Aberdeen Central's football team didn't throw in the towel after an 0-3 start under first-year head coach Justin Briese. Maybe Watertown can follow suit.
The two teams continued to head in opposite directions Friday night when the Golden Eagles spoiled the Arrows' homecoming with a 17-0 Eastern South Dakota Conference victory at Watertown Stadium.
Aberdeen Central improved to 3-3 with its third-straight win. The Arrows to fell to 1-5 with their fourth-straight loss.
Here's five takeaways from Friday's game.
Aberdeen Central has turned things around
Sure, the Golden Eagles had the most daunting season-opening schedule in Class 11AA football this fall, having to open with games against top-rated Pierre and second-rated Tea Area. Aberdeen Central did lose those games 54-15 and 35-0. An 18-13 loss at Sturgis in Week 3 may not have been as easily forgivable, but the Golden Eagles haven't lost since.
Aberdeen Central beat Mitchell 27-13 and Huron 24-7 before posting the shutout Friday night. It's been more than a favorable schedule that has made the difference.
"There's progress being made," said Briese. "We came in and changed things offensively and it was a just matter of time before those things started to click. The kids work hard in practice and we're finally starting to carry that over into games and take advantage of the opportunities we get."
Defense and running the ball are Aberdeen Central's strengths
The keys to the turnaround for the Golden Eagles were evident Friday with a defense that, at least on the final scoreboard, didn't give up a point and an rush-first offense featuring 215-pound senior running back Karson Carda, junior fullback Austin Erickson and senior Drew Salfrank, among others.
Post-game stats showed Aberdeen Central gained 168 yards on 45 carries and outgained Watertown by only a 260-236 margin in total offense. It didn't seem that close, especially in the second half when the Golden Eagles held the ball for much of it.
Leading the way was Carda, who had a number of key runs in the game and capped the game's scoring with a 1-yard TD plunge with 7:20 remaining.
"That's the basis for our offense. We want to establish the run," said Briese. "It's South Dakota, so you have to be able to run the ball and our personnel doesn't allow us to go 4 or 5 wide. We run to the strength of our team, which is to line up and let the big boys do their job."
Aberdeen Central's other scoring in the game came on a 30-yard field goal by Tayden Brownson to cap the first offensive possession and on a 35-yard TD run by Salfrank with 4:23 left in the second quarter. The Golden Eagles led 10-0 at halftime.
"The defense pitched a shutout. It's hard to lose when they don't score," said Briese. "Our defense has done that all year. They put us in great position, getting us the ball by making stops or creating turnovers."
Missed opportunities galore for Watertown
Not to take anything from Aberdeen Central, but Watertown doesn't have to look far to wonder why things didn't go its way on Friday.
After Brownson's field goal put the Golden Eagles ahead, the Arrows marched down the field before having a touchdown run by Juven Hudson wiped out by a holding call. They settled for a 22-yard field goal attempt by Riley Fischer that was blocked.
In the final 10 seconds of the first half, Watertown's Alex Kahre connected with Dalton Baumberger on a 20-yard touchdown pass. The play was also nullified by a holding penalty. For those counting, the Arrows had at least three holding penalties and two of them wiped out TDs.
"We had opportunities to score about 28 points," said Watertown head coach John Hodorff. "We were in the red zone four or five times. Offensively, we played pretty well between the 20s. Then we got inside the 20 and still played OK, but we just shot ourselves in the foot a few times."
A big run by Hudson gave Watertown another good scoring chance in the second half, but the Arrows lost the ball on a fumble a few plays later. It was one of three lost fumbles for the Arrows.
The Class 11AA playoff picture
One thing about Class 11AA football is that it does appear to be a little top heavy with Pierre and Tea Area, and possibly No. 3 Yankton in the mix too. Friday's win certainly didn't hurt Aberdeen Central's bid to ensure it at least qualifies for the playoffs.
Aberdeen Central has remaining games against Yankton, No. 4 Class 11AA Brookings and No. 5 Class 11AAA Sioux Falls Lincoln.
"This is a big step," said Briese. "It helps us with our seeding for sure but at the same time, we still have three more games to go. If we can knock off a few more wins, it will help us get an even higher seeding for the playoffs."
Even though Hodorff knew his team missed some chances, he still credited Aberdeen Central.
"They're a better football team than what everybody thinks," said Hodorff. "Carda is a good running back. He runs really hard. They're getting better. We didn't this week."
Can Watertown follow Aberdeen Central's lead?
The Golden Eagles could have given up after an 0-3 start. To their credit, they didn't.
Although not all of Friday's Class 11AA games have been updated on the South Dakota High School Activities Association website, the four-game losing streak has left Watertown on the edge of even qualifying for the state playoffs.
