster Players of the Year (POTY) for each of the six football classes.  As always, there were some hanging chads during the balloting. Once the smoke cleared, and cooler heads prevailed, the buzzards all agreed on the each class’ Monster POTY, with one exception, namely Class 11B.

The Cooler Heads at the Buzzard POTY balloting.

So, we decided to use our über scientific poll to determine the Class 11B POTY.

The three Class 11B POTY candidates are as follows:

Austin Moser—Winner Warriors: The 205 lb Junior lineman for the Warriors was a force both ways for the purple and gold.  Moser averaged 7.3 tackles per game this season.

Josh Rogers—Stanley County Buffaloes: Rogers played with a ton of heart, played both ways, led the Buffs back into respectability. Big game? Rogers always seemed to rise to the occasion.  Rogers had 535 yards rushing and 813 yards passing this season.

Ryan Risse—Bennett County Warriors: The 6’2” 200 lb Risse was a complete horse this season, and was the guiding force behind the Warriors offensive line and linebackers.

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Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Early this football season Groovy had a great post on the history of the Black Hills Conference (BHC).  As noted by Groovy, there have been teams come and go through the history of the conference. Some teams come and go and come back again, for example, the Spearfish Spartans. Rivalries follow with the changes in the conference. No doubt, the Spearfish/Belle Fourche rivalry will once again be rekindled now that the Spartans are back in the BHC fold.  That rivalry is largely driven by geography—-the two towns have many common families, are of similar size, and so it is natural that a rivalry ensues.

I have witnessed over the past decade or so a new phenomenon in the Black Hills Conference——a rival all conference schools can embrace—the St. Thomas More (STM) Cavaliers.  STM is a relative newby to the BHC, having joined the conference as a member in 1996.  When I first heard that STM petitioned to join the conference I thought the Cavs were insane, as STM was largely uncompetitive in many sports and were then classified two classes lower than then-BHC schools Spearfish and Sturgis. Hats off to the ADs during that era for accepting STM into the conference, as it has been a boon for all concerned. Most notably, the addition of STM helped expose the BHC to the Rapid City metro market. That exposure, in my opinion, has been good for the entire conference.

For many years STM remained uncompetitive with the upper-tier BHC teams in most sports, and were routinely thumped in the marquee sports of football and basketball. STM had never beaten the Belle Fourche Broncs in football until 2001, and even then it took a memorable individual performance from Eric Barker to squeak by the Broncs that season during the regular season. Barker was a home-grown STM athlete that went on to play football at Chadron State. It was around the Eric Barker-era that STM began to first compete routinely with the top BHC teams in boys basketball, and as mentioned above, in football.

Fast forward to present day. STM has arguably the best overall athletic program in the BHC, as the Cavaliers generally are at or near the top of the BHC each season in football, boys basketball, girls track, volleyball, girls soccer and girls basketball. So what has changed since the Cavaliers first joined the BHC some 14 years ago? I suspect some of the changes have been by STM’s own design and some have not, let me explain.

I mentioned Belle Fourche several times above, but I have not mentioned the Lead-Deadwood Golddiggers. Why? Well, the miners quit digging for gold in Lead in 2002 when Barrick Gold decided to cease operations at the Homestake Mine. With that decision came a flooded mine and continued hopes of a Neutrino Laboratory, and an exodus of people and students from Lead-Deadwood.  The once dominant Golddigger athletic program (football runners up in Class 11A in 2001 and 2002) has fallen on hard times of late. That change created an opening at the athletic top of the BHC, particularly in football.

In 1998 the Spearfish Spartans and Sturgis Scoopers were voted out of the BHC by the conference ADs, and subsequently left for the greener pastures of the Greater Dakota Conference.  Interestingly, once Douglas moved from Class A to Class AA no similar action was taken by the conference ADs. The GDC pastures have proven unfertile, and as alluded to above, Spearfish will soon return to the friendly confines of the BHC. Bottom line—the closure of the Homestake Mine and the departure of Spearfish and Sturgis created a power vacuum of sorts in BHC athletics. STM, somewhat quietly at first, filled that vacuum. In my mind a watershed event for STM was the arrival of a mild, unassuming kid named Nathan Jacobson. In basketball circles in the mid 2000’s in Rapid City it was well known that Jacobson was the ‘real deal’. Was he Louie Krogman? No. Could he compete with Louie? Yes. What surprised some people, including me, was how good Jacobson was at football in addition to basketball.

I say that Jacobson’s presence at STM was a watershed because he transferred from the Rapid City public school system when he was in 9th grade to attend STM. Jacobson, who now plays basketball for the School of Mines, went on to have multiple Dome appearances with the Cavs and helped STM claim two state basketball championships. Jacobson’s arrival helped cement STM at the top of the BHC in boys basketball and football, and the Cavs have remained there since.

