Photo by Kelvin Lorenz
Hot Springs juniors Dawson Kleppe (51) and Caleb Rickenbach (57) lead running back Landon Iverson across the line of scrimmage for a big gain against Aberdeen Roncalli last Thursday night. The Bison offensive line helped pave the way for a combined 448 yards on the ground for Hot Springs’ three-headed rushing attack including Preston Iverson with 197 yards, Landon Iverson with 174 yards and and Camron Maciejewski with 79 yards.
By Brett Nachtigall
ABERDEEN – Prior to their meeting last Thursday night in Aberdeen versus the Hot Springs Bison, the No. 2 Aberdeen Roncalli Cavaliers were an undefeated 9-0, which included five wins over ranked opponents where the point differential was an average of 32-5 in each game.
While that may have seemed like a deterrent for most teams who would have to travel across the state to face them in the second round of the Class 11B playoffs, it certainly was not for the Bison who dominated the Cavaliers in all aspects of the game and emerged with a decisive 28-0 win by more than doubling them up in total yards from scrimmage.
“I am so proud of this team,” said Hot Springs head coach Ben Kramer, who went on to describe his team with one word: “confidence.”
“They are not really phased by opponent’s records, rankings etc.,” he said. “It is not easy being heavy underdogs against a team you have never seen before in a big game.”
In their game played last Thursday, Oct. 27, at Northern State University’s Dakotah Bank Stadium, Coach Kramer said, “Getting on the scoreboard first was important. I do not think Roncalli has been behind all season. That put them in no mans land, a place they did not know how to work out of,”
And Hot Springs did just that with just over one minute left in the first quarter when senior Landon Iverson followed his blockers and broke some tackles on his way into the endzone from 27 yards out, which put Hot Springs up 7-0.
“Next step was to shut down the May kid,” Coach Kramer said, in reference to Roncalli’s 6-foot, 1-inch, 200-pound senior running back who had rushed for over 1,000 yards during the regular season. “We figured if we could hold him under 100 yards, we would be in a really good position.”
May was by far Roncalli’s leading rusher on the night, but finished with only 43 yards on 15 carries. In contrast, Hot Springs’ three-headed rushing attack combined for a total of 448 yards rushing, led by Preston Iverson with 197 yards and two touchdowns, Landon Iverson with 174 yards and two touchdowns and Camron Maciejewski with 79 yards.
“Finally, the plan was to not let off the gas under any circumstances,” Coach Kramer said. “One way or another, they were going to work if they were going to beat us. I would say the plan worked out well.”
Hot Springs more than doubled Roncalli in total yards, 454 to 213, while earning 22 first downs compared to only nine. Only once in the game did Roncalli threaten to score while deep in Hot Springs territory, but that was thwarted by a timely interception in the endzone by Landon Iverson as he jumped up into the air and snagged the ball before the taller receiver behind him could put hands on it.
"Offensively we had them on their toes, they really could not get a read on where we were coming from,” Kramer said. “Once you get a team guessing, you have basically won that part of the game.”
After taking the 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Bison were held scoreless in the remainder of the first half but finally added to their lead in the third quarter when Preston Iverson scored on a five yard run with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter. That score was set up by a long 45 yard run by Preston after the team was pinned inside their five yard line after a long punt. Twin brother Landon also had a pair of near-20-yard runs on the drive as well.
Preston scored again from five yards out to put the team up 21-0 with just under four minutes in the third quarter, which was set up by much longer runs earlier in the drive including a 26 yard run by Maciejewski.
Hot Springs final score of the game was an eight yard run by Landon Iverson with 8:46 left in the game.
“The offense was hard to duplicate in practice,” said Roncalli coach Billy Young to the Aberdeen American News after the game. “It’s just a tough offense, and you have to be right 100% of the time” or there is going to be a big gain.
Hot Springs was equally dominant on the defensive side of the ball as well.
“We were flying to the ball with 7-8 guys every play,” Coach Kramer said. “Again, we were able to take them out of their game plan and try to do things that they are not comfortable with.”
Maciejewski led the way with a total of 12 tackles (4 solo) followed by senior Dylan Webb with eight (1 solo), junior Colin Iverson with seven (3 solo), Caleb Rickenbach with seven (2 solo, 2 for loss), Landon Iverson with seven (1 solo), Preston Iverson with five (2 solo), along with five tackles each from Will Gilbertson, Chaney Klippenstein and Matt Close.
“This was another statement win for our program and an unbelievable win for this team,” Kramer said. “These guys put in so much time in the Spring/Summer and into Fall Camp. We brought back a ton of experience from a season ago and that is huge when you look year to year. Most importantly I think they just want to win way more than they want to lose. They are willing to do the hard stuff that most are not willing to. The Bridgewater game a year ago hurt all of us, we were better than losing in the first round so everyone, Coaches included, just made a commitment to getting better.”
Looking ahead to this week’s Class 11B semifinal matchup against another undefeated team in Elk Point-Jefferson, Coach Kramer said, “The last two weeks the theme has been, ‘it does not get easier,’ and this week does not.”
No.3-ranked Elk Point-Jefferson is currently 10-0, which includes six wins over ranked opponents where the point differential has been an average of 44-5 in each game.
Hot Springs (HS) and Elk Point-Jefferson (EPJ) share four common opponents, including McCook Central/Montrose (EPJ won 35-0, HS lost 7-16); Redfield (EPJ won 42-0, HS won 14-13); Rapid City Christian (EPJ won 58-7, HS won 42-0); and Bridgewater/Emery-Ethan (EPJ won 28-14, HS won 45-6).
“Elk Point-Jefferson has been banking on this class of 15 seniors for about three years,” Coach Kramer said. “This is their group; Coach Terry has molded these guys into a 10-0 football team. They are big, have multiple weapons and will formation you to death offensively. They run an offense similar to ours, except out of multiple formations. We will have our work cut out getting aligned correctly on each and every down. Again, this game will we be won and lost in the trenches. We will need our offensive line to play flawless and defensively, we will need to be disciplined and fly to the ball.”
“There’s only four teams left; we are not done yet!”