One decade, five state championships

One decade, five state championships Vermillion Tanager Football Coach Gary Culver told a school assembly Monday that he will forever cherish the 1999 football season. The assembly was held in the Vermillion High School gym to honor the newly-crowned 11A football champions. by David Lias Vermillion High School Principal Doug Tuetken knew exactly what to say to inspire an already fired up audience of VHS Tanager fans that gathered in the high school gym Monday morning.

�A team winning five state titles in this decade is unprecedented for a school this size,� he said, �and I think ?�

The audience cheered and applauded so loudly in agreement that Tuetken couldn�t be heard, even over the gymnasium�s public address system.

He kept his comments brief, and quickly introduced Coach Gary Culver, his 11A-champion Vermillion High football squad, and other dignitaries, including Superintendent Bob Mayer and Mayor William Radigan, at an assembly held at the school to congratulate the new 11A football champions.

Team�s dedication praised

Radigan told the audience that everyone who watched the Tanagers play in the championship game Friday night was filled with pride.

�But I think we should all remember that this championship wasn�t won last Friday night,� Radigan said. �Some of these young men put in six years in learning this game � six years into training their minds and their bodies to coordinate with the guy next to them, so they were the best team in 11A in South Dakota.�

Radigan asked the members of the team to remember that young people in the community are now looking at them as heroes and champions.

�You can do a lot to make certain that those young people turn out as well as you guys have,� Radigan said. �I�m so proud of you, you are champions, you worked hard for it, you scratched right down to the last minute to win, and I don�t think this town could possibly be more proud of you.�

High caliber

Mayer told the assembly that his job as superintendent often requires him to travel to meetings attended by other school superintendents from throughout the state.

Those superintendents will naturally know that Vermillion is home of the 11A football champions, he said.

�What they don�t know is what we already do know, and that�s the caliber of people who played on this football team,� Mayer said.

He added that he can�t remember ever seeing a member of the Tanager team draw attention to himself. It was common to see Thad Roche, Jared Thedorff, Jason Madsen and Cullen Iverson score touchdowns this season.

�It was never a big deal, it was over,� Mayer said, commenting on their sportsmanship. �It was always give the ball back to the referee and get ready for the extra point.�

He said that one reason for the Tanagers� exemplary behavior on the field may be that Vermillion�s coaching staff demanded it.

�But I prefer to think that it�s because of your character, because character is everything in football,� Mayer said, turning to face team members seated in rows of chairs on the gym floor. �I salute you and I congratulate you on the character you demonstrated this year, because it�s far more important to act like a champion than to be one.�

Heaps of praise

One of the first things Tanager Coach Gary Culver did when it was his turn to speak was to make sure that the assembly audience knew of everyone who helped the Tanagers achieve the 11A title.

�It takes a large amount of various factions to win a state championship, and I think that starts with the assistant coaching staff I have,� he said.

Culver said his assistant coaches � Roger Heirigs, Jim McGuire, Devin Schwiesow and Jason Huska � have a great understanding of how to work together to achieve goals.

�I think I could leave, and things wouldn�t miss a beat,� Culver said. �We think a lot alike. Not only are they great co-workers in terms of the game of football, they are great friends as well.�

Culver also introduced the Tanager cheerleaders: Patty Crowley, Lydia Michels, Sarah Jordt, Mary Basom, Chelsea King and Joslyn Reimnitz.

�As exciting as it is for a football team to win a state championship, I think its doubly exciting for our cheerleaders and the job that they�ve done,� he said, �during games leading cheers, promoting spirit, and getting emotions high.�

Culver also expressed his appreciation to the Vermillion High School Marching Band, which provided entertainment at the team�s home games in the DakotaDome.

�I think we have one of the greatest bands in the world, and they�ve proven it this year,� he said. Culver said he is especially grateful to John Alpers, band director, who unfortunately had to have emergency surgery and couldn�t attend the championship game. �With all of those things around me at the football game, the coaches, the band, the great contingent of fans that we have and all of those people in the stands rockin� and rollin� � that makes it all worthwhile.�

Culver maintains that the Tanagers had the toughest Class 11A regular season schedule in the state. �These guys went through eight games of ups and downs, highs and lows, and met every challenge,� he said. �We went in to the post -season playoffs with a perfect 8-0 record and to accomplish that in a regular season is something in itself.�

Early in the regular season, the Tanagers faced Tri-Valley, the highest power-rated number four seed in the state. �Looming on the horizon, of course, was the three-time defending state champion, West Central,� Culver said. �These guys rose to the challenge and won the match.�

Vermillion had to face West Central again in quarterfinal playoff action in the DakotaDome.

�It was probably one of the most memorable quarterfinal games that I can remember,� he added. �I�m not sure that I�ve ever heard the Dome that loud ? with that many people. It was truly something to behold. For us to defeat a team like that twice in one season on the road to the championship was truly a challenge that was monumental.�

Culver said the highly dedicated Tanager team was able to defeat Hamlin to claim the championship by �playing the game exactly like we had it mapped out for them on Friday night.

�A solid defensive effort, a great rushing attack on the offensive side, and solid specialty team play � we did all of those things,� he added. �The cliche that defense wins championships, I think, came true. It was a fumble recovery that clinched it.�

Special memory

Culver noted that his father, a great fan of the Tanagers, passed away last summer.

�He minced no words after each and every game,� Culver said. �He let us know what we did wrong. I think this was a special season to me from a personal standpoint, and I think it would have been special to him.�

The last Tanager football game Culver�s dad watched was a year ago, when Vermillion lost to West Central in quarterfinal playoff action.

�He said, quite frankly, that they were a better football team,� Culver said. �But he said, ?you�ll beat them next year.� I think he truly would have loved this football team and the way they played football.�

He turned to his players and said, �This season was very special to me. This is something I will never forget.�

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