For the fourth consecutive year, the Pierre T.F. Riggs Governors football team won the Class 11AA State Championship. They did so by defeating the Brookings Bobcats by a score of 38-6 in the DakotaDome in Vermillion on Friday, Nov. 13.
Neither team could get much going early on. The Govs got momentum late in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Lincoln Kienholz connected with senior tight end Aaron Booth on a long pass that the team just a few yards short of a touchdown. Kienholz punched the ball in to give the Govs a lead that they would not relinquish.
Brookings senior running back Josh Buri scored about a minute later, but the point-after attempt was blocked by Govs senior Cord Ellis.
Govs coach Steve Steele told the Capital Journal there might’ve been a few butterflies early in the contest.
“No. 60 (Parker Theobald) is a really good player, and that was a part of it,” Steele said. “He’s a tough guy to hold back, and we had a couple of holding penalties. I was proud of our guys for not getting flustered and finding ways to score in the first half.”
The second quarter saw the Govs stretch the lead against the Bobcats. Senior tight end Regan Bollweg only caught two balls all game, but both went for touchdowns in the second quarter. Sophomore wide receiver Jack Merkwan actually caught two touchdown passes on the same possession, but the first one was called back because of a penalty.
Why did the Govs have that kind of offensive explosion? Steele said it was because they understood what the Bobcats defense was trying to do.
“They’re a pretty vanilla defense, but they bring a lot of pressure,” Steele said. “We repped that a lot this week so that we could understand where they were coming from. Lincoln did a tremendous job there of finding the receiver, going through his progressions and getting the ball out quick.”
Neither team was able to score in the third quarter. The Govs added more points in the fourth quarter, however, as senior kicker Carston Miller connected on a 32-yard field goal. Senior Maguire Raske put the exclamation point on the victory with a 20-yard touchdown run.
Raske has been a part of all four State Championships that the Govs have won these past few years. To him, this championship tastes the sweetest.
“There’s something about starting both ways and being a senior that makes it special,” Raske said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more. We’ve got a great group of guys that made this year a lot of fun.”
The Govs churned out 17 first downs, while the Bobcats moved the sticks 10 times. The Govs compiled 300 yards of total offense, with 149 yards on the ground and 151 yards through the air. On the other hand, the Bobcats had 182 yards of total offense, with 158 rushing yards and just 24 passing yards.
Raske was named the Outstanding Back of the Game. He had 164 rushing yards on 28 attempts, as well as one interception. Senior defensive lineman Preston Taylor was named Outstanding Lineman of the Game by sacking Bobcats quarterbacks three times. Kienholz was named the Joe Robbie Most Valuable Player after completing 10-of-19 passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns. Kienholz also intercepted a Jaxon Bowes pass. A fourth Govs player, senior lineman Jayce Beastrom, recovered a fumble for the third Bobcats turnover.
The Govs have 20 seniors graduating from the team. Those seniors are:
Collin Brueggeman and
Steele said every senior group is fun to watch.
“A lot of people were hoping this was the year that we would go down,” Steele said. “These guys didn’t want any part of that. It’s fun to see these guys come together and get it done.”
Raske, reflecting on his career, said it’s been quite the ride.
“I played quite a bit as a freshman, started as a sophomore and a junior, and played both ways as a senior,” Raske said. “To have won state four years in a row, how bad could my career have been? I’ve been blessed with a great team and great coaches.”
The Govs finish the season with a 9-2 record.