There's still time to turn things around potentially winnable games at Mitchell next week, followed by a home game with Spearfish. The Arrows close out their season by hosting Tea Area.
"We have Mitchell next week and if we can show up and play hard, and not have all the distractions of throughout the week that we had this week, we'll have a chance to win a football game," said Hodorff.
Hudson continues to lead the Arrow offense. He rushed 12 times for 127 yards. Quarterback Alex Kahre completed 10 of 16 passes for 118 yards, connecting with Drew Denzer twice for 58 yards. Jesse Werner caught three passes and Ashton First In Trouble and Dalton Baumberger each two.
Brayden Ross had an interception for the Arrow defense, which got eight tackles from Simon Hendricks, seven from Baumberger, 5.5 including a quarterback sack from Spencer Wientjes, five each from Marcus Rabine and Caden Beauchamp and 4.5 from Austin Johnson.
"We have to be able to finish once we get into the red zone and we also have to be better mentally," said Hodorff. "We gave up a first down on a third-and-19 pass that went through somebody's hands and also fumbled inside the 20 once. Those little things kill you."
Florence-Henry 40, Great Plains Lutheran 12: Mehki Keller scored three touchdowns and Tegan Sumner ran for one and passed for two others to lead the Falcons (4-2, 3-0) to the Eastern Coteau Conference win. Keller scored on a 4-yard run, 55-yard fumble return and 45-yard pass from Sumner. Sumner dashed 26 yards for a score and also completed a 5-yard TD pass to Trevor Rawlins. Karter Kohlenberg contributed a 24-yard scoring run. Keller rushed for 82 yards and Sumner passed for 89. Keller also joined Clay Trupe and Kohlenberg with interceptions.
The Panthers (3-3, 1-2) scored on a 28-yard run by Kowynn Muhl and an 8-yard run by Parker Walkins. Micah Holien rushed 23 times for 105 yards. Jacob Bartels made six tackles, Myles York five and Holien and Joseph Dahlberg each four. Dahlberg was credited with 1 1/2 quarterback sacks, Holien recovered a fumble and York blocked a field goal.
Todd County 16, Tiospa Zina 14: Todd County improved to 6-0 with the All-Nations Conference win. The Wambdi slipped to 3-3.
Warner 8, Hamlin 6: Despite being outgained 301 to 46 in total yards, second-rated Class 9A Warner (6-0) found a way to knock off third-rated Class 9AA Hamlin (6-1). The Monarchs scored with 34 seconds left in the first half on a 4-yard run by Hunter Cramer that was followed by a conversion pass from Cramer to Landon Jensen. The TD was set up by a 46-yard interception return by Cramer. Cramer made 15.5 tackles, Ashton Schuchhardt 12 and Jensen 7.5.
Hamlin scored early in the fourth quarter on a 1-yard run by Tyson Stevenson. Stevenson was stopped short on the potential game-tying conversion run. Stevenson completed eight of 14 passes for 78 yards and Luke Fraser ran 28 times for 206 yards. Kasen Prouty added 8.5 tackles and Zach VanMeeteren intercepted a pass.
Iroquois-Lake Preston 20, Colman-Egan 18 (2 OTS): Jake Larsen's conversion run after Josh McMasters hit Ryne Greene on a 6-yard scoring pass lifted the Sharks (1-6) past the Hawks (0-6) in the Dakota Valley Conference thriller. Ben Zwart scored on a 1-yard pass from Jack Mousel for Colman-Egan to snap a 0-0 tie and Larson had a 1-yard game-tying TD run by Larson with 3:11 left.
Logan Voelker scored on a 10-yard run in the first overtime for Colman-Egan, followed by a 2-yard TD run by ILP's Haydon Shurson. Voelker again added a 10-yard TD run in the second OT before ILP answered with the game-winning score.
Larsen ran for 91 yards and Shurson 84 for the Sharks, who got seven tackles from Bergen Woodcock, 6.5 each from Riley Casper and Greene and six from Larsen. Voelker rushed for 190 yards for Colman-Egan, which was led by Jackson Wright's 10.5 tackles and Zwart's 10.
Estelline-Hendricks 63, Waverly-South Shore 18: Caden Ching ran for 90 yards and three TDs (10, 21 and 17 yards), caught a 24-yard TD pass from Mattix Hausman and also threw a 38-yard TD pass to Trey Cass for the 4-2 Redmen. Hausman, who passed for 139 yards, also connected with Braxton Saathoff (8 yards) and Joseph McAninch (16 yards) on TD passes and scored on a 6-yard run. McAninch ran for 153 yards and a 9-yard score. Ching added seven tackles.
