The 2019 high school football season begins tonight and today we finish our area league previews with the teams from the Northern Plains League that compete in the eastern half of the state in 8-Man. All six of the teams form the east will be in 8-Man DII District 4 starting as early as week two.
The district looks to be wide open in 2019. Rock Hills and St. John’s/Tipton finished in the top two spots last season and both look to compete for the top spot this season under new head coaches.
It’s been well documented that Dean Gengler is now the head coach for St. John’s/Tipton, replacing Keith Kresin, who spent nine seasons as the Blujays head man. Gengler was an assistant last season and returns seven starters on each side of the ball from a 5-4 team. The only senior lost was 8-Man All-Star Kail Dubbert who had a team high 151 tackles and registered 1,355 all-purpose yards. RB Brayden Perez is the top offensive returner after rushing for 867 yards and 12 TD last season. Eric Koenigsman is the leading returning tackler after making 84 stops last season. Many other players are expected to step up on an experienced team according to Gengler.
St. John’s/Tipton opens tonight with a tough game at Axtell, who is ranked #2 in the state in 8-Man DII.
Elsewhere in District 4, the Rock Hills Grizzlies look to repeat as the district champs under new head coach Colby Hamel. Hamel takes over for Brock McMillan who went 39-18 in six seasons and is now an assistant at Beloit. From last season’s 8-2 squad, they did lose their top two offensive players in QB Dereck Gillett and RB Zane Colson who were both 8-Man All-Stars. Colson ran for nearly 1,500 yards and 24 TD, but also led the team with 147 tackles from his LB position. The top skill player back is Rylee Whelchel, who is healthy this season after fighting through injuries a season ago. Coach Hamel is liking what he is seeing from his team so far and expects some new names to step up.
Rock Hills opens the season at Blue Valley-Randolph tonight.
Also on the east side are the Lakeside Knights in District 4. Lakeside went just 2-7 last season and lost two-year starting QB Caleb Hake. They return five starters on each side, led by Wyatt Eberle, who had 120 tackles and seven tackles for loss in 2018. Lakeside is still a young team this season as all but two of their expected key players are freshmen and sophomores as coach Drew Duskie explains.
The Knights open the season tonight at Thunder Ridge. Fans can hear that game on KD Country 94 and kdcountry94.com with pregame coverage at 6:30 and kickoff at 7:00.
Pike Valley opens their season at Hanover tonight. After going 4-5 in 2018, the Panthers return six starters on each side of the ball in Jeremy Miller’s second year as head coach. RB’s Kane Johnson and Tristyn Garman both graduated as they combined for nearly 1,400 yards and 20 TD rushing. The top returner for Pike Valley is LB Ethan Marcotte who had 78 tackles.
The other two teams that compete in 8-Man DII District 4 are Southern Cloud and Tescott. The Warriors top returner is Morgan Coleman who had 84 tackles and 9 TFL last season. Southern Cloud opens their season on Friday against Wilson in Miltonvale.
Tescott went 0-9 in 2018 and averaged just 6.4 ppg. They are a young group this season as Daymon Walker is back for his 14th season as head coach. The Trojans open the season at Lincoln tonight.