NORTH SIOUX CITY – Austin Carter is in the middle of everything for the Dakota Valley football team.

Carter is the captain of the Panthers defense from his middle linebacker position, tasked with making tackles or taking on blockers to free up teammates to make stops.

The senior registered six solo tackles and five assisted stops that included one sack and two and a half tackles for loss during second-ranked (Class 11A) Dakota Valley’s 43-16 win over Vermillion Friday in the DakotaDome.

“He has a big impact defensively in every game,” said Dakota Valley coach Jeff Van Den Hul. “He is one of the best team players I have ever coached.

"He is a middle linebacker, his role is to make tackles bottom line and he does a really good job of being in the right place at the right time. He’s a smart kid, knows where to line up, just a fun kid to coach.”

Carter, the Sioux City Journal’s Metro Athlete of the Week, has been making stops all season as the Panthers are off to a 6-0 start to the season.

“They ran a lot of iso plays and basically that’s just filling holes and I’m pretty good at that,” said Carter. “They did a lot of pulling, give credit to the coaches, we’re very well coached, they help us out. Help us how to run a crease when they have a pull and I’m good at reading that and that helped me get a couple of TFL’s (tackles for loss).”

The son of Aaron and Cami Carter and Shawn and Missy Frankl is the runaway leader in tackles for a Dakota Valley team that finished 6-3 a year ago.

On the season he has made 23 solo tackles and 25 assisted tackles along with a team-best seven tackles for loss and focuses primarily on playing and stopping the run in the Panthers 4-2-5 defense.

“What our keys are that week depend on their formations, usually it’s lining up reading down locked, pullers, looking in the backfield, find ball, find flow and go make plays,” Carter said. “A lot of times we're running different coverages only involve me working laterally and locking up the running backs.”

Carter is also the Panthers starting running back where he carried the ball nine times for 57 yards and a touchdown on Friday. He also added a 28-yard touchdown reception on a pass from quarterback Zack Poulsen.

Carter, though not playing every snap on offense like he does on defense, is the second leading rusher with 311 yards on 60 carries and four touchdowns.

“He never rests on defense, because he is way too important, we’re able to rotate him on offense to keep him fresh,” said Van Den Hul. “We try to keep everybody rolling and our offense is just very opportunistic. The last couple of weeks have been a lot of fun playing on the field.”

Dakota Valley’s 6-0 start has included wins over ranked teams Milbank, Tri-Valley and a big season-opening shutout over Dell Rapids. The Panthers have three regular season games left as they seek a playoff berth after narrowly missing out a year ago.

“We’re hungry,” said Carter. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We’re all working harder each practice to improve where we can get that. The main focus is to end up in the Dome at the end of the season.”

Dakota Valley, which plays its final home game of the regular season on Friday against West Central, currently leads the Class 11A playoff power ratings. The Panthers close the season with road tests at Lennox and fourth-ranked Tea Area.

“The nice thing, we have played a lot of hard teams this year and have had to face some adversity and that’s always a good thing to get throughout the season,” said Van Den Hul. “We have had some games where teams have punched us in the mouth and our kids have had to respond and they have learned how to do that, and that’s going to be important as the season goes along.”

SPECIAL MENTION

Cross Country

Merga Gemeda, North....Senior captured his first city title while also winning the Class A race at the Marsha Koebernick Invitational.

Amber Aesoph, Bishop Heelan..Sophomore won the city title while also finishing a strong sixth in the Class A race at the Marsha Koebernick Invitational.

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