"We are very optimistic about this upcoming season and have been going at it hard the past two weeks in preparation for this season opener against a good Madison football team," said Gary Culver, head coach of the Tanagers. Culver, in his 31st season at the helm of the VHS football program, welcomes back eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense.
"We, as a coaching staff, have been very pleased with the great work ethic and positive attitude of the squad during preseason workouts. We have some excellent returning veterans who have provided us with great leadership this fall," Culver said.
Assisting Culver with the varsity squad are Roger Heirigs, in his 29th season with the Tanagers, and Jason Huska, in his 19th season with the Tanager football program. Huska is a 1989 VHS graduate and former first team all-state player during his tenure in the Tanager football program. Assisting with the freshman squad are Jason Gault and Joe Delvaux. Also, Bart Miller and Kurt Seibel are serving as student/volunteer coaches with the Tanager football program. Miller is a 2003 VHS graduate and former first team all-state selection.
Senior members of the 2007 team include Reid Meierkort, Luke Heine, Jerrod Freidel, Jackson Freidel, Cody Miller, Ryan Husby, CJ Haakinson, Billy Kjelden, Heath Hubert, Alex Anderson-Kahl, Erik Bingen, Mike Morse, Matt Morse, Tom Mollet, Jordan Merrigan, Ethan Manning and Jordan Moos.
Junior members of the team include Mike Oberle, Chris Cameron, Kyle Nemec, Greg Anderson, Blaine Olson, Taylor Clark, Wyatt Hunter, JR Moore, John Noteboom, Grant Lueders, Lance Hubert, Andrew Eidem, Cory Taggart, Jeff Anglin, Tyler Steele, Travis Jerred and Tony Thomas.
Sophomore members of the team include Nick Mart, Jordan Robinson, Kylen Freidel, Tanner Mart, Mike Walker, Will Schaffer, Earl Kiertzner, Bennett Johnson, Chris Mart, Mike Millage, Cody Merrigan, Brian Hansen, Chase Allen, Preston Ellenbolt, Gerrit Heine, Tom Amundson, Nick Anglin, Crosby King, Ryan Kost, Evan Hanson, Ryun Fischbach and Tylar Solomon. All seniors, juniors and sophomores comprise the varsity squad.
Freshman players participating in football this season include Blaine Hubert, Tony Henderson, Andrew McCann, Jerod Ceretti, Dexter Mehlhaf, Tyler Husby, Ben Kozak, Kolby Riehle, Cole Johnson, Alex Manning, Carson Sullivan, Camden Raizola, Joey Mueller, Cody Olson, Alex Larson, Scott Iverson, Steven Clark, Gage Thomas, Wes McBride, Jake Knutson, and Lei Yang Guo.
The Tanagers lost to the Bulldogs by a 21-6 score in the sixth game of the season last year. The Tanagers lead 6-0 at halftime but committed four turnovers in the second half that Madison converted into 21 unanswered points.
The loss to Madison was the second in as many years after winning 13 of the previous 14 contests dating back to 1992. The Tanagers hold a 36-7 edge in the series between the two team that dates back 1930.
"This has been a good rivalry throughout the years and we know it will be a tightly contested game, as are most Big Eight Conference games," said Culver. "We cannot afford to turn the ball over as we did last season and give them a short field to start their offensive drives. It simply puts too much pressure on a defensive unit. We also must not let them rush the ball as they did in the second half against us last year. This game will be a battle for field position and the team that makes the fewest mistakes will undoubtedly have a great opportunity to win the game."
The Tanagers recorded a 2-7 overall record last year as they were a wild-card selection for the South Dakota Class 11A playoffs. The lost to Winner in the first round by a 28-7 score. Madison finished the 2006 season with a 7-3 overall record. They lost to Dell Rapids, the eventual state runner-up, by a 7-6 score in a quarterfinal playoff game.