Photo by Kel Lorenz
First cousins Braden Peterson of Edgemont and Matt Close of Hot Springs hold onto the state championship trophy they helped secure for the Bison after they combined on an interception in the end zone with less than a minute to play versus Elk Point-Jefferson. Braden’s mom is Becky Harding and Matt’s mom is Sarah Close who are the two youngest daughters of Dick and Mary O’Connor of Hot Springs.
By Richard Anderson
VERMILLION -- The last two years have been an ‘all in the family affair’ for seniors Braden Peterson and Matt Close at Hot Springs High School.
Edgemont High School’s unfortunate circumstance that led the school to drop its 9-man football program proved to be Hot Springs’ gain.
Peterson, who lives in Edgemont, was able to play for the Bison because his school didn’t field a football program. Close, his cousin, couldn’t have been happier.
The final play on defense for the Bison in their 13-7 Class 11B state title win over Elk Point-Jefferson this past Friday, Oct. 10, in the DakotaDome was a Close-Peterson family reunion with the football.
Close tipped the pass to Peterson, who grabbed the interception in the end zone with under a minute to play to clinch the win.
“My sophomore year I was trying to go out for football, but we couldn’t field enough guys,” Peterson said of the Moguls. “The summer afterwards I discussed with my parents that I wanted to go play football. My cousin goes to Hot Springs, which is only 30 minutes away, so after a lot of convincing they finally said, ‘let’s do it.’ I think that was the greatest choice I’ve ever made in my life.”
The Bison couldn’t agree more.
“He is a special guy that was huge for us,” Hot Springs head coach Ben Kramer said of Peterson, who is also one of the top sprinters in the state. “Last year we moved him around. I think we stuck him at quarterback a little bit, at wide receiver some and we kind of found a spot with him at running back. He didn’t miss workouts, he didn’t miss open field. He really started to show some things at team camp in the middle of June and continued with the process. Even throughout the season from game one to where he is at, probably more in his blocking than his ability to carry the ball. We really started to see improvements in the last half of the season.”
Close said he had been trying to get him over to Hot Springs since he was in elementary school and he finally got his wish two years ago.
“It’s just been a long time. He’s been my best friend for many years and it’s just awesome that it ended up being him,” he said of that final interception.
Peterson would make the drive to Hot Springs daily or stay at this grandparents if he had an early practice or other school activity.
“The last two years, it’s really been a family between all of us guys,” Peterson said. “I don’t know where I would be without them.”
As could be expected, the Bison took home the three major awards for the game.
Maciejewski was named the game’s Joe Robbie Award winner as the most valuable player. He finished with 99 yards rushing on 17 carries and the 32-yard TD run. He also caught one pass for 11 yards. On defense, the all-state linebacker had eight tackles (five solo) and one interception that he returned for 57 yards.
“It feels good man, that’s all there is to it,” Maciejewski said of his Joe Robbie award.
Peterson was named the Most Outstanding Back as he ran 71 yards on 13 carries, with a long of 25 yards. He also caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Iverson in the second quarter that proved to be the winning score.
“We had discussed, depending on where the safety was, that we’re just going to throw it to the opening spot, which was the middle of field in that case,” Peterson said of the long TD reception. “He and I both knew it. It was kind of a chemistry thing. We both knew I was wide open in the center of the field, so I ran a post and he placed it right in my lap, right into my hands, and I ran it in.”
Rickenbach was named the Most Outstanding Lineman. He helped lead the Bison to 193 yards rushing and 102 yards passing for 195 total yards. On defense, he finished with nine tackles (six solo) and two quarterback sacks.
“I’m really proud of our line. It’s been a family within a family. Our offensive line and our defensive line have been amazing, just to go through the season with them,” Rickenbach said.
Going into Friday’s game, the Bison were scoring 43 points a game and giving up 7.5 points a game. Elk Point Jefferson was similar, scoring 35 points a game, giving up just 9.5 points per contest.
In the state playoffs, the Bison had outscored their opponents 90-30. EPJ had given up just 30 points in three games.
Naturally, there would be just 20 points total scored, all in the first half. That was fine with the Bison.
“I watched that nine-man game Thursday night. What was it, like 76-54?” Kramer said of Warner’s win over Deubrook Area. “We knew we weren’t going to get into one of those. Obviously we did what we had to do to get it done and thankfully and the score indicated that at the end.”
Take that bros
The Iverson name has been a big part of the Bison program for the last four or five years, and now Colin has some bragging rights over his twin older brothers, Landon and Preston, who were big parts of the Hot Springs program before graduating last spring.
Both are still playing football, on the college level, as Preston is at Dakota State University and Landon at Dakota Wesleyan University.
Colin, however, has a state title under his belt, something his older brothers couldn’t accomplish. Was he planning to rub it in a little bit?
“I’ll tell them I could do a job they couldn’t do,” Colin said with a laugh.
The Bison finished with 59 tackles, 25 solo and 24 assisted. They also had six tackles for a loss of 14 yards. Senior Chaney Klippenstein led the way with 10 tackles. Junior Aidyn Janis had seven stops and a quarterback sack, Modes Kerr finished with six and Peterson and Gabe Mauer added five each. Mauer also had one QB sack…Peterson finished with 177 all-purpose yards – 71 rushing, 79 receiving and 27 on kick returns. Maciejewski added 167 yards – 99 rushing, 11 receiving and 57 on an interception return…Iverson was 3-of-5 passing for 102 yards. He also added 38 on the ground…freshman Kyle Fisher had two punts for 89 yards, an average of 44.5 per punt…EPJ held a slight edge in time of possession, 24.33 minutes to 23:27…the game took just 2 hours and 12 minutes.