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Dakota Valley focuses on first state championship

NORTH SIOUX CITY, South Dakota (KTIV) — Dakota Valley has become an elite football program in South Dakota. The Panthers are ranked second in the Class 11-A preseason poll.

Two years ago, Dakota Valley lost in the state finals. Last year the Panthers, who started 8-0, lost in the state semifinals. DV will try to put that disappointment behind them.

“Last year didn’t end the way we wanted. We played a good game and came up short,” said head coach Jeff VanDenHul. “We have to turn that page and move on and get ready for our first game this year.”

This year’s roster features 13 seniors. Six lineman are at least 225 pounds, which should lead to more big plays for their single-wing offense which averaged nearly 40 points per game last season.

“I think our offensive line is going to be really good,” said senior TE/DE Braeden Wright. “With the offense that we run, it’s really important that our offensive line does do their job every play and I think we have the offensive line capable of doing that.”

“We just need to stay physical, stick to what we usually do which is being physical, keeping on our grind, just stay working,” said senior FB/LB Johnny Tureaud.

“I think we’re really athletic,” said senior RB/CB Eric Johnson. “Our skill position players all-around athletic and really physical. That’s the two things we fall back on.”

There are no easy games on DV’s schedule. The Panthers play four ranked teams in the first five weeks.

“We want to be pushed and we want to get better,” said VanDenHul. “And nothing gets you better like playing good teams. You’re right, our schedule is really tough this year but we know that’s going to make us a better team at the end of the season when it really counts.”

DV opens the season at third-ranked Madison on August 30. The home opener is against Yankton, who’s ranked second in Class 11AA. They go to Milbank in week three. Then it’s home games against 4th-ranked Sioux Falls Christian and fifth-ranked West Central.

Brad Pautsch

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