VHS Tanagers catapult into state championship football game

VHS Tanagers catapult into state championship football game This is a scene that has terrorized the defensive lines of every team faced by the Vermillion Tanager football team this season. Thad Roche (18), cradling the football close to his chest with both arms, has wreaked havoc with Vermillion's opponents and provided plenty of thrills for Tanager fans. Roche scored three touchdowns on runs of two, one, and seven yards Saturday against Bon Homme in semifinal playoff action. He carried the ball 24 times and rushed for 127 yards. Vermillion Tanager offensive tackle Anthony Senne (54) helped Roche in this play by keeping two Bon Homme defenders at bay. Read more about Saturday's game on page 8. With a relentless offense and smothering defense the Tanagers made the second encounter with the Bon Homme Cavaliers more like the coaches would have had it planned.

The outcome of the semi-final playoff football game in the DakotaDome last Saturday was an eye-opening 35-14 victory which catapults VHS into the championship game for the SDHSAA 11A final on Friday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m.

Bon Homme again tried the spread offense employed in their first game against the Tanagers using double wide outs in order to take advantage of their passing game. But, after two incompletions and a short yardage run, the ensuing punt put the ball on Vermillion's 46-yard-line and commenced a rushing offense comprised of 14 straight runs to a touch down, consuming over seven minutes and establishing the intention of the team to control the game with the ground-gaining reputation they have.

The first score was accomplished on a two-yard run by Thad Roche at 3:46 left in the first quarter. The remaining time of the first quarter and five minutes into the second was used by the Cavaliers to mount their run-and-shoot offense. This was led by a 43-yard run and several pass completions by quarterback Justin Ranek. He scored on a five-yard run for the tying TD with 7:10 to go to halftime. An onside kick was covered by the Tanager's Don O'Connor and they continued the relentless ground and time consuming offense moving 52 yards on 11 runs, none more than 5 yards in length, and ( including a couple short passes to Jason Madsen (nine and seven yards) from Cullen Iverson, scored on an outside counter 13-yard run by Madsen giving the home-standing team a 13-7 half-time lead.

The second half found Vermillion taking the kickoff to the 48-yard line and maintaining their running offense, but � the runs covered 23, 14, five and nine yards on four consecutive plays, leaving the final yard to the goal-line taking three shots at it before the score which gave the Tanagers the breathing space with a 21-7 lead.

The remaining half was a lesson in defense with Vermillion thwarting every attempt Bon Homme tried, as the team intercepted three passes and contained the Cavaliers, allowing only 20 yards rushing in the third quarter and 50 in the fourth (when the final result had been determined).

Roche scored three touchdowns on runs of two, one, and seven yards, and Dan Tolsma scored on a 45-yard run to close out the scoring. Adam Brooks was three of four in extra point kicks and Iverson scored a two-pointer on a fumble recovery run.

Individual stats

Jared Thedorff (119 yards/21 carries), Thad Roche (127 yards/ 24 carries), Jason Madsen (24 yards/5 carries), Dan Tolsma (48 yards/2 carries). Madsen caught two passes for 16 yards and returned two interceptions for a total 16 yards. Cory Novak caught an eight-yard pass.

The defense was a team effort again with Cullen Iverson and Tyler Vacek leading the group with seven tackles followed by Dave Hanson (six) and with five, Brandon Benzel. Anthony Senne had four and Madsen, Wes Christensen, and Chris Sinkie were credited with three each.

The secondary had four interceptions (two by Madsen and one each by Vacek and Landon Morse) and broke up five pass attempts.

With the win, the varsity now has a perfect 11-0 record and will face the Hamlin Chargers in the SDHSAA championship game Friday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Dome.

"Our offensive line played an outstanding game and that was reflected in the rushing statistics," said Coach Gary Culver. "They did a great job of recognizing the various alignments and stunts that Bon Homme had prepared for us. Roche and Thedorff ran really hard and we were able to use a ball control offense which was the key to the win over a very good football team.

"Our defense played very solidly throughout most of the game and we had only a couple breakdowns during the afternoon," he continued. "We're looking forward to competing in the championship game. Hamlin is an excellent football team and our kids will face a real challenge in this game."

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