KBHB Music Vault 6:00pm - 11:59pm
Closings, Cancellations and Delays

Scooper Football Team Begins 2020 Campaign

Terry Anderson, KBHB Sports - August 28, 2020

STURGIS, S.D. -- The Sturgis Scooper football team heads into the 2020 fall season with a roster of more than 40 players, 10 of whom are seniors.  The Scoopers are coming off a four win, six loss season where they accomplished several goals, including making the playoffs as a #4 seed.  Sturgis hosted the #5 seeded Mitchell Kernals at Woodle Field in a home playoff game but came up a touchdown short in a 35-28 loss.  Scooper head coach Chris Koletzky is in his sixth year and says the team has similar goals this season.

“One goal that we’re still trying to work on is getting that first conference championship,” Koletzky said.  “Since we’ve come back to the Black Hills Conference we haven’t gotten that conference title.  We don’t talk about getting to the Dakota Dome for a state championship.  That’s a goal that every team has, we know that.  So we’re focusing on a conference championship, being above .500 for the season.  And as a coach, really trying to push that 3.0 grade point average for our players.  Those are the goals that we focus on.”

The 2020 football schedule looks tough on paper, with the opening home matchup with the defending state champion Pierre Governors on Friday night, Aug. 28, St. Thomas More at home in week two on Sept. 4, and the Brookings Bobcats on the road in week three on Sept. 11.  Koletzky says games against Huron, Yankton and Mitchell in games five, six and seven will be a true test for the Scoopers.

“Double A football is tough,” he said.  “Activities Director Todd Palmer came out and talked to our team and told the players that they need to work to gain some respect from East River football teams.  We want those teams to know what they’re going to get against Sturgis, that’s what we’ve been scratching and clawing for the last couple of years.  When we play Mitchell, Huron and Yankton we’re not going to lay down, we’re going to give you a game, we’re going to compete.”

The 2019 Sturgis Scooper offense was made up of a group of players who had a lot of success through the years, led by Quarterback Zach Shoun, receiver Josh Fowler and full back Trevor Erlenbusch, the Scoopers finished last season with four wins and six losses, coming up just short in week one of the high school football playoffs.  Sturgis lost 14 seniors to graduation, including the entire starting offensive line. 

“The biggest challenge is going to be our offensive line,” Koletzky said.  “We knew it was coming and our coaches have worked with the younger players to develop their skills.” 

The Scoopers also lost Shoun, Erlenbusch and Folwer to graduation.  Koletzky has players that will step up to fill those roles, including Kaden Phillips and Sanden Graham.  Koletzky said he has two young signal callers who are battling for the Quarterback position.

“Right now we have junior Tanner Ortleib and sophomore Owen Cass competing for Quarterback,” he said.  “We’re not sure who we’re going to start but we will have it figured out before the Pierre game, obviously.  When Owen throws the football it comes off his hand, it pops off his hand.  But he has a lack of experience at playing at the Varsity level.  Cass definitely has all the tools and we’re excited for his future, excited for our future that he can bring, now it’s just trying to put him in situations that are stressful and competitive and develop him into more of a vocal leader.”

The Scooper defense brings back some solid experience and some young, promising prospects.

“The strength of our defense is going to be our linebacking crew,” Koletzky said.  “Sanden Graham will play our rush-linbacker which is our hybrid defensive scheme.  Wren Jacobs comes back and he’s going to be paired with his brother, Reese at linebacker. We have Talon Elshere, a very talented kid, a rodeo kid, who’s very tough playing at the linebacker position.  That’s going to be our strength.  On our defensive line we have Brad Williams, Ben Eberhard and Jerod Duran, who’s worked very hard. We’re going to be young in the defensive secondary, that’s going to be one of our biggest challenges, to get those guys in position so we don’t give up as many big plays as we did last year.  That’s been the emphasis in the defensive secondary, to be more sound, more simplified in our approach.  The defensive backfield is going to be young.”

Coach Koletzky brings back kicker and punter Brodie Eisenbraun, who earned all-state honors last season and is getting some interest from colleges around the nation.

“Brodie has worked really hard on his craft, going to kicking camps this past summer and kicking during his free time down at Woodle Field,” he said.  “I’m looking forward to him being a threat, when we get down in the red zone, we can almost count on at least three points.  We were watching him punt today and he’s getting some serious hang time on his punts.  He’s definitely an asset to our football team.”

Koletzky has 10 assistant coaches on the Scooper roster, including coaches with decades of experience and some new additions to the sidelines.  Ten assistants may sound excessive, but each coach brings something different to the team.

“I’m about as excited as anyone can get about our assistant coaches,” he said.  “I’m just tickled to death at what those guys bring to practice and we haven’t always had that.  We hired a new guy, Tyler Lewis, from Chadron State College.  He was a hard-nosed player on the field and he brings that experience to our team.  He’s going to be our defensive coordinator for our younger players.  We added Derris Buus to our sideline, the head boys’ basketball coach, so that’s going to make us better.  Our special teams guy, Josh Kirschner, has a knack for special teams, finding where we can gain advantages.  Ward Anderson works his tail off with the offensive guys.  Geody Vandewater works with our offensive line, and Tom Donney is our defensive line coach.  Donney used to coach at Black Hills State and has 30-years of experience in high school and college.  We have Travis Parker, helping out with the defensive line as well.”

Koletzky had a lot of praise for assistant coach Taylor Buus, who ran the strength and conditioning program for the Scooper sports teams this past summer.

“He’s a great young coach, he worked 10 hour days at the weight room all summer.  He was there all day and that enabled us to not have any excuses for our kids.  I joke with him that when you have a family, that changes, but right now you’re single and don’t have anything else to do.  We’re lucky to have him.  We’re going to start seeing in two or three years how (the strength and conditioning program) is going to pay off.”

High school football coaches know that before you can build a winning program, you have to establish a culture of discipline, work ethic and teamwork.  Koletzky and his assistant coaches work hard to develop their players on and off the field and hold the players to a high standard.

“We have three pillars: competitive excellence, power of the unit and relentless pursuit,” he said.  “Our kids should compete for positions, playing time and earning that playing time.  Nothing is going to be given to them, they need to go out and earn it.  We talk about ‘power of the unit’, putting the team first.  We want a group of kids that care about each other on and off the field.  The last one is ‘relentless pursuit’, where we strive to do our best in the classroom, and on the field.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been looming large over everything since last spring, this past summer and now into the fall sports season. 

“The pandemic has already affected us,” Koletzky said.  “We had a kid test positive before camp this summer.  We do split them up, 9-10th grade and 11th through 12th, they aren’t intermixed.  The positive test affected the 9-10th class for a couple of practices.  We have a checklist before each practice, we have a sprayer we spray down the balls and bags before each practice and we told the kids to be honest.  If you’re not feeling well, have a raspy voice, losing sense of taste or smell then stay home where you’re going to be safe.  That’s the hardest thing as a coach to do, you want your kids there, but if we want to get to the end of the season, you have to take those precautions to be safe and we’re totally fine with that.  The COVID is the big question mark and the biggest thing I’ll tell our kids is that do not take anything for granted this year, when it comes to our first scrimmage, our first game, soak it all in, give 110% when you’re out there because you never know when it’s going to be shut down.”

All Scooper coaches, players and fans can do is take the 2020 season game by game, enjoying each one as it comes and hope the players can get in all nine regular season games and make a deep run into the playoffs. 

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785