Strengths collide as Parkston defense meets Elkton-Lake Benton offense in Class 9AA semifinals

Nov. 3—ELKTON, S.D. — If Parkston wasn't being taken seriously as a title threat before last week, a 34-7 hammering of defending Class 9A champion Howard in the Class 9AA quarterfinals put the three remaining teams on notice.

But standing in the Trojans' way is upstart Elkton-Lake Benton, as both sides seek program-firsts in making it to the DakotaDome.

For sixth-seeded Parkston (9-1), its football tradition is rich, but all four state title game appearances came when the program was still in Class 11B, the most recent being a title-winning season in 2014. A trip to Vermillion would be the Trojans' first as a nine-man operation after coming painstakingly close a season ago. Canistota/Freeman won a semifinal game in Parkston last season, 24-20.

On the other side, second-seeded Elkton-Lake Benton (10-0) doesn't have the same pedigree. As a co-op, ELB has never made it to the DakotaDome and the first and only time Elkton played for a championship was in 2006.

Defensively, Parkston boasts one of the top units in all of nine-man football. With a per-game average of just 9.8 points allowed, the Trojans have given up nine points or fewer in seven of their 10 games, including the only game they lost (an 8-6 final against Hanson on Sept. 9). They've also done it while facing the sixth-most difficult schedule in Class 9AA, with an opponent win percentage of .596, compared to ELB's .495, which ranks 20th of 22 teams in the class.

On offense, the Trojans rely on a rushing attack featuring the likes of Brayden Jervik, Luke Bormann and Kolter Kramer with Jesse Newton, Jaron Nesheim and quarterback Kaleb Weber also getting in on the ground game. When Weber takes to the air, many of the same numbers are called, with Will Jodozi, Maddux Brissette and Sam Benson added to the mix.

Just last season, ELB was on the fringes in Class 9AA, going 3-5 and earning the final spot in the playoff bracket before being bounced in the first round of the postseason by top-seeded Hanson, 70-22.

This season, though, the Elks flipped that postseason picture on its head, rolling to an 8-0 regular-season mark and the No. 2 seed. Led by quarterback Ryan Krog, Elkton-Lake Benton sports the third-highest scoring offense in Class 9AA this season at 42.3 points per game, while keeping opponents to 15.6 points, itself a top-seven mark in the class.

Krog is as dangerous of a dual-threat quarterback as there is, with more than 1,600 yards passing, 1,400 more rushing and 46 total touchdowns to his name this season. With receiving targets including Carson Griffith, Tanner Drietz and Tanner Stein on the other end of Krog's passes and running back Riddick Westley aiding in both the ground and air attack with 900 total yards and six touchdowns, the Elks possess the offensive firepower to strain even the best nine-man defenses.