“He was a grinder out there for us; a tough kid and team player, who did whatever he had to do to help the team,” head coach Richard Schroyer said.
And Elk Point-Jefferson High School head football coach Jake Terry still is… all those things – except he’s no longer a kid.
The 2004 Pipestone Area High School graduate, who played fullback and in the trenches for Schroyer’s Arrows at the turn of the century, recently tasted the sweetest fruit of his labors – leading the Huskies to an undefeated campaign (12-0) that ended in a South Dakota Class 11B state championship, Nov. 11 at the DakotaDome in Vermillion, S.D. Not only did the Huskies finish the season without a blemish, but they knocked off two-time defending state titlist Winner, breaking the Warriors 34-game winning streak with a 21-14 victory – sealed with a Jakob Scarmon interception with 55 seconds to play.
“It’s pretty surreal to sit back and watch the kids enjoy that; coaches and teachers, they don’t do it for personal glory or personal gains, and it was so cool to look at those kids’ ear-to-ear smiles,” said Terry, who helped his Huskies claim the first state championship in school history for a boys’ team. “Last year we were semifinalists, losing to Winner (52-14), in Winner. They took it to us, knocked the socks off of us, and went on to win a (Class) C championship. It was a good, eye-opening experience for us, and we knew then, if we want it, we’re going to have to play at that level – set the bar. When I started eight years ago, we had only about 25 kids out for football. From there, it grew and grew, and we have 50 players on the team now. So, it’s pretty cool to look back at that now.”
And looking back at the type of player, teammate and student Terry was in Pipestone only supports EP-Js deft decision to hire him as a fledgling skipper. Terry made the most of his time under Schroyer and lining up in the backfield with Pipestone-Jasper Athletic Hall of Famers Matt Oye, Brian Kvamme and Nick Schneider. And he didn’t waste a moment as an assistant coach while student-teaching in Watertown or assisting South Dakota high school football coaching icon Gary Culver at Vermillion for five seasons.
“It’s no surprise he stuck with it; like I said, he was a grinder, but you also have to credit his intellectual ability… a very smart young man,” Schroyer said. “I think he was a little apprehensive about coaching, at first, but ‘if your heart’s in it, go for it.’ He did, and what a wonderful job he’s done. He came over and got some film from us when he first started, but since then it has been on his own. And Gary Culver… been there forever coaching, coached there when I went to college – a great place to start.”
“It was,” added Terry, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in education at South Dakota State University. “He sees me as a young guy who’s fairly smart, depending on who you ask, a guy who enjoys it (football) and the kids – enjoys being around them. And he told me, ‘You should consider becoming a head football coach, the kids would really benefit from it. You have the Xs and Os, that’s the easy part. The hard part is figuring out everything else off the field.’ And when I got there, it was, ‘now the hard work begins.’”
Terry, the eldest son of Jeff and Nancy Terry and brother to Stacy Lane and Brian Terry, had a brief stop in Pine Tree (one season) before securing the EP-J position and moving closer to where his wife Kara grew up in Vermillion. And, as Culver noted, once the father of two (Henry, age 4, and Sawyer, 3) took charge of the EP-J program, the hard work began.
“Prior to me coming in, we’d won two games in three years, combined – not a powerhouse by any means,” Terry said. “It was definitely a building and learning experience about what does and doesn’t work. I remember showing up that first summer and seeing 7-8 guys in the weight room. This past summer, we had more than 50, three days a week. And it’s a small school; we graduate about 45 kids a year, so there’s only 90-100 boys in the entire high school. We have 50 guys on our roster now, half the boys in school. That’s awesome participation, but they bought into it.
And in offering his student/athletes an opportunity to ‘buy in,’ Terry again looked back to his time in high school, and to those who mentored him.
“I really had a great experience in high school with Coach Schroyer, and I couldn’t ask for better from all of those guys – coaches Scott Rudie, Chad Williamson and Troy Bouman,” he said. “They were great guys to play for and they made a big impact on me, on and off the field. They were there to help you grow up and they taught you things school doesn’t. I thought I could be a coach, didn’t necessarily want to be a head coach, but I wanted to be teaching and coaching; it all started with those guys. They’re all such great mentors, and I still talk with them and reach out when in Pipestone. After the (championship) game, I had missed texts or phone calls from all four of them, so that was pretty special.”
Rome, however, wasn’t built in a day and neither was the Huskies’ undefeated championship season. Under his tutelage, Terry’s Huskies had back-to-back 1-7 campaigns in his first two seasons. Yet, EP-J was improving, now losing games by 10 or seven points rather than finishing on the wrong end of a 40-point spread.
And Terry points to a close loss to McCook Central/Montrose in the third game of the Huskies’ 2021 campaign as a turning point in his players’ mentality.
“The way the kids responded afterwards… seemed to have it figured out and knew what they had to do to be successful,” he said. “After that, I could see a change in the way we practiced, the way we prepared and, ultimately, the way we played. They didn’t want to be that team again. We lost one other regular-season game last year, went into the playoffs at 6-2, hosted two games and won both to advance to the semifinals against Winner. Winner took it to us, but this year, when we played them in the Dome, I look back and they (Huskies) didn’t have that fear of the unknown. There was no nervousness and, knowing what to expect, they played with confidence.”
Only once, prior to 2021, had the Huskies come close to earning an opportunity to play for a state championship, falling to More 21-7 in the semifinals in 2005. However, if anyone knows about making the most of an opportunity it’s Terry, who wasn’t always the Arrows’ first choice to rush the football.
