Tanagers lose squeaker 20-14 at South Sioux by Jim Prosser Officiating is a part of the game and most referees' decisions are correct, but often a minor error can be a momentum breaker in a closely fought defense dominated struggle between two closely matched football teams.
The Vermillion Tanagers learned that fact as they traveled to Cardinal Athletic Field in South Sioux City, NE on Aug. 31 to face the South Sioux City High School Cardinals but came back home with a 20-14 loss.
The Cardinals received the opening kick and immediately encountered the stiff defense from the Tanagers resulting in a three and punt for their effort. Vermillion moved the ball with short runs by Thad Roche and a 33-yard pass by Eric Rickord to Danny Gilbertson to reach the 14-yard line.
Three plays advanced the ball to the five, but on fourth down the point of the ball came up four inches short from the downs marker and that was as close as the visitors could get during the rest of the first half.
South Sioux scored at about halfway through the second quarter riding the rushing legs of Mike Johnson, and the arm of Chris White, giving the home team a 7-0 halftime lead.
Early in the third quarter, Roche broke through the line for a 41-yard gain and later scored on a short plunge to close the gap to 7-6 when the extra point kick was blocked by linebacker Anthony Krueger � a thorn in the side of the Tanagers as he registered 11 solo tackles in the game.
The last half of the fourth quarter was filled with excitement as the Cardinals scored twice and the Tanagers once in a four-minute stretch. VHS had a chance in the final two minutes but ran out of time.
Defense was the name of the game for both teams. SSC recorded over 50 tackles in the game. Tanager stats include 76 tackles, three pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one interception. Rickord and Kellen Cusick each had 13 tackles and Rickord had 1 interception. Jeff Brevik had nine tackles and one fumble recovery. John Holoch, Oliver Hope and Ray O'Connor had seven tackles each.
Second quarter � SSC's Nick Conrad on a 10-yard pass from White (Paul Newhouse kicked the extra point).
Third quarter � VHS's Roche on a two-yard run (extra point kick was blocked).
Fourth quarter � SSC's Johnson on a two-yard run (Newhouse kicked the extra point); VHS's Roche on a 64-yard run (Rickord ran in for the extra points); SSC's Johnson on a four-yard run (extra point kick failed).
VHS � Roche rushed 20 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
SSC � Johnson rushed 25 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns.
VHS � Rickord completed four of 12 passes for 69 yards.
SSC � White completed nine of 14 passes for 106 yards with one interception and one touchdown pass.
VHS � Jeff Gilbertson caught two passes for 52 yards; Cusick caught one pass for 12 yards; Brett Mockler caught one pass for five yards.
SSC � Mike Flynn caught five passes for 62 yards; Conrad caught one pass for 10 yards and one touchdown.
"It was a frustrating loss for our team last Friday night," said Tanager coach Gary Culver. "We just seemed to be battling uphill all night long and when we reached the top we just could not get over."
Culver added that SSC was able to control the football on the ground, especially with Johnson.
"We just did not do a good job of tackling him all night," Culver said. "You just cannot let one back rush for 192 yards like he did to us and expect to win."
The Tanagers' inability to score when they were down inside SSC's five-yard line early in the game was a momentum-changer in the game, he added. But Culver noted there were some bright spots in the game.
"I guess if you were a fan it was an entertaining high school football game and we did keep everyone there until the clock ran out," he said. "I was also proud of the way our kids responded after the half and put together a great drive to score a touchdown and then did the same thing after South Sioux City had gone up 14-6 halfway through the fourth quarter. We continued to battle after they scored what was the winning touchdown with two minutes left.
"Hopefully we can learn and grow from this loss and get ready for a tough Madison Bulldog team this coming Saturday," Culver added.
Vermillion will take a 1-1 record with them as they head into their third game of the season. The Tanagers will host the Madison Bulldogs at Crane-Youngworth Field in Yankton on Saturday, Sept. 8. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. It will be the Big Eight Conference opener for both teams.