Philip football making noise with Terkildsen
PHILIP— In most small South Dakota towns, identity is closely tied to the local high school, and it wasn’t hard for Philip to decide what to call their sports teams, given the town was named after Scotty Philip, a ranching legend credited with saving the American bison. However, a mustached rancher from a century past makes for a poor mascot, so the town picked a Scottish terrier, and for the past few seasons the orange-and-white Philip Scotties have been a tough test on the 9A football field, although overshadowed by powerful neighbors like Wall, Gregory and Lyman.
The boys in Philip have been playing football with each other since they were in grade school. That familiarity and history forms deep bonds that are the backbone of any quality nine-man football program. Because down at this level, the associations are too personal, too intimate, for “program” to define team identity. Like the crew of a deep sea submarine, these players know and understand each other in ways larger football programs can never achieve. The trick is to turn that small-town intimacy into winning football.
The Scotties have a young head coach, Chandler Sudbeck, who hails from Kadoka originally, and his assistant is Miles Englebert. The team just upset the defending and undefeated 9AA state champs, the Wall Eagles, 20-12, a team they have lost to for nine straight years.
Philip’s quarterback is a wiry strong senior, Lane Kuchenbecker. He does just enough with his legs and his arm to set up two outstanding ball carriers: speedy Ryker Peterson (5-10, 185), and all-purpose senior Layton Terkildsen (5-11, 200). At receiver is zippy little Talan Haynes, who can handle screen, short and deep passes equally well.
The offensive and defensive lines are solid and experienced, with almost half the team being seniors. Kade Fitzgerald, Colden Kramer, Brit Morrison, Jensen Fitch, these are the kinds of kids who put the tough in football. They patrol the lines, plug the running lanes, rattle the quarterback, rough up the receivers. But with only about twenty boys out for football, the most important job they have is to block, and of late, they have been opening huge holes for Peterson and Terkildsen and protecting the pocket for Kuchenbecker.
Terkildsen is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and is perhaps the best Native football player in the state. He has turned himself into a powerful backfield presence with lots of practice field effort and a commitment to lifting weights. As the game wears on, his power running wears down tacklers, and the speed of Petersen can sweep outside and turn the corner. It’s a great one-two punch, and Wall felt both punches.
Philip drew a bye week one and so Wall was their first opponent. It did not start out well. Wall stopped Philip’s first drive and scored easily on their first drive. A long pass from Kuchenbecker to Haynes set up a five yard TD run by Terkildsen, but Wall was still in control first half, and their tough, smart QB Burk Blasius was at his very best engineering a long scoring drive with but 49 seconds in the first half, to put Wall up 12-6.
But Philip would own the second half, shutting out Wall, and scoring 16 points. They would force five huge turnovers, and physically dominate the defending state champion.
“We knew we were as good as them or better,” Terkildsen said. “We just had to not get scared like we did in previous years. We always just kind of folded under pressure.”
Terkildsen said nervousness make Philip a second half team, because “once all the nerves are gone, we just start playing football.”
“We huddled up at halftime,” Terkildsen said. “We talked about things we need to go through, we decided to bump them a little bit more on coverage, they were starting to beat us on the routes; (we needed to) stay calm, it was just a one score game.”
Fifth year Head Coach Sudbeck said: “We run more than we throw but against Wall we did throw 16 times and complete eight of those. Last year we had at least one forced fumble every game, if not more than one, and to come in there and force those fumbles against a pretty good Wall team, I mean, it’s awesome to see kids execute what we practice all week.”
Despite the quality of their running game, it is without a doubt the defense that makes Philip dangerous. Sudbeck: “We went and played SDSU camps this year and had multiple compliments from other teams that our defense looked really good at camp, the way they mesh, they like to fly around, and they like to play a physical game.”
The Philip fans packed the stands at Wall, and Sudbeck said their support was noted and appreciated.
“I love this community,” Terkildsen said. “They’re great supporters. We’ve always had our parents, this community, to help grow us in sports. My dad (Colt Terkildsen) has coached us in basketball since I was a Third Grader.”
Terkildsen is still a pretty good basketball player but, “when I realized I was going to quit growing, I really started lifting, and started focusing on football., I really like basketball, but I have a nicer build for football.”
About Coach Sudbeck, Terkildsen said: “I love him, he’s young, he relates to us, he always has the best speeches. He pushes us. He’s like an older brother. I really respect him. I have a good strong relationship with him.”
Brit Morrison plays linebacker and line, and his comment sums up the team mentality: “We go out there and play hard. We don’t ever come out with bad energy we just play prepared.”
“Our biggest strength is our speed,” Kuchenbecker said. “We are probably one of the fastest teams in the state. We have a really good track team.”
“Every one of those kids out there has heart,” Colden Kramer said, describing what he thinks the team’s biggest strength is. “We just play through injury after injury, there’s a big love for football on this team. You can just tell by the way we practice.”
Jensen Fitch doesn’t think the team has gotten any bigger, stronger or faster, but they have their minds tuned to what it takes to play good football: “We got all the talent in the world, but we have to keep going and have a good mindset. We put a lot of time in that nobody sees; getting those little things worked out that holds you up.”
Philip doesn’t pick their own schedule, the SDHSAA does. And the schedule they have had only one winning team on it, Wall, and they have beaten Wall. They have seven more games to go against relatively weak opposition and will likely finish the regular season undefeated. Because they have nine seniors, Philip has experience second to no team, but these seniors will graduate, and so this is the year, this is their chance to make a deep playoff run, maybe even make the Dome in Vermillion.
(Contact James Giago Davies at email@example.com)