With plenty at stake heading into the Class 11AA playoffs, the Yankton football team will look to keep things rolling on Friday night when it hosts Douglas at 7 p.m. at Crane-Youngworth Field.
The Bucks (7-0), ranked No. 1 in their class, have two regular season games remaining before they begin their postseason push.
Douglas comes to Yankton with a 1-5 record and with a four-game losing streak in which the Patriots have been out-scored 143-30. Their only victory of the season came against Class 11A member Belle Fourche.
Here are five things about the Bucks heading into their eighth game of the season.
Second Half Dominance
It can be hard to explain.
Is it halftime adjustments? Is it depth? Is it something else?
Whatever the reason, the Bucks have dominated their opponents in the second half this season. They have out-scored their foes 140-26 after halftime, and have been particularly effective in the third quarter (96-6).
While Muth credited his coaching staff for making adjustments, he said there haven’t been any “wholesale changes” during those halftime conversations, only enough to correct the issues they diagnosed from the first half.
“Our players have done a great job responding and being smart enough to know what we are fixing and why we are fixing them,” Muth said.
The performances after halftime also speak to how the program has progressed, he added.
“Two years ago we weren’t very good after half,” Muth said. “It was something we worked on. That being said, we have a lot to work on.”
In five of their seven games, the Bucks have held an opponent scoreless after halftime, and 14 of those 26 points they’ve allowed after halftime came to Vermillion.
The key now, though, is to shore up every quarter of the game, according to Muth.
“Having a good third quarter is great, but we need to put together four quality quarters of play if we’re going to turn a corner here,” he said.
Give It The Boot
There was no injury involved or any sort of schematic change, but Yankton was once again able to showcase its kicking depth in last Friday night’s victory.
Sophomore Trevor Paulsen handled the kickoffs, punts and connected on 2-of-3 field goals, while junior Gavin Fortner was 5-of-5 on extra points and himself connected on a field goal.
On the season, Fortner is 31-of-32 on extra points with three field goals, while Paulsen has made seven field goals.
“They both do such a good job of taking coaching and fixing what needs to be corrected,” Muth said. “They both have things they’re very good at.”
Paulsen’s size lends itself for punting and kickoff, “but he can still get it through the uprights,” Muth said.
Fortner, meanwhile, had to prior to this week juggle both football and soccer — Yankton’s boys’ soccer team saw its season come to an end last week. The football coaches had to be careful with Fortner’s legs, according to Muth.
“That being said, he (Fortner) has extreme trust in the whole kicking process,” Muth added. “He and Rugby (Ryken) work really well together and he gets the ball up so quick.”
Ryken serves as the holder on extra points and field goals.
One of the key reasons why Yankton’s defense has continued to progress this season has been the emergence of junior linebacker Sam Kampshoff.
He intercepted two passes in last Friday night’s victory and has also recovered two fumbles this season.
Scouting The Patriots
Douglas, located in Box Elder and coached by Dan Maciejczak, boast what Muth called a physical and veteran team.
The Bucks, Muth added, will need to start fast and cut down on miscues. In last week’s victory in Huron, Yankton was held to a pair of field goals until late in the second quarter and was flagged for eight penalties in the first half.
Last week against St. Thomas More, Douglas senior running back Tyler Clark rushed for 142 yards, and the Patriots amassed 267 yards of offense, according to the Rapid City Journal.
Two Games Left
With two games remaining in the regular season, Yankton is marching closer to securing home field advantage through the first two rounds of the Class 11AA playoffs.
The Bucks come into Friday night’s game less than one percentage point ahead of Brookings for first place in Class 11AA — 44.000-43.571. If both Yankton and Brookings take care of business this week, they’ll each bring perfect 8-0 records into their Oct. 22 regular season finale in Brookings.
The top seed would then host the No. 8 seed in the quarterfinal round on Oct. 29, while the No. 2 seed would host the No. 7 seed. The way things stand right now, that would likely mean the Bucks would host either Douglas or Spearfish.
For now, though, Yankton is most concerned with playing at a high level at all times, according to Muth.
“When you get to this point in the season, it’s important that attention to detail is at its highest level,” he said.
The Bucks, Muth added, aren’t adding any new wrinkles — “we know who we are” — but will have to be mentally tough to fix any weaknesses they have.
“The season does begin to grind here in the next few weeks, and we’ve got to fight through that and focus on keep getting better,” he said.
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