Troy Kneeland passed for 142 yards and teamed with Cody Thompson (23 yards) and Colton Kranz (26 yards) on scoring passes for the Coyotes (0-6). Thompson recorded 10 tackles, Kneeland seven and Wyatt Endres six and Carson Meadors added an interception.
Clark-Willow Lake 55, Dakota Hills 0: Eight players had a hand in touchdowns to lead Clark-Willow Lake (4-3) to the win over Dakota Hills (0-7). Cole Brenden rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns. Elliot Bratland, Mitchell Larson, Diego Garcia, Mato Denoyer and Turner Fjelland each added TD Runs. Denoyer's came on a 47-yard jaunt. Trey Huber also threw a 34-yard scoring pass to Jack Helkenn.
The Cyclones gained 273 yards in a half and limited to the Grizzlies to a minus-1 yard of total offense, getting six tackles apiece from Cole Heiman and Chase Chambers. Chambers also recovered a fumble. Caleb Miller made eight stops and Brooks Dolen seven for Dakota Hills.
Castlewood 55, Oldham-Ramona-Rutland 6: Third-rated Class 9A Castlewood (5-1) got touchdown runs from Lane Tvedt (2 yards), Carson Kirwan (44 yards), Joe Decker (5 yards), Booker Schooley (13 yards) and Yader Munoz (62 yards). Tvedt also tossed TD passes for Kirwan (59 yards) and Decker (9 yards) for the Warriors, who outgained the 1-5 Raiders 225-9 in total yardage.
Quincy Thu, who scored on a 71-yard punt return, made 4.5 tackles and Schooley and Kirwan each four.
Deuel 50, Tripp-Delmont/Armour/Andes Central/Dakota Christian 0: Owen Quail rushed for 91 yards and four touchdowns to carry Deuel (6-1) to its fifth-straight win. Trey Maaland completed eight of 12 passes for 226 yards, connecting with Josh Mussi three times for 78 yards and two scores. Dominic Constant ande Carsen Marko added TD runs. Gavin Benck had two receptions for 81 yards.
Deuel outgained TDA-AC-DC (2-4) 439-33 in total yards, getting four tackles from Constant. Braydon Simon added an interception, Ronnie Begalka a fumble recovery and Robbie Begalka a quarterback sack.
Webster Area 28, Groton Area 21: Webster Area took the Northeast Conference game, improving to 2-5 and dropping Groton Area to 2-6.
Carson Mount scored on two TD runs, including a 51-yarder, for the Bearcats. Trey Dunse returned an interception 65 yards and Brent Bearman rushed 60 yards for other scores. Bearman finished with 102 yards rushing and Mount 82. Jacob Keller caught four passes for 60 yards. Bearman made nine tackles and Keller seven.
Andrew Marzahan finished with 96 yards rushing and two TDs for Groton Area. Tate Larson caught a 6-yard TD pass from Lane Tietz, who completed 20 of 36 passes for 183 yards. Larson made seven catches for 69 yards. Logan Ringgenberg and Holden Sippel each contributed 12 tackles.
Sioux Falls Christian 35, Milbank 6: Tate Snyder passed for 96 yards and two scores to lead the fifth-rated Class 11A Chargers (4-2) to the win. Carter Van Donge (44 yards) and James Woodward (19 yards) made the scoring catches. Johnny Skyberg and Bradyn Witte each scored on TD runs. The Chargers also had a 56-yard scoring run. Skyberg rushed for 69 yards and Witte 58. Cole Snyder intercepted a pass.
Garrett Mertens, who had 30 yards rushing and 36 passing, threw a 10-yard TD pass to Brayden Christiansen for Milbank (0-6). Barrett Schneck contributed 11 tackles and Jayden Johnson six.
Britton-Hecla 51, Langford Area 19: BoDell Davidson rushed for 208 yards and four touchdowns (5, 2, 42 and 50 yards) and also completed four of six passes for 83 yards and a 5-yard score to Gage Storley for the 4-2 Braves. Tucker Mertens rushed for 117 yards and two scores (7 and 59) yards and Bryce Hawkinson added 5-yard TD run. Britton-Hecla racked up 530 yards of total offense and got seven stops from Mertens and five from Davidson.
Jesse Keough rushed for 197 yards and three scores (11, 50 and 55) for Langford Area, which fell to 0-7. Keough also caught five passes for 78 yards and recorded 10 tackles. Kasen Keough passed for 92 yards and Kalen Godel rushed for 72. Conner Glines added 6.5 tackles and Godel 5.5.
Canistota 52, Deubrook Area 24: Noah Kleinsasser's four touchdowns a safety carried Canistota (3-4) past Deubrook Area (4-3). Kleinsasser rushed for 74 yards and three touchdowns, returned a kickoff 57 yards for another score and also made 6.5 tackles including one for a safety. Tage Ortman rushed for 125 yards and joined Cayden Scott and Easton Miller with TD runs.