While Nathan Jacobson helped the STM programs significantly their success can also be attributed somewhat to location. The forerunner to STM was St. Martin’s Academy. In fact, I am a graduate of the ‘Academy.’ St. Martin’s closed its doors in 1991 and for the first few years STM operated out of the basement of National American University. Shortly thereafter the decision was made to locate a new campus for STM at their current location on Fairmont Boulevard, just across the street from Rapid City Regional Hospital. I contend that that location has been a boon to STM, as it has incredibly high visibility within Rapid City——anyone who visits the hospital, whether it be the MD’s on a daily basis or a patient cannot but notice STM on the hill across the street. While St. Martin’s Academy was a academic good school, it was buried in the hills on the outside of Rapid City. Many Rapid City residents didn’t even know St. Martin’s Academy existed. Like I mentioned above, St. Martin’s was good academically, but was not known for their athletic prowess (that’s being nice, the Ravens were often pretty horrid at the few sports they played). From a purely athletic standpoint the current STM location, I believe, has helped present the school as an option to Rapid City student athletes in a way the St. Martin’s location never did.

The title of this post is ‘The New York Yankees of the Black Hills Conference.’ The title was chosen in part to get your attention, and part to address fan attitudes toward STM. If you have ever been to a game in Belle Fourche or Newell (add to this list the current or former BHC teams) when it is announced, for example, that Winner has beaten STM in football, what happens? Loud applause by the local crowd, and often a standing ovation occurs. STM is universally rooted against across the entire BHC.

I have asked fans about the fan reaction described above and I get various responses. Some say it is the bad sportsmanship exhibited by the STM players and fans that causes the reaction. While STM has its share of boorish fans and players that exhibit poor sportsmanship I am not convinced that they are any better or worse than the rest of the BHC when it comes to their behavior. Rather, I think the response comes from the perception that when you are winning and bad sportsmanship occurs it is amplified in the eyes of those on the losing end. 

Another response I hear when I ask the question why BCH fans don’t like the Cavs is that they are upset by STM recruiting their town’s players. Pehaps the George Herman Ruth, Jr. analogy holds somewhat here? The transfer of players was facilitated roughly 10 years ago when the SDHSAA adopted their current open enrollment policy, but the reality is that the transfer of students from a public school to a private school, and vise versa, was largely not impacted by that policy, it was just formalized it a bit. The transfer of players between Rapid City Central or Rapid City Stevens and private schools in Rapid City is nothing new, it even happened when St. Martin’s was open back in my era. Rather, I think the change has been the increase in the overall number of athletes (and with it the fan discussion) that transfer between all the Rapid City schools in recent years. A newer development, and this is probably the bigger rub for the fans in the Black Hills Conference, is the transfer of students from the other BHC schools to STM. Ask anyone from Belle Fourche or Custer about this topic and expect to get an earful. This brings me back to the title of this post—–the Red Sox have never quite gotten over the exodus of Babe Ruth to the Yankees have they?  I would be remiss if I gave you the impression of the transfer of players between BHC schools was unique to STM. During the heyday of Custer boys basketball players routinely transferred to Custer from other towns, and although less common, still transfer to Custer to join their Throws program.

The other common reason I hear from conference fans for the distain for STM arises from the final scores of games, for example, this season in football STM beat Douglas by a score of 72-6. The question that is asked is is such a complete throttling really necessary? Furthermore, why not put in the JVs earlier and get them experience? Collin Boechler covered this topic early in the football season. Once again when you are on the throttling side of such a score it only adds fuel to the distaste for STM. The justification I usually hear from the STM faithful is that their ultimate goal is to compete for state championships and they need maximum playing time at the varsity level to get ready for that goal. A justification for this argument ooccured this year with the Harding County Ranchers football team—-the Ranchers had only one regular season game that was not stopped by the mercy rule.  There simply was not adequate west river competition or quality playing time to prepare the Ranchers for the final game against Hanson in the Dome.

A final aspect that has helped fuel the rivalry is that of enrollment and classification. In the STM Barker-era the Cavs were Class 11B in football. The then BHC football heavyweights, Belle Fourche and Lead, were in Class 11A. In other words, STM did not get in the way of the Broncs and ‘Diggers come playoff time. Starting with the realignments in 2007 STM joined Belle and Lead-Deadwood in Class 11A, and STM and Belle were on an annual collision course in the playoffs. The next round of realignments will come into affect next fall, and it is quite probably that STM and Lead-Deadwood will be in Class 11B and Belle will remain in Class 11A. However, with the new seeding format the once almost guaranteed BHC spot in the Dome in Class 11A is now a thing of the past.

One thing is certain, STM won’t forever be the chief rival for the Black Hills Conference, as these rivalries are always cyclical. I suspect the return of the Spearfish Spartans will cause the Bronc and Golddigger fans to renew their former rivalries with the Spartans, and the Red Cloud Crusaders, always a force in basketball, will give the BHC teams a new quality foe to reckon with on a regular basis.

