VHS Tanager's Ruminations By Jim Prosser The first year for the South Dakota Football Championship play-offs, 1981, found Vermillion losing to the Winner Warriors twice, 6-0 during the regular season and 31-21 in the championship final.
The only other victory since 1959 was a 10-3 regular season game in 1980. The most challenging game was played at Winner in a driving rain storm which wasn't decided until the third overtime period by a Kyle Seibel field goal, 3-0.
Vermillion also played Winner twice in 1995, winning 25-0 in the regular season and 27-0 in the championship final, which culminated the perfect football season 12-0 record. In fact, the Tanagers were state champions in 1990, 1991, and 1992 and had won a 7-6 "squeaker" over the Warriors in 1994, giving one of the concerns of the 1995 team as to whether or not Winner would be the "stopper" of the goal they set, which was to return to the state play-off finals! The other worry in reaching their goal was that "long-standing rival" West Central, who had defeated the Tanagers four times in 1993-'94 to prevent them from making the finals in those years.
To accomplish a goal takes determination and a little luck. By the time the West Central Trojans met the Tanagers in the seventh game of the season VHS had established a dominating defense which had racked up a 137-7 scoring differential with the previous six opponents, including five shutouts." With a DakotaDome crowd of over 4,000 fans, all fears were dispelled as West Central fell 21-7 and after a "whitewash" 33-0 of Lennox, the Tanagers were on the road to the championship with playoff wins over Canton, West Central, Madison and Winner, all traditional rivals in the storied history of Vermillion foot-ball.
Team year-end awards: Most valuable player, Vince Roche; Most improved, Wade Beach; Outstanding receiver, Andy Mechtenberg; Outstanding Lineman, Kevin Jensen; Special teams player, Jarred Edelen; Co-Captains Kevin McGuire and Roche.
Big Eight Conference selections: Jensen, Casey O'Connor, Jon Leffers, Mechtenberg, Ben Leber and Roche.
South Dakota Football Coaches Association All-state: Leber, Roche, O'Connor, Leffers and Josh Merrigan. Academic All-state: Roche, O'Connor and Joe Ulrich.
Representing VHS in North-South All-star game: Roche, Jensen and O'Connor.
Roche also was selected for the "Elite 45" (Argus Leader), honorable mention on the NHSACA All-American team, Joe Robbie MVP award, and SDFBCA Outstanding Back (championship game).
Leber, Jensen and O'Connor were also on the "Elite 45" and Jensen was selected as the outstanding lineman in the championship game.
"The experience of team sports afford the individual, lessons of camaraderie, shared by teammates, last forever, and one learns to respect, not only fellow participants, but coaches and officials. It's still important to know how to win and lose graciously; lessons that follow you throughout your life." (Former athletic director Ronnie Brown � VHS class of 1948.)