Harrisburg holds off Vermillion 20-12 in quarterfinals

Harrisburg holds off Vermillion 20-12 in quarterfinals
The Vermillion Tanagers football team's second straight bid at upending a team who beat them in the regular season was not in the cards Monday night.

The Tanagers came up short in the South Dakota Class 11A Region Finals to the Harrisburg Tigers 20-12.

The Tigers defeated the Tanagers 28-6 Oct. 12 in the DakotaDome in Vermillion.

In the Tanagers' first round match up, they defeated Lennox 13-10, after

the Orioles won the regular season meeting 21-7 in Lennox.

VHS head coach Gary Culver said he was proud of the effort his team showed.

"Our kids really played hard. They played hard against a very good football team," Culver said. "We like to think good football teams reach the quarterfinals and that we are a pretty good football team in our own right. The kids played hard until the end."

The Tigers took an early lead on a 51-yard fake punt pass by senior upback Jon Faris to senior Tim Voegeli, who lined up as the split end along the far right side of the formation.

The Tanagers blocked the Josh Knuust extra point attempt to keep the game at 6-0 with 8:05 remaining in the first quarter.

The Tanagers tied the game with one second remaining in the first half when senior quarterback Reid Meierkort found sophomore split end Kylen Friedel for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

Meierkort's extra point attempt sailed wide right of the goal post to keep the game tied 6-6.

The Tanagers started the second half with the football and moved the ball to HHS 48 yard line before a clipping penalty backed VHS up to

their own 40-yard line.

VHS could not recover from the 22-yard hole and had to punt the ball on fourth down.

Culver said the penalty killed the drive.

"It did a little bit and it would have been nice to come out that second half and make that conversion and get a touchdown on our drive," Culver said.

The Tigers then put together an 11 play, 76-yard drive that was capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by junior running back Preston Harris.

Knuust kicked the extra point to put the Tigers up 13-6 with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter.

The Tanagers went three plays and out on their ensuing possession and punted the ball back to the Tigers.

HHS put together a five play, 45-yard drive that ended with Harris scoring from one yard out.

Knuust kicked the extra point to put the Tigers up by 14 at the end of the third quarter.

"They have a lot of very fine athletes at the skill position and they hurt us on a couple drives," Culver said. "The big third down conversion they had there in the third quarter that lead to their second touchdown, which was their go ahead touchdown, that really hurt there."

Culver said the Tigers third touchdown put the game out of reach.

"We go three and out and we have to punt. They get field position there and of course they get the third touchdown," Culver said. "That was kind of the ball game there."

Culver said ending the season is never easy, especially with 15 seniors on the roster.

"It is always tough, the finality of the football game in the playoffs when you lose," Culver said. "The seniors have to pack up for the last time and everybody packs it away. They are a good group of guys and I really credit them for playing extremely hard the full 48 minutes tonight."

Proof that the Tanagers played all 48 minutes is the fact that they scored on the final play of regulation. Meierkort sent a Hail Mary pass down the left side of the field and the ball was batted down by a number of Tiger defenders. But instead of falling to the ground, the ball fell into the hands of Friedel for a 45-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

"We fought until the bitter end," Culver said. "I guess that is the only way to put it."

Harrisburg advances to face West Central in the quarterfinals, Saturday in Hartford.

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