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The Eastern South Dakota Conference Needs to Think Big, and Look West

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

I have watched and listened as the matchmaking process between Rapid City Stevens (RCS), Rapid City Central (RCC), Sturgis and the Eastern South Dakota (ESD) Conference has unfolded. Who would have thought RCS, RCC and Sturgis might be left out in the cold by the ESD? 

In my opinion, the ESD would be foolish not to accept those schools’ petition to join their conference.  Over and over again you hear the same rhetoric when the ESD administrators speak about the applications to join their conference from the western schools—-long history, storied programs etc. Roughly a decade ago you could make the argument that the ESD was on par with the GDC in the marquee sports, but no longer is that the case. I have news for the ESD conference.  They had better adapt, otherwise all the ESD will have left is history, no promising future, and be forever relegated to playing second fiddle to the new Metro Conference. For example, the Sioux Falls schools now own the Dome in football and are approaching the same in boys and girls basketball, as well as in a number of other sports.

Quite frankly, I think the ESD needs the western schools if they hope to turn the tide and regain their competitiveness. Of course, it would take some creative scheduling beyond their traditional eight team format. Travel costs, in addition to their vaunted history seems to be a major concern for the ESD schools. In this regard, Pierre could serve as an ESD hub for many tournaments and events, helping to address the travel issue. Undoubtedly, the conference would divide into east and west divisions. Once again, this would be a new format for the old ESD conference, but it is entirely doable if the conference ADs are willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

There are very good reasons why the ESD should jump on the offer and accept the western schools into their conference. Let’s start with the Sturgis Scoopers. The Scoops would probably be a mid-tier competitor with the likes of Mitchell and Brookings in most sports, they definitely would be much more competitive than the lowly Huron Tigers.  However, the Scoopers would bring to the ESD table a wrestling tradition that is unmatched in the state of South Dakota. The ESD could own wrestling on a yearly basis.

Rapid City Central is the largest school in the state of South Dakota, and along with Stevens would open the ESD to the second largest media market in the state. If you think the Cobblers recent swoon in football will continue you will be surprised next season. For example, I think the Cobbler football team next season, if they were in the ESD, would be the best team in the conference. Bottom line, the Cobblers stature and metrics are such that the ESD would benefit in many, many sports and in ways outside of the fields and gyms where the teams compete.

Of the three programs applying to the ESD Rapid City Stevens might be the one that would prove the most competitive in a variety of sports. RCS arguably has the best overall Class AA athletic program (for example, track, volleyball, cross country, golf, tennis) in the state. Take a look at the banners at Carold Heier gymnasium sometime if you doubt that statement. In addition, Coach Paul Ferdinand fielded one of two football teams (Watertown being the other) that won a game against the Sioux Falls schools this season. The ESD needs that sort of competition within their conference if they hope to once again compete regularly for state championships.

If the ESD were really bold they would approach STM to join the conference in girls and boys basketball, and possibly football. Can you imagine the interest in the ESD if the Evil Blue Empire played the Rapid City schools on a regular basis?

Hopefully the ESD schools can take off their historical blinders and reinvent the conference in a way that not only benefits their member schools but the entire state of Sound Dakota.

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Sunday, November 14th, 2010

If ever it was possible to gloat and feel like crap this is the case.

There has been a ton of debate about the superiority of east river football teams this season, primarily focusing on the 11AA class and the non-competitive nature of the non-Sioux Falls schools. Just prior to the playoffs I took it a step further, and along with the help of Mapquest (see below) and a little gerrymandering to the east, defined the Sioux Falls Area/Empire. I further predicted that the Empire would claim at least five out of six championships. Too bad Tri Valley stumbled, otherwise the Empire would run the table on the entire rest of the state. My point? It isn’t just a west river vs east river distinction when it comes to football prowess, but it includes the northeast and the entire rest of the state outside of the Empire.


Some have argued that the distinction should be that east and west of the James River, but that is being too kind to the northerners. Others have argued that the Empire rules simply because of their large population base——wrong! If you add up the total population of Minnehaha, Lincoln, Turner, Hanson and McCook Counties it represents only 29% of the total state population, yet within those counties lie our five state champions.

I maintain that the Empire rules because of their superior programs (includes coaches) that consistently prepare the players, and probably equally importantly, make the players want to play football and condition during the off season. Of course, included with the program are the facilities to maximize the players’ efforts.

Below is the final list of Empire teams from the 19 original teams, with the five state champions duly noted. Will the rest of the state be able to compete in football in the near future? The conference that seems to have fallen the furthest in football in recent years is the ESD. Are the days of having a competitive team come from the ESD gone? I will talk a little about that in the next few days, our friends in storied ESD might not like what I propose.

(1)Sioux Falls Washington (state champions)
(2)Sioux Falls Roosevelt
(3)Sioux Falls Lincoln
(4)Sioux Falls O Gorman 
(7)Brandon Valley

(1)Dell Rapids (state champions)
(4)West Central
(16)Tea Area

(15)McCook Central/Montrose

(3)Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan (state champions)

(2)Hanson (state champions)

(1)Canistota (state champions)
(2)Dell Rapids St. Marys

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