Nov. 24—PLATTE — Once Grayson Hanson and Bruce Hanson became a father and son duo at Platte-Geddes, the culture changed and shortly after, championships came.
Prior to Bruce Hanson stopping the program's coaching carousel in 2019, Platte-Geddes was 1-8 in 2018 and were struggling to find an identity. Three years later, the Black Panthers are basking in back-to-back Class 9AA championships, led by the senior stalwart Grayson Hanson, who turned into a do-to-it all standout.
"It was very special," Grayson Hanson said about hoisting the state title for the second year in a row. "My classmates and I have been playing together for a long time and we're happy that we got a win our last two years. Having that freshman year that we did, we never thought it would actually happen. Then the last two years it actually came true and we're very grateful that it happened for us."
Bruce Hanson's move to head coach in 2019 brought about a new defense and a new culture for the program, including the belief that they could only lose if they beat themselves. That led to a 4-6 season, the first home victory in two seasons, and set the table for big successes in 2020.
The Black Panthers proved themselves correct as they capped an undefeated 12-0 season winning by 30 points in the state title game, their first championship as a consolidated school. Hanson, the 2020 outstanding back of the Class 9AA championship game, had a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown and a receiving score, plus had a team-high seven tackles.
The following year, despite suffering two losses and being hit by the injury bug, Platte-Geddes ended its season on a five-game winning streak to deliver back-to-back Class 9AA championships. Hanson, the Joe Robbie MVP award winner for the second year in a row, led the team in rushing with 69 yards and one touchdown, went 5-for-7 passing for 77 yards, caught two receptions for 43 yards and was second on the team in tackles with 6.5.
"As a Dad, you're just really proud any time you see your kids succeed," Platte-Geddes coach Bruce Hanson said. "I'm very proud of him and it's gratifying because of where they started from ... The work they put in and the belief that they had in each other, I couldn't be prouder. The last three years have been unbelievable."
The all-around nature of Hanson's play and his role in Platte-Geddes' second consecutive state championship earned Grayson Hanson the Mitchell Republic's football player of the year award for 2021.
Since 1994, the Mitchell Republic football player of the year has been selected by the newspaper's sports staff, and conducted via a point-based voting system that awards five points to the top player, four points to the second player on the ballot and so on. Hanson received two first-place votes and 14 total points, and is the first player in Black Panther history to win the award.
Other players receiving consideration were Howard's Jace Sifore, Ty Beyer and John Callies, Parkston's Cole Prunty, Winner's Joey Cole and Aiden Barfuss, McCook Central/Montrose's Gavin Gordon and Lyman's Colton Collins.
Playing for Dad
Grayson Hanson's first time being coached by his dad was when he was seven years old, when the young grappler joined an AAU wrestling team in first grade. That bond continues on the wrestling mat today, where Bruce Hanson is an assistant coach for the Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes varsity program.
But it wasn't until 2019 that Bruce Hanson had the chance to coach his son on the football field.
"I was just hoping he'd do a good job," Grayson Hanson said. "He coached me in wrestling for quite a while and I knew he was someone that would get on us and make sure we did our absolute best. Every day, he's been pushing us and it's been paying off. ... Some of the conditioning wasn't the most fun, but it made us better people and got us through the year."
With the ability to reflect on the run, both equated the success of the team to the culture and attitude shift that the team needed. Grayson not only said the hours of film study and the manner in which they studied film changed, but the way the team rallied around each other was a major difference.
"It all changed when we got a new coach," Grayson Hanson said. "We had some coaching problems that first year and it just wasn't really working. Players weren't buying in because they hadn't been successful and then we got four new coaches and they started buying in and actually started trying in practice. Just like that, it flipped around."
Bruce Hanson, who works in construction, brought some grit and toughness to the football field, embracing both the little things needed to win and being a tough team when it counts.
"We've just become a lot tougher over the years," Bruce Hanson said. "Better at tackling and we just became a mentally tough team. I've just tried to bring some of that wrestling mindset into football ... We expected mental toughness out of everybody but Grayson led the way, especially these last couple of years. He knows the routine and he's always been a mentally tough kid."
Hanson, the running back and linebacker combo, who also took some snaps at quarterback finished his senior campaign with 1,328 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns, three passing touchdowns, two touchdown catches, 152 tackles, 10 forced fumbles and one interception on defense. He finished his career with 2,448 rushing yards, 36 rushing touchdowns, nine passing touchdowns, six touchdown receptions, 421 tackles, 18 forced fumbles and seven interceptions on defense.
Grayson Hanson was a player that would step up in key moments, his father said, something the Black Panthers will miss in 2022.
