Region 3 championship final game for Tanagers Vermillion Tanager Cody Hays (42) accelerates after receiving a handoff from quarterback Kyle Brunick during Saturday's semi-final playoff game against West Central at Hartford. Hays rushed six times for 22 yards against a tough Trojan defense. by Jim Prosser The Region 3 championship game contested Tuesday, Nov. 6 in Hartford was the end of the line for the Tanagers in their unexpected quest for a state championship.
With both teams operating a run-oriented offense and a ferocious defense, the final results depended on five turnovers by the visitors, a couple big plays and ball control in key stages of the game.
To open the game, West Central kicked to Vermillion and after three runs, the punt was blocked out of bounds at the six-yard line, and the Trojans scored on their first offensive play to take the 7-0 lead.
However, the Tanagers responded with an eight-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a one-yard plunge by Jordan Anderson. He had also gained 45 yards on one of the ground game plays.
Vermillion applied their patented defense and forced a three and out. They then marched off another long drive ending the quarter with a total of 100 yards offense and more than nine minutes off the clock.
After that, the Trojans dominated the defense and capitalized on Tanager mistakes (two blocked punts, two fumbles, one interception) for scoring on offense. Injuries to two key Tanager players affected the special teams play and the offensive production.
Vermillion's defense was not too shabby. They forced the home team to punt twice, recovered two fumbles, and intercepted a pass.
Tanager leaders on defense were: Jordan Anderson and Tony Kronaizl with 10 tackles each; Kyle Brunick, Sean Pederson, Donny Stewart, and Andrew Pier each recorded 6 Ts, Pederson had 2 QB sacks, and Pier recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass; Cody Hayes, Tyler Anglin, and Trevor Turner each were credited with 5 Ts; and Ben Oberle recovered a fumble.
Individual rushing stats
Vermillion: Jordan Anderson rushed 14 times for 71 yards and 1 TD; Cody Hays, 6 for 22 yards; Ben Oberle, 3 for 21 yards; Andrew Pier, 15 for 20 yards.
West Central: Tom Tripp rushed 14 times for 74 yards and 1 TD; Chad Morrison, 13 for 38 yards and 1 TD; Rob Lind, 3 for 35 yards; Bret Schumacher, 6 for 31 yards and 2 TDs.
Individual passing stats
Vermillion: Kyle Brunick completed 2 of 3 passes for 2 yards and 1 interception.
West Central: Joe Weber, 6 of 7 for 94 yards and 1 TD and 1 interception.
Vermillion: Sean Pederson caught 1 pass for 5 yards; Ben Oberle caught 1 pass for -3 yards.
West Central: Dustin Wheeler caught 3 passes for 59 yards; Tom Tripp, 1 for 17 yards; Casey Haensel, 1 for 9 yards and 1 TD; Joey Brown, 1 for 9 yards.
"It was another tough loss to West Central to end the season for our team, but we certainly do not have to hang our heads," said coach Gary Culver. "We had a great season and certainly have nothing to be ashamed of with this loss.
"It was especially gratifying to see our team rebound after sitting with a 1-3 record after our first four games and then turn around and win five of our last seven to finish with a winning 6-5 record," he continued. "The one really tough part about playoff games is that you never know when it will be your final game of the year. But we have to give credit to a fine West Central Trojan football team. They play very hard and have certainly earned our respect.
"I'm very proud of the way our team performed in this playoff game," Culver said. "We continued to battle to the very end but very simply, we were our own worst enemy with turnovers � one interception, two fumbles and two blocked punts � to over come a team like West Central. The loss of Ben Oberle, due to injury (dislocated elbow) in the second quarter had a huge impact on our team from an emotional standpoint. It's just tough to replace an athlete with his ability and all the things he does for the team."
Culver also praised his seniors.
"I'm especially proud of all the seniors who have provided such great leadership throughout the season," he said. "We will certainly miss all of them and also hope that our returning players can carry on in such a manner as these guys have done for us. This team provided a lot of thrills for the fans and were a pleasure to work with for our coaching staff. We're already looking forward to next year!"