That was the final score when the Pierre T.F. Riggs Governors took on the Spearfish Spartans in the first round of the Class 11AA Playoffs on Thursday night at Phil Trautner Stadium at Hollister Field.
The Govs were up 35-0 five minutes into the first quarter, and 42-0 after the first quarter ended. Senior quarterback Garrett Stout had a kickoff return for a touchdown, and five passing touchdowns, four of which were split between junior tight end Regan Bollweg and junior running back Maguire Raske. The first string players came out of the game midway through the second quarter. The Govs led 75-0 at halftime, and 96-0 after three quarters. Once the starters left the game, the Govs only passed the ball four more times.
The Capital Journal caught up with Govs head coach Steve Steele a couple of days after Thursday’s game. After Steele had a few days to think it, he said the game was polarizing for all involved.
“It was one of the most polarizing mixture of emotions we’ve ever had at the conclusion of any game,” Steele said. “Being so proud of every kid that stepped onto the field for us for giving every play their very best and earning the success that they experienced throughout the game, while also feeling sick for how the other sideline had to be feeling. Knowing what it feels like to be on that sideline really makes your heart hurt for their players, coaches, and community. But at the same time again, you are so proud of each and every Gov that represented our community in a great way as well.”
Steele said he’s thought about what he would have done differently for Thursday’s game.
“Usually, it’s a close loss that causes an extra long reflection for what could’ve went differently, but this did as well,” Steele said. “As the game unfolded, so many different things come into play from trying to organize subs at many different junctures, to still trying to get formations and plays in, to trying to coach up players with less experience on how to do their jobs, all while trying to figure out how to handle the situation at hand. With the limited amount of time you have in a game, there are probably things we could have done better, but no matter how you slice it a very difficult situation to deal with.
Steele said there was no way the coaches could tell the kids not to give their best effort. According to Steele, every kid played the way they were supposed to.
The Govs were led by Stout, who broke the school record for touchdowns in a season after connecting on eight of 16 passes for 150 yards and five scores. Raske also scored five times, with three of those scores coming on the ground. Bollweg and junior lineman Gunnar Gehring each had a couple of sacks. Bollweg and Gehring have been battling all season to see which one of them will be on top of the record books in terms of single season sacks.
The score of the game received a great amount of attention from media outlets throughout the state, and even nationally in Minneapolis. Dan Patrick Show producer Paul Papst tweeted about the game, saying “C’mon Spearfish!” While the score is certainly alarming, and a team record for the Govs, it’s not the biggest blowout in South Dakota history. According to maxpreps.com, Miller defeated DeSmet 118-0 in 1918.
Currently, there is no mercy rule in Class 11AAA and Class 11AA. SDHSAA executive director Dan Swartos responded to some of the criticism of that rule by tweeting that both classes have resisted a mercy rule due to travel. There is a provision in the NFHS rule book that allows for games to have shortened quarters or be ended early, but coaches and officials have to agree to it. The clock became a running clock in the fourth quarter due to this rule. A running clock is something that Coach Steele is in favor of.
“Having experienced the running clock when we played down at West Central, we thought that was great,” Steele said. “It still allowed you to get younger players game experience and allowed them to showcase their preparation and execution while also speeding the game up to keep the end result easier to swallow. We don’t know that we would like the 50 and it’s over idea as you are taking those game reps away from kids on both sides, but a running clock would seem to be a happy medium.”
Steele told his players after the game to stay off social media, because there would be a lot of people saying negative things about him and his team based on the score. Despite all the negativity that has persisted the past few days, Steele said that he is thankful for the support him and the team have received.
“There is nothing in this world that going home, hugging your wife and children, and spending time with God can’t fix,” Steele told the Capital Journal. “No matter what happens in our lives, having a support system that you know loves you and is always there waiting with open arms is what matters in life, and our coaching staff models that and prays for everyone one of our players to have that right now as kids, as well as in their adult lives someday. We are all very thankful to have those right now and know that nothing people say define who we are as people or a football family.”
According to Steele, several people have reached out him and his team to lend their support. The community has rallied around the team and come to the Govs’ defense, be in publicly or privately.
“It’s been impossible to completely shelter ourselves from all of it, but we owe a gigantic thank you to everyone (players, coaches, school and community) for playing their part in making this program what it is, a family,” Steele said.
The Govs are now 10-0, while the Spartans end their season at 0-10. Lost in all the controversy is that the Govs still have to play some more games, the first being a matchup against the Mitchell Kernels on Friday night. Kickoff at Phil Trautner Stadium at Hollister Field is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. CT. The Govs defeated the Kernels 75-7 a few weeks ago in Mitchell, but the Kernels were without star running back Parker Phillips. Now that Phillips has returned, the Kernels defeated the Sturgis Brown Scoopers 35-28 in a battle that came down to the last minute. The winner of Friday’s game advances to the Class 11AA State Football Championship next week at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium in Brookings. Steele said that the entire community is ready to move forward to the next game.
“Parker Phillips is a great athlete that we will plan for and have to find a way to take away,” Steele said. “We planned for him last time and then had to adjust to what they did without him. So we can prepare very similar to how we did last time. But we obviously have to have a good week of practice and continue to put in the preparation time that is necessary to perform at the level we need to, but everyone is ready to turn the page and earn our opportunity to defend our title.