SPRING CREEK – For the past few seasons, Spring Creek senior receiver Dakota Larson and tight end Jake Oliphant have served is vital cogs of a Spartans football team that has ascended to remarkable heights.
The duo aided Spring Creek to a 19-5 record against Division 3A opponents over the last two years, advancing to the 3A state championship during their junior campaigns and reaching the 3A state semifinal as seniors.
Don’t break up the band just yet.
While Larson’s and Oliphant’s time on the gridiron at Spring Creek High School has drawn to a close, one of the only things that will change is the mascot and the location.
Larson and Oliphant have signed their national letters of intent to attend Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota; and will each play football for the Wolves.
NSU – a Division-II program of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference – lured both athletes with a large-program feel in a small-town setting.
“I have family ties out there and it felt like home,” Larson said. “It’s a small town, but I like the coaching staff. They have a new offensive coordinator and run some spread offense and some jet sweep.”
“I loved the atmosphere. It’s one of the best for a D-II school. The facilities are as good as some of the D-Is that I have seen. The town really supports the team,” said Oliphant. “I met with the coaching staff and they had a plan for me. They wanted me there and said I have a chance to start as a freshman. The run a lot of double-tight (end), the same type of offense as Auburn (University).”
What are the Wolves getting in Larson at wideout?
Answer: Speed and hands.
He has rewritten the history books at Spring Creek, setting new benchmarks in virtually every catch-passing category possible.
In three seasons of varsity football, he tallied 204 receptions for 3,437 yards and 43 catches for touchdowns.
As a ball carrier, he racked up 389 rushing yards in 39 carries as a senior – averaging 10 yards per tote – finding the end zone three times.
He’s a nightmare matchup for opposing cornerbacks; press him and he blows by – lay off and he makes a grab, approaching would-be tacklers with a head of steam and runs around defenses.
Larson closed his career with three 1st-Team All-League and two 1st-Team All-State selections at receiver, also earning a 1st-Team All-State nod at cornerback this past season.
While he also played a pivotal role at defensive end for the Spartans, Oliphant said NSU wants him at tight end.
He emerged as much more of pass-catching threat for Spring Creek in his senior season, notching 13 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Oliphant made the final TD grab of his career in the third quarter of Spring Creek’s state semifinal contest against Desert Pines.
He was recognized as the 2nd-Team All-League tight end of the Division 3A North.
Oliphant tallied consecutive honorable mentions for the 3A North awards in each of his junior and senior seasons at defensive end, recording 102 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Larson and Oliphant had interest from a lengthy list of programs, receiving multiple offers from Division-II programs, preferred walk-ons from Division-I schools and full-ride opportunities at some D-II and NAIA schools.
Each earned a preferred walk-on visit from the University of Nevada – potentially following in the footsteps of SCHS Class of 2017 and linebacker Sheldon Wilkinson – the offer including free meals, school supplies and tutoring sessions.
Oliphant had another preferred walk-on proposal from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
The duo also visited Minot State University in North Dakota.
Larson said he plans to become a wildlife biologist and earn his master’s degree after football.
“I could see myself staying there four or five years and then transferring to another school to get my master’s,” he said. “I should be able to take most of the classes I need at Northern State.”
Oliphant wants to obtain a degree in criminal justice and possibly work the FBI.
He also wants to minor in a foreign language and could see himself becoming a Navy SEAL.
Oliphant said Northern State’s summer workout programs will begin toward the end of June or the first part of July, mandatory practices starting in August.
Congratulations to Dakota Larson and Jake Oliphant on their high school achievements and best of luck in their upcoming collegiate careers – both on the gridiron and in their professional pursuits.