Vermillion clinches 11A football crown

Vermillion clinches 11A football crown Vermillion Tanager fans and players filled the floor of the DakotaDome following Friday's victory over Hamlin, and reveled after the team received the 11A championship trophy. Team members hoisted the prize high for everyone to see. In the race to a winning season and a hope for a chance to play in a state high school final championship game, the Vermillion Tanagers encountered some bumps in the road, a few hills to climb, and adversity to overcome.

Taking advantage of a truly real "team concept" approach, VHS came through the conflict with flying colors and captured the 1999 State Class 11A Championship, defeating the Hamlin Chargers 21-14 Nov. 5 in the DakotaDome.

When a team effort is successful, there will also be individuals who sacrifice the recognition which they might have earned otherwise, and some will be acclaimed because they were able to accomplish feats due to the team concept.

The Tanagers were recipients of many big plays during the season which led to some exciting finishes and close wins, but the exceptional play of the team (and some individuals) in the championship final against the Hamlin Chargers led to several big plays.

The Tanagers overcame an early deficit score of 7-0; the team put together a second half sequence of plays to supplement its lead to 21-7 and made a drive-ending tackle and fumble recovery late in the game snuffing out the hopes of the Chargers.

Midway in the first quarter Clark Sweeney of Hamlin intercepted Vermillion's first pass in the game and returned it 54 yards to set up the Chargers' first score.

The Tanagers took control of the second quarter with the ground-gaining process they employ and scored on a four yard run by Thad Roche using six plays to cover 42 yards.

This was followed by a "3 and out" Charger possession and an eight-play, 42 yard Tanager drive culminated by Cullen Iverson's 12 yard end run for the second VHS touchdown and a 13-7 halftime lead.

To start the second half, Vermillion took the kickoff, but found Hamlin more of an adversary against the running attack than prior plays and, with several change of possessions, set up the "big play" situation when Landon Morse intercepted a pass at the Chargers' 48 yard line.

Iverson completed a pass to a streaking Jason Madsen for the third and final Tanager score which made the total 21-7 after three quarters.

Hamlin mounted a furious passing attack, completing three of four for a total 72 yards. The Chargers, aided by an interference 15 yard penalty, were able to score with less than six minutes left in the game.

The Tanagers were unable to gain a first down and had to punt (a second "big play") when Adam Brooks lifted a 49 yarder to place the visitors at their own 16 yard line with 3:45 to go.

It appeared that the Chargers might tie the score as they drove up the field to the Tanager 35. But quarterback Clark Sweeney ran into the final "big play" by the Tanagers as Cory Novak created an eight yard loss and fumble which he recovered.

The team ran out the clock to record their final 21-14 score.

VHS Individual statistics: Jared Thedorff (98 yards/16 carries), Thad Roche (94 yards/17 carries), Jason Madsen (20 yards/4 carries), Cullen Iverson (41 yards/7 carries).

Madsen caught one pass for 52 yards and returned one interception for seven yards. Landon Morse made an interception on the Hamlin 48, setting up the "big play" � Madsen's post pattern dash, catch, and run for the 52 yard TD result. Brooks was one of two in P-A-Ts and Roche ran for a two point EP.

The defense was a team effort again with Brandon Benzel and Jason Madsen leading the group with 11 and nine tackles respectively, followed by Chris Sinkie (seven), Anthony Senne, Cullen Iverson, Tyler Vasek and Wes Christensen (four each), and eight other defensemen with three or less.

At the championship trophy ceremony, the South Dakota Sportswriters presented the Joe Robbie Most Valuable Player Award to the Tanager's Jason Madsen.

The South Dakota Football Coaches Association selected Anthony Senne as the Outstanding Lineman Award recipient and Jason Madsen as the outstanding back for their performances in the game.

The VHS Varsity ended the season with a perfect 12-0 record and the fifth State 11A championship title in the decade of the 1990s.

"Our players really did an outstanding job on both sides of the football in this game. We contained Doug Thue, Hamlin's all-state fullback, and limited him to 69 yards rushing," said Vermillion Coach Gary Culver following Friday's championship victory. "We forced Hamlin to throw the football � just like we wanted with our game plan. We beat a quality football team just as we won the previous 11 games � with a great defensive effort, a solid rushing attack on offense and excellent specialty team play. "I'm very happy for the players. State championships are not easy to attain. This is something that they can cherish the rest of their lives," he added. "We truly appreciated the great fan support throughout the entire season. It's really meaningful to the players and coaches to see a 'sea of red' in the stands. It was truly a wonderful, wonderful season."

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