A fullback and lineman at PAS, Terry jokingly refers to himself as ‘the one dumb enough to run headfirst with a head of stream into somebody.’ And the Arrows ran the football a lot under Schroyer and company, at the time, and one night during his senior season, Terry’s number was called.
“It’s an incredible story, really,” Coach Schroyer recalled. “We were in Madison (SD), our starting fullback got hurt and we didn’t have anybody behind him; I looked over at Troy (Bouman) and he said, ‘put Jake Terry in there, he knows what he’s doing.’ And Jake ran all over Madison that night. I’m not sure how many yards he had, but he lit the place up!”
“Jake hadn’t had a rep in… forever, but he knew what everyone was supposed to do – very intelligent as far as his football IQ,” Bouman added. “And, at halftime, we put him in the game, and he ran for a ton. He didn’t get the opportunities all the time, but he’d do whatever he could to make the team better. He played a lot of scout team and special teams, and if you’re not on the starting defense, you’re on scout offense. I never had to look around for him, he was always there ready to go. It’s hard to find kids willing to do that.”
On this season’s senior-laden (15) Huskies squad, Terry likewise had to try to balance playing time with 13 hungry juniors who would ‘normally’ be starters. He managed to find opportunities to get them valuable game time when the Huskies were up, and he’s confident this core group, and a talented sophomore quarterback, should allow the defending state champions to rebuild and reload in the wake of those departing seniors – seven of which earned All-State First Team honors this fall.
As for his assistants who, if not having close ties to the community, would likely be heavily recruited to perhaps take on the challenges of a vacant head coaching position somewhere else in the state, Terry is quick to count his blessings.
“I have two outstanding assistants, who coordinate our offense and defense,” he said. “I lean more toward the offense, did that myself my first year, but Adam Timmins has been with us for seven years as our offensive coordinator. Jake Otkin has been our defensive coordinator for the last five years; he’s married to a good friend of mine from Pipestone, Amber (Hubers). I’m pretty sure they’ll stick around; Adam’s son (Carson) is a junior on the team.
“But to have that continuity with coaches and kids… have that trust in our program is awesome. Everybody knows what they’re doing. I give my input when needed and I shut up when needed, too. I think I made a total of about four calls in the (championship) game.”
A game all too familiar to Terry, as a player with the Arrows as well as an opponent/friend to Winner head coach Trent Olson. The Warriors only threw the football 34 times during the 2022 campaign, giving Terry and his staff, which includes Manny Scarmon and Mason Temme, an indication of how they might be able to stop a… ‘tradition.’
“They play a double-wing, turn and toss the ball and pick up three yards in a cloud of dust,” Terry explained. “They ended up throwing the ball 14 times in the game, and that’s what we’d hoped to do – get them into something they’re not comfortable doing. We got them into that situation on two drives where they had to throw the ball. To me, that was the difference in the game.”
And playing the rematch of last year’s semifinal tilt, contested then on the Warriors grounds, in Elk Point-Jefferson’s ‘backyard’ this time around had its benefits too.
“I think the fact that we’re only 15 miles up road and they had a three-hour drive helped,” said Terry, who was named Coach of the Year following the Huskies’ victory. “There were 3,500-4,000 people on our side of the Dome; people I’ve never seen, a lot of alumni and friends and family, and it was really cool to look up and see those bleachers fuller than you might see at a USD game.
“On the last play, really that whole last drive, when Winner was trying to put together a game-winning drive, you couldn’t hear a thing. It was all hand signals, no vocal communication at all… so loud. When Jakob intercepted the ball on fourth down it was deafening.”
In contrast to many of EP-Js regular-season games and early round playoff tilts, where the Huskies outscored the opposition by a 529-49 margin, the 11B championship game had little dazzle or flair early on. The Huskies’ initial three drives of the game resulted in a missed field goal, an interception and a blocked punt on their own 25-yard line.
However, EP-Js goal line stand, on Winner’s ensuing possession off the block, gave Terry’s garrison ample belief it could limit the equally effective Warriors (484-to-73) to far fewer markers than usual.
“If you like defense and running the football, it was a good game,” he said. “And if you’d have told me we’d win the game after those first three drives, I wouldn’t have believed you. Somehow, we still managed to get a win. The defense was pretty darn good. And Winner has won something like 94 percent of their games in the last decade; they’re good every single year.”
One only had to listen to senior running back Lucas Hueser’s post-game interview to understand Terry’s influence on his Huskies. The Joe Robbie Player of the Game (14 carries, 119 yards, 2TD), Lucas Hueser spoke of all the hard work everyone put in, the summer work in the weight room and the ‘dirty work’ the line does.
It was clear each of Terry’s players understood his role and played his part well, throughout the season and in the title tilt against Winner. A young Terry knew his role as a player, and as a coach he’s been able to pass that on to his players – making him…
“The ultimate teammate,” Coach Bouman said. “He would do whatever you’d ask him to do to make his teammates better.”
“I’m not surprised by his success at all,” added Oye, Terry’s quarterback in Pipestone. “Having been his teammate, he could teach you how to be a good teammate. It’s an easy job for him to teach his players to be good teammates, such a hard worker and very smart as well. There weren’t a lot of times we called his number, but he was always prepared when we did, and there were times he shined for us at fullback.
“He was a classmate yes, and he’s a friend. We hardly talk anymore because of kids and family, and we live far away, but when we do, it’s very easy to connect.”
Though Elk Point-Jefferson will undoubtedly have a target on its back next fall, Terry will try to enjoy the moment… before setting his sights on wilder targets this week, while hunting with none other than Coach Olson.
“He’s a good guy; he does things the right way too. And once the final whistle blows…”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by PostX News and is published from a syndicated feed.)