Monday 9 p.m. sportscast

The South Dakota high school football season kicks off this Friday with 9-man and Class 11B teams getting things started the week before the largest three classes of 11-man get started the next week ...

We've got the first South Dakota Media polls for you tonight ... we'll take a look at the 11-man rankings tonight, we'll give you the 9-man ranks tomorrow ... in Class 11AAA defending champ Brandon Valley leads the way with four Sioux Falls schools behind them to round out the top five ... Rapid City Central picked up one vote ....

In Class 11AA, Pierre is the defending champ and the voters gave the Governors all 22 first-place votes ... Yankton, Brookings, Huron and Mitchell round out the top five with Sturgis picking up six votes ...

Tea Area grabbed 21 of 22 first-place votes in Class 11A, followed by Dakota Valley ... Madison in third got the other first-place vote ...

In Class 11B Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan is the top-ranked team with 14 first-place votes; St. Thomas More is in second with six first-place nods and the Winner Warriors landed in third with two-first place tallies ...

Speaking of the Cobblers getting a vote in Class 11AAA ... Rapid City Central is entering its third season under the direction of head coach Erik Iverson, and with a solid nucleus of skill position players led by all-stater Jeremy Weidmann returning, there is a definite buzz surrounding the team.

There is an unmistakable feeling of optimism surrounding the Rapid City Central football program as it enters its third season under head coach Erik Iverson

Weidmann says, "We have a lot of potential this year so we're just looking to build off last season. Four wins for Central, not too bad, but we're really looking to build off that."

Weidmann, one of the more explosive home run threats in South Dakota high school football this season, will be a big part of whatever success the Cobblers build this fall ... but Central's offense is far from a one-man show as they return talented starters in quarterback Kohl Meisman, tight end Rob Weber and wide receiver Wyatt Jungclaus.

Weidmann says, "I think we have a lot of playmakers this year within our tight ends, wide receiver, a position called wingback. I mean, yeah, they'll have a target on me but I think we have a lot of playmakers who can make plays, take that pressure off me a little bit, hopefully, yeah, they can score a lot of touchdowns."

While the Cobblers will have options on the offensive side of the ball, Iverson and the rest of the team understand the importance of getting their standout the ball and are excited to see a bigger, stronger version perform.

Iverson said, "He's definitely the leader of our team. And he put on 20 pounds of hard work this offseason and it doesn't appear to have affected his quickness so he's looking forward to the season, as am I."

The Cobblers finished last year's regular season a game below .500 before falling to eventual state champion Brandon Valley in the opening round of the playoffs. While they'll look to improve on that this fall, Iverson says the impact No. 34 has had on his program is going to take a while to fully measure.

Iverson said, "Everyone looks at Friday nights and looks at what he does on the field and that's just a microcosm of what he really does for this program. He is the definite leader of the team, both on the field and off, he gets after the guys when they don't show up for workouts, he gets after the guys on the field if he feels they aren't playing up to their potential."

And Weidmann can't wait to get out onto the turf under the lights and show everybody just what that potential looks like as the Cobblers take another step toward competitiveness.

Weidmann said, "We're just trying to build a culture here that wins. I'm really looking forward to the season and August 30th can't come soon enough."

Central opens its season August 30th at 5 o'clock against Harrisburg at O'Harra Stadium. The Cobblers play five of their first seven games at home before closing with Washington and Lincoln in Sioux Falls the final two weeks of the season.