A lifeblood on the lines and a dynamite defensive end are the Co-Register Football Players of the Year.
Those gentlemen are Bobcat seniors Gus Miller and Rhett Zelinsky.
Brookings went 10-2 this season, finishing at runner-up in Class 11AA.
The ‘Cats outscored their opponents an average of 34.17-13 and were plus-17 in turnover margin.
When asked about what Miller meant to the team, BHS head coach Lee Schmidt chuckled.
“Everything,” he said. “For a guy who played a three-technique tackle, you could never double-team him. He just, I mean, he just got all over the field and made plays on the defensive side.
“On the offensive side, he was our anchor. He was our best offensive player for the last two years and, of course, he’s been playing for three years. So he made a heck of an impact. He had an awful lot of tackles and an awful lot of yards for us running behind him over the last three years.”
Miller, who plays tackle on both sides of the ball, takes pride in his work.
When asked which position he preferred, he went with the O-Line.
“I like it a little bit more,” Miller said. “For me, I just kind of like being the unsung hero. A lot of people don’t really give credit to the O-Line – I kind of like that. The only time you really hear about us is when we don’t do our jobs, but I like it when we do our jobs – good things can happen.”
The Bobcats totaled more than 3,600 yards of offense, including 2,500-plus on the ground.
Miller recorded 42 tackles, including six for loss (four sacks) defensively.
“I thought we surprised a lot of people,” he said. “A lot of people at the start didn’t think we were going to do as well as we did. I’m very happy with how we did, how we finished through the year and how well our program is going through. I’m very happy about how the fans kind of supported us through our process and how well they did with us.”
Miller, who is heading to SDSU to play football, is the defending Class A state champion in wrestling at 220 pounds.
The speedy end was a pest in the backfield and everywhere else.
“Rhett was just so athletic off that defensive end spot, he gave people a lot of trouble,” said Schmidt. “Excellent technique player. … He was strong and athletic off the line of scrimmage. He made a lot of big plays for us on defense – put teams behind the chains. When he wasn’t making a play, he was freeing up his linebacker to make the play, so he just became an outstanding defensive player for us.”
Zelinsky racked up 15 tackles for loss – 11 of which were sacks – his senior campaign. He had 57 total tackles and recovered a pair of fumbles.
“It definitely feels good being a lot more successful than everyone predicted we would be,” he said of the season. “I don’t think I could have had the success I had without the teammates around me. They played a big part in the success that everyone of us had this year.”
Despite being a defensive player, Zelinsky made sure the Bobcats got on the scoreboard first this season, recording a safety in the second quarter of their opening 40-0 defeat of Huron on Aug. 30.
“He’s just a high-motor kid,” Schmidt added. “In practice, too – he’s the type of kid, if we need a scout team kid, he’s in there. When he wasn’t on the first-team defense, he went over and ran scout team. He’s just a hard-working kid, really good all-around attitude about how he went about his work and how he wanted to get better. He’s a pretty good baseball player, too.”
Zelinsky played safety late into his junior season before moving to defense end.
It seems as if it worked out.
“Right away he started making an impact,” Schmidt noted. “We were able to move Gus back to DT, which made us a much better football team.”
Added Zelinsky: “I definitely think it was the right decision. I think it just worked out. The coaches made a good decision that helps me.”
As far as playing along side Miller and Joe Prusa, Zelinsky added: “It was great, because they took a lot of attention off me. When they have to focus on them, it makes my job a lot easier.”