"I'll miss his leadership," Bruce Hanson said. "A lot of times, the kids and coaches sometimes look at certain players to step up and make a play and it seems like he was one of the guys that did that over and over again. I'm going to miss the heck out of him. It's going to be tough, it's going to be different."
A love for sports
Sports do not start and end for Grayson Hanson with football, who said he is also a wrestler and baseball lover at heart. In wrestling, he was third at the state tournament in 2021, had placed three times and has 176 career wins entering his senior season, while he hit .442 last season in baseball, playing shortstop and helping the high school team to the Class B state tournament.
His father says Grayson has always had a knack for knowing where the other team is positioned, where his teammates need to be and how to exploit weaknesses.
"Way back in little kid wrestling, I noticed he was smart because he always had a feel for things," Bruce Hanson said. "He studied kids before wrestling matches and would pick up little things that most people don't pick up, including some coaches ... With football, we would just watch hours of film together and he pretty much would know what teams are going to do or what plays they're going to run in certain moments. Most times, he would always find a way to win his matchup."
Grayson Hanson said he plans to play football in college, the sport he calls his first love, but all three sports have been equally enjoyable to him.
"Football, then baseball, then wrestling," Grayson Hanson said. "I've liked football ever since we started winning. It's always easier when you start winning, but I love playing baseball ... Being a shortstop and going up to the plate, it's right up there with football."
Combine all of that athletic prowess with a 4.0 grade-point average, and Hanson has his priorities in order.
"After practice, I just go home and study and get my work done," Hanson said. "You have to stay focused. Academics have to come first, so you can play sports."
He plans on playing college football, but is not far along in his recruitment process. The 6-foot, 175-pound senior has received multiple offers from NCAA Division II football programs, but didn't want to fill out any college applications until after the football season.
With his high school football career now over, he hopes to have an answer to his college decision soon. Regardless of what college he selects, he wants to study sports medicine.
Here's a look at the other players who received consideration, with their vote-point totals in parentheses:
Jace Sifore, Howard (11): The 6-foot-3, 260-pound defensive end recorded 46 tackles and four sacks for the Class 9A state champions. Sifore also recovered a fumble and had one interception on the season. The South Dakota State commit added 17 receptions for 401 yards and nine touchdowns on offense.
Cole Prunty, Parkston (4): Prunty finished his senior season with 1,503 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound running back also caught six passes for 115 yards and had nine kickoff/punt returns for 182 yards. He also had 19 tackles and three interceptions on defense.
Ty Beyer, Howard (4): Beyer rushed for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Class 9A state champions. He caught five receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown, while adding 173 tackles and one interception on defense.
Joey Cole, Winner (3): The 6-foot-4 quarterback completed 69 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns. Cole rushed for 13 touchdowns in his senior year, while adding 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss on defense.
John Callies, Howard (3): The all-state linebacker logged 84 tackles, one sack, two fumble recoveries and one interception on defense. He also had 18 rushing touchdowns on 152 carries for 1,174 yards.
Aiden Barfuss, Winner (3): Barfuss, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound fullback, rushed for 843 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Class 11B state champions. In his sophomore campaign, he added 42 tackles on defense and was named the Joe Robbie MVP in the state title game.
Gavin Gordon, McCook Central/Montrose (2): The senior quarterback threw 2,047 yards and 17 touchdowns, while completing 58 percent of his passes. He also had 10 rushing touchdowns in his nine games played this season.
Colton Collins, Lyman (1): Collins led the Raiders with 1,874 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. He added four touchdown receptions and threw for one touchdown in his senior season.
Previous award winners: 1994: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1995: Josh Ranek, Bon Homme; 1996: Glen "Andy" Thomas, Gregory; 1997: Jeff Schultz, Freeman; 1998: Chris Mikkelsen, Gregory; 1999: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2000: Chad Greenway, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2001: Tim Dacy, Gregory; 2002: Justin Horn, Tripp-Delmont; 2003: Michael Veskrna, Gregory; 2004: Doug Carlson, Howard; 2005: Jim Williams, Hanson; 2006: Jake Steffen, Stickney-Mount Vernon; 2007: Josh Endres, Emery-Ethan; 2008: Earv Archambeau, Avon; 2009: Jayd Knodell, Winner; 2010: Jeb Olsen, Canistota; 2011: Jason Greenway, Mitchell; 2012: Jaden Bartling, Gregory; 2013: Brandon Kocmich, Avon; 2014: Luke Loudenburg, Howard; 2015: Windsor Barry, Winner; 2016: Spencer Neugebauer, Mitchell; 2017: Andy McCance, Gregory; 2018: Jackson Kinzer, Colome; 2019: Brady Hawkins, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan; 2020: Tyce Ortman, Canistota/Freeman; 2021: Grayson Hanson, Platte-Geddes.