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Chicago connection strong at South Dakota
Selling South Dakota on Chicago area kids wasn’t always easy, but Ed Meierkort tried anyway.
The head coach’s efforts finally are being rewarded.
Meierkort, a St. Patrick alum, has spearheaded South Dakota’s transition from Division II to the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) during the past four years.
Led by senior quarterback Dante Warren, a St. Viator graduate, South Dakota stunned Minnesota last year and upset the No. 1-ranked FCS team (Eastern Washington) in Week 2 of this season.
The Coyotes will have 12 area products (10 underclassmen) on their roster Saturday when they face the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
“Until we moved up to Division I, it wasn’t as attractive to these kids to bring them out to South Dakota,” Meierkort said. “A lot of guys don’t know where that is. They think that’s Cowboys and Indians.
“You go to the borderline I-A guys and sell the fact that if they come here, I-AA football is very important to this state. You can’t get that at a lot of places. Kids appreciate that. They realize football is important here. They get some of the perks and accolades of big-time football in a small town.”
Warren, one of the team’s four local quarterbacks, was asked to replace the Coyotes’ all-time leader in all of the important passing categories. He’s responded by taking the program to new heights.
In his second career start he threw for 352 yards and three TDs, and rushed for 81 yards and two more scores in the 41-38 victory against the Gophers last year.
“He’s a dynamic football player and a well-raised kid,” Meierkort said. “From the time we got him we knew he’d be the next guy, but the guy he was behind (Noah Shepard) was a legend here. He waited his turn and persevered.”
Meierkort’s next quarterback could be an area kid as well. In addition to freshmen Kevin Earl (Stevenson) and Nick Meyer (Elk Grove), both of whom are expected to redshirt, former Maine South star Charlie Goro is a Coyote.
Goro, who spent the past two seasons at Vanderbilt after earning Tribune Player of the Year honors in 2008, is the Coyotes’ No. 3 quarterback and has seen time at receiver, defensive back and kick returner.
“He is a kid we want to get on the field for us,” Meierkort said.