Jaxon Quail rushed for TD runs of 4 and 55 yards for the Dolphins, who also scored on a 63-yard pass from Jace Vomacka to Nolan Peterson. Devon Landmark had 5.5 tackles.
De Smet 1, Arlington 0: The fifth-rated Class 9B Bulldogs improved to 5-1 with forfeit win over Arlington (0-6).
The Arlington School District made the announcement Thursday on Facebook: "Due to a significant number of injuries to our players, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our football game with De Smet for Friday, Sept. 30, as well as the JV game on Monday, Oct. 3."
Sioux Valley 55, Baltic 0: The Cossacks improved to 4-3 and dropped Baltic to 0-7.
Redfield 37, Parker 12: Redfield (4-2) won the battle of Pheasants. Parker slipped to 1-6.
Lidgerwood, N.D. 53, Tri-State 0: Lidgerwood won for the sixth time in seven games and handed the Tigers their seventh-straight loss.
Herreid-Selby Area 60, Northwestern 20: Brenden Begeman had another huge game, rushing 10 times for 277 yards and five touchdowns (24, 38, 59, 64 and 65 yards) for the top-rated Class 9B Wolverines (6-0). Tray Hettick passed for 259 yards and three scores, two to Trevor Gill (64 and 83 yards) and another to Darion Barker (45 yards). Matthew Neeley added a 70-yard kickoff return for a score and Nathan Bradford made 10 tackles.
Jude Ortmeier scored on a 33-yard run and caught a 7-yard TD pass from Dallas Stoltenberg for Northwestern (1-6), which also got a 45-yard TD run from Cameron Wilson and an 80-yard kickoff return by Ashton Remily.
Faulkton Area 54, North Central 3: Garrett Cramer rushed for 129 yards and two scores and Layne Cotton scored on a 30-yard run and tossed a 13-yard TD pass to Spencer Melius for Faulkton Area (4-3). Roman DiMaria also had two scores, one on a 6-yard run and the other on a 77-yard kickoff return. Carter Schulte and Spencer Melius added TD runs. Cotton passed for 99 yards.
Landon Wolf kicked a 41-yard field goal for North Central (1-5). Spencer Buechler rushed for 83 yards.
Colome 44, Sunshine Bible Academy 13: Colome evened its record at 3-3. The Crusaders are now 0-6.
Leola-Frederick Area 26, Potter County 12: The Titans won the battle of 2-3 teams.
Woonsocket-Wessington Springs-Sanborn Central 42, Mobridge-Pollock 14: Mobridge-Pollock slipped to 3-4 with the loss to WWSSC (5-2).
Friday's Other South Dakota Scores
Avon 36, Alcester-Hudson 22
Belle Fourche 51, Lakota Tech 20
Bon Homme 62, Chester 7
Chamberlain 25, Vermillion 14
Dakota Valley 47, Lennox 24
Dell Rapids 20, Beresford 6
Dupree 40, Newell 2
Elk Point-Jefferson 55, Miller/Highmore-Harrold 0
Flandreau 21, Jim River 19
Freeman/ Marion/ Freeman Academy Co-op 44, Gayville-Volin 32
Hanson 51, Garretson 0
Harrisburg 36, Sioux Falls Washington 7
Howard 48, Viborg-Hurley 12
Huron 32, Douglas 14
Irene-Wakonda 29, Burke 28
Kimball/White Lake 50, Dell Rapids St. Mary 20
Lead-Deadwood 40, Custer 6
Lyman 54, Bennett County 0
Madison 21, Canton 14
Mt. Vernon/Plankinton 48, Wagner 24
New Underwood 38, Jones County 28
Parkston 32, Gregory 25
Philip 20, Kadoka Area 8
Pierre 43, Brandon Valley 34
Platte-Geddes 42, Wolsey-Wessington 24
Rapid City Central 47, Sioux Falls Roosevelt 18
Rapid City Christian 55, Hill City 8
Sioux Falls Jefferson 42, Sioux Falls O'Gorman 17
Sioux Falls Lincoln 37, Rapid City Stevens 34, OT
Spearfish 26, Mitchell 21
Standing Rock, N.D. 50, Cheyenne-Eagle Butte 0
Tea Area 57, Sturgis Brown 7
Timber Lake 22, Stanley County 20
Wall 55, Harding County/Bison Co-op 0
West Central 48, Tri-Valley 0
Winner 36, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan 0
Woonsocket/Wessington Springs/Sanborn Central 42, Mobridge-Pollock 24
Yankton 38, Brookings 27
This article originally appeared on Watertown Public Opinion: Aberdeen wins big game against Watertown